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Expanding Agile

Expanding Agile

Assessing when it’s time to add a second Agile team.

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Expanding Agile

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Q: I lead an Agile team working on a high-potential project. We started with a small team of three, have grown into a group of seven and are now becoming our own little business unit. I am wondering when the right time is to break the team up into smaller Agile teams. 

Author Darrell Rigby responds: As you clearly understand, we typically staff Agile teams according to optimal team sizes (usually three to nine team members) and the subject matter expertise required to develop effective solutions. As the size of a backlog increases, it’s preferable to limit how much work a team takes on for each sprint rather than increase the size of the team beyond optimal levels.

When constraining the flow of work, there are two options:

  1. Keep one team, and let user stories spend more time in the backlog waiting to be completed; or
  2. Add another team to complete more work in parallel.

There is no simple answer as to which option is right. Determining that requires balancing the cost of delay against the cost of increased coordination across teams. If the cost of delay is high (and, we might add, few businesses quantify or understand the cost of delay), it probably makes sense to add another team, especially if the work can be modularized to minimize interdependencies and costs of coordination. Of course, it’s also critical to have the right experts to staff the additional team.


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