As I helped introduce agile practices to Dayton, I began to be aware of the management complexity it was creating for Jami. As she was empowering both her teachers and students to co-create, the system complexity defied the capacity of traditional management practices.
I began to more deeply explore how companies were managing the complexity of managing agile teams using new meta-frameworks such as Scrum of Scrums, LeSS and SAFe.
A friend of mine was directing the Agile Transformation team at Nike, working with their worldwide teams to accelerate system development using agile practices. They were using SAFe, the most common of the meta-frameworks for agile.
I invited him to come down to Dayton to help me develop a management framework for Jami's school. He brought the SAFe toolkit with him.
I quickly realized, however, that this framework wasn't going to work. The SAFe framework was far too rigid and prescriptive to manage the complexity of a school environment. Rapid adaptability was essential, and working with a release train model concept was completely inadequate for such a dynamic environment.
So I pulled back and helped Jami kludge her own model. One that was spontaneous, supportive, and empowering. And messy. Something that made her boss, the superintendent, very uneasy.
As I talked with Ward, I began to realize that this management challenge at Dayton was not all that different from the challenges he and his colleagues were facing at New Relic as they continued to scale agile within their growing engineering department.
Which led me to the question, how does one scale agile without losing its life-giving essence?