Case Study: Scaling Agile for Enterprises and Startups

The Problem

Oracle’s social media marketing product suite was formed by the acquisition of several startups in the social media space. The overarching solution was cobbled together, re-packaged, then sold to enterprises as a comprehensive solution for social listening, engagement, analytics, and publishing.

Team tribalism was rampant as there were contingents held over from the respective acquisitions, all loyal to their original teams pre-acquisition. Each component solved a piece of the social media marketing puzzle in its own right, but the challenge was in getting the systems – and teams – to work together effectively. Teams often operated in their own worlds. This lack of coordination led to divergent priorities and therefore long lag time for dependencies to be resolved, and sometimes even duplication of effort.

The Solution

I established a regular cadence of “Scrum of Scrums” meetings with all product and engineering team leads in attendance, as well as the leaders directly responsible for overseeing the entire product line. I acted as scrum master for the meeting, calling on participants, keeping the meeting flowing, and identifying areas for followup after the meeting.

The format closely resembled daily standups for individual teams in which teammates reported what they had accomplished since the last meeting, what they intend to do by the next meeting, and raise any impediments that need to be resolved to unblock them. Thus, greater visibility was given to what teams were working on and what hindrances they were dealing with at any given time.

The Results

This practice gave a new sense of accountability to team leads to deeply understand what project progress and the ways in which their team’s effort intertwined with the overarching strategic focus of the product line. Sandbagging was a near impossibility as such nonsense would be immediately found out. It was painfully obvious to everyone on the call when a team lead wasn’t aware of what their team was working on or how it was impacting other teams, allowing leadership the ability to quickly identify areas that needed to get back on track.

This transparency led to more focus on collaboration, and a renewed urgency around dependency resolution as it laid bare the ways in which tribalism and lack of coordination were hindering progress. The speed of development of cross-team initiatives sky-rocketed, and teams were far more eager to communicate closely to achieve shared victories. I took this collaboration strategy with me to my next role at a scaling startup with similar success. I would highly recommend this approach in any organization with 3 or more development teams, regardless of how each team is organized or what methodologies they use internally.

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