The Trouble With Scaling Agile

You can’t simply apply agile principals to larger and larger groups or teams, but you can absolutely keep adding small agile teams with smart, strategic, and empowering leadership over them. Agile is all about small and fast. Get things built and into customers’ hands as quickly and repeatedly as possible.

Since agile is about simplicity, feedback, and throughput, trying to use the framework to guide a big, monolithic team doesn’t work. I believe this is why agile fails in so many organizations. They try to scale agile as the team and project scope grows, rather than replicate it.

The other issue is that agile is a framework. That frame is fairly rigid—these are the rules of play that make working together really fast and simple. Inside those boundaries, there is flexibility to create, solve, design, delight. Big orgs like to take that flexibility and try to scale it to everywhere. Let’s redefine our agile for us. And we’ll do it as a group exercise.


Large organizations can frequently get used to a “command and control” environment, where orders are dictated from on high and then expected to be implemented down below. Agile flips that on it’s head and says to leaders that we should broadcast our mission and vision, and then allow those smart people on the team to figure out how to accomplish it best. It requires trust. In agile you don’t hire developers to write code, you hire developers to think.

To actually achieve healthy replication…

Agile needs transparency and communication.
Agile needs people outside the teams maintaining clear airspace for them to keep pushing forward.
Agile needs coordination across teams.
Agile needs you to keep it’s framework in tact.
Agile needs grace to let teams work it out.
Agile needs strong product leadership.

What are some of your agile horror stories? 😱

Also published on Medium.