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Scaling Agile Methodologies

Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
To how large a team can a methdology scale?
What's the largest team anyone has heard it used in?
Given an answer of X to the first question, is there any way to manage a project split into multiple teams of size X, with each team using an agile metholodogy?

--Mark
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
To how large a team can a methdology scale?
What's the largest team anyone has heard it used in?

Cockburns Crystal Family is split by team size: Crystal Clear is for up to 6 people involved, Crystal Yellow for up to 20, Orange up to 40, Red 80.
These boundaries are of course more or less of heuristic nature - they will heavily depend on the team. Cockburn even makes the point that every project needs its own methodology (see his Just In Time Methodology Construction article).
XP is most often considered to be rather safe for teams of up to a dozen developers. There are also some XP teams of twenty developers and more, but you probably need a very mature team and/or experienced coach to make that work.
The biggest problem with scaling up is communication: at some point, purely oral channels just don't work anymore for all communication needs. So you have to start using more pervasive form of communication (for example by writing more things down), which, however, is also less effective. So there are some points in team size, where adding a team member in fact slows down the team, so you need to add some more people before seeing a rise in overall team performance again.

Given an answer of X to the first question, is there any way to manage a project split into multiple teams of size X, with each team using an agile metholodogy?

Yes, there are in fact currently some teams trying that with XP, iirc for an overall team size of 50 developers and more. The main idea is to establish a customer-supplier relationship between subteams. I don't know about their current status, though.
See also http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?LargeExtremeProgramming
Why do you want to know?


The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny - it is the light that guides your way. - Heraclitus
Frank Carver
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Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
Just be careful we don't stray into one of the "straw man" arguments like "how many large projects/systems do you know which use XP?"
XP aims to solve large problems using small teams to produce small systems, and is (claimed to be) optimized for that approach. Other agile processes have other (but often overlapping) aims.
Like Ilja, I'm interested in the need behind this question as much as the question itself.
[ July 18, 2002: Message edited by: Frank Carver ]

Read about me at frankcarver.me ~ Raspberry Alpha Omega ~ Frank's Punchbarrel Blog
Mark Herschberg
Sheriff

Joined: Dec 04, 2000
Posts: 6037
Three reasons....
1) I'm still highly skeptical of agile methodologies, but I'm trying to learn more about them. (I'm reading Cockburn's book, courtesey of Junilu)
2) I'm afraid I'll have ot bite the bullit and write an appendix or something on agile methodologies in my book. Certainly I better know what I'm talking about before I do that.
3) What do these agile supporters do when brough in to some large project, i.e. one of two hundred people.

--Mark
Ilja Preuss
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Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Originally posted by Mark Herschberg:
1) I'm still highly skeptical of agile methodologies, but I'm trying to learn more about them. (I'm reading Cockburn's book, courtesey of Junilu)

He is writing something about team size, iirc mainly in the fourth chapter.

2) I'm afraid I'll have ot bite the bullit and write an appendix or something on agile methodologies in my book. Certainly I better know what I'm talking about before I do that.

That is a good idea...
If you'd like to have it cross-checked by someone from the community, there certainly could be something arranged... (Ron Jeffries comes to mind.)

3) What do these agile supporters do when brough in to some large project, i.e. one of two hundred people.

I guess most would advise to ask someone else - it's simply not their territory. To be sure, you should ask them directly, though (the XP mailing list might be the appropriate place for that).
IIRC, the C3 project already was running for more than a year with around 50 developers when Kent Beck was called (initially to help with a database problem or something); it didn't manage to develop anything usefull (besides cabinets of paper) at this time. It was some weeks later when Beck was instructed to restart the project with a dozen developers. (Well, all portrayed from memory - I hope I didn't get it *too* wrong...)
From recent discussions on the mailing list i gather that Ron Jeffries would probably tell you he can't imagine a 200 person project being agile - in the same way he can't imagine a supertanker being agile...
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
There is a message at news:comp.object which might be interesting to you.
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Just found an article about XP on large projects...
Frank Carver
Sheriff

Joined: Jan 07, 1999
Posts: 6920
Interesting article. Thanks. They certainly kept closer to XP than a lot of projects I've seen.
shailesh sonavadekar
Ranch Hand

Joined: Oct 12, 2000
Posts: 1874
thanks for the link. relly good article.
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
BTW, I found the link in "Questioning Extreme Programming" by Pete McBreen. Very good reading - although I don't agree with all of it...
Ilja Preuss
author
Sheriff

Joined: Jul 11, 2001
Posts: 14112
Just found another article on the subject, in case anybody is still interested...
 
It is sorta covered in the JavaRanch Style Guide.
 
subject: Scaling Agile Methodologies
 
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