TL;DR: How to Make Agile Work in Fast-Growing Startups
From 2010 to 2017, I was working several years in three Berlin-based, fast-growing startups in my capacity as Scrum Master, agile coach, and Product Owner. These are my lessons learned on how to make ‘agile’ work in a fast-growing startup, and what anti-patterns to avoid at all costs.
Do you remember the good old days when the organization started with its first Scrum team? And the new engineering kid on the block was “merely” supposed to deliver a potentially shippable product increment at the end of a sprint? When no one thought about how to align scrum teams?
The first team was to sound the bell for the upcoming change towards a learning organization. Little did we know back then about the challenges along that route. When teams 2, 3 and 4 joined, shipping a product increment at the end of a sprint became first complicated, and then complex.
It turns out that becoming agile does not only required to create (Scrum) teams. Reaping the full benefits of becoming agile, of becoming a learning organization built around software also requires changing engineering practices. Nowadays, it is all about continuous value delivery.
Suitable agile metrics reflect either a team’s progress in becoming agile or your organization’s progress in becoming a learning organization.
At the team level, qualitative agile metrics typically work better than quantitative metrics. At the organizational level, this is reversed: quantitative agile metrics provide better insights than qualitative ones.
Where to start when kicking-off an agile transition?
Usually, tools and processes are smallest the common denominator among all participants, as they are at the core of the grand scheme of agile things.
It is a rare occasion that you start from scratch with a brand-new team without an existing product, probably even in a more or less nascent organization, for example, a startup.
In most cases, an existing product delivery organization with available products, and services will go “agile“. In this case, turning attention to the available product backlog is a pragmatic first step. The following process describes what aspects need to be attended to optimize the outcome.