Scaling agile teams to a platform train

This Friday (September 30th) Mike and I finished a succesfull Program Increment Planning Event with 14 teams in India and the Netherlands. This event symbolizes a 8 month journey creating a Agile Release Train consisting 4 teams creating common components to 14 teams creating a platform. It was also the event in which I handed my role as Release Train Engineer over to an internal employee ending my current assignment.

In February I got the opportunity to join product development organization creating a strategic platform for many of the future propositions of a multinational. This platform includes connectivity with embedded software, app development and backend development. The development organization used the Scale Agile Framework (SAFe) to scale agile teams. My role was to create a Agile Release Train consisting of common component teams creating reusable components. Next I needed to create a program kanban and process preparing the next Program Increment and setting priority on program level.

Scaling with SAFe

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a framework for scaling complex software development or within a complex context. SAFe is one of the frameworks in the agile scaling hype. Other frameworks are Large-Scale Scrum (LESS), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) etc. In preparing the action plan we discussed the rolles and definitions of SAFe. This discussion followed the same pattern; long discussions and no conclusion. The action plan was simple. I borrowed the reuse process and definitions from Discipled Agile Delivery to get clarity on what a component and common components is. To prevent over engineering we institute the principe “first use then reuse”. Next I just trained the key roles in kanban and the key processes of the program stream in SAFe and started working. We would learn and improve.

Starting the first Program Increment

The first Program Increment Planning Event (PIPE) was setup to let teams experience a PIPE for the first time. The content was rallied to be ready just before the event. The logistics were there organized in a conference center with large meeting room for the plenary sessions and team breakout rooms. Teams in general appreciated this event. They learned there were more teams developing common components having common challenges. This planning event was more like a synchronized team release planning. Teams planned 5 sprints ahead.

Creating a common purpose

Like Agile Teams also Agile Release Train need a common purpose to accelerate. In the next Program Increment (PI) a lot of energy was invested in creating a common purpose. We prepared integrated content and presentations with a clear message: “we are delivering a platform”. In the PIPE we had 8 teams with 1 team in Bangalore. Senior Leadership brought a good message and participated in the draf team plan reviews. We had more cross team dependencies and interactions. Preparing the content was still a rally to the PIPE. A survey across teams showed a increased appreciation for the event and the added value of the train. My train and the train in India were not integrated. This was the next step.

Moving to one platform train

In the next PI we started the integration in a joint Inspect & Adapt workshop and a 3 day PI Planning Event. Both events require a good quality video and audio / presentation stream and extensive preparation. Hosting this event is impossible to do alone. Pair facilitation is a must. During 2 weeks Mike, I and our Indian counterparts created an integrated program and prepared the teams. We also introduced improvements in dependency management, management reviewing the team plans and objective definition and rollup to program objectives.

During the PIPE we saw 80+ cross team dependencies and external dependencies identified. The result was a great event with good plans and good energy.

Off boarding the train

The last PI planning event was the event for me to off board the train. I will shadow Mike in the background and prepare for the next trip. Feel free to call me on +3164605442 if you need a senior project manager for complex projects, a release train engineer or senior scrum master with change management skills.

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