The Scaling Dilemma
YOW! 2014 Melbourne
Stop me if you’ve heard this one: “We used to be small. We made great decisions, got product to the market fast, and were very successful. Now we are big. And slow. Our teams don’t work together very well. Our specialists are spread too thin. Our products are less than awesome.”
Getting teams to work well is hard. Getting teams to work well together is much harder. And the dilemma is, what works in a small organization is often counterproductive at scale. The question is – what do you have to do differently when you grow up?
For starters, scaling is fundamentally a complexity problem, so you should look for ways to reduce and deal with complexity. Second, scaling is a cooperation problem, and understanding what promotes and what destroys cooperation is essential for growing organizations.
Finally, scaling is an organizational problem, and there’s no shortage of models to study for patterns of how to scale organizations. There’s the lean model, the military model, and several unicorn models. These models confirm the fact that scale is possible, and are full of ideas for you to experiment with. But they won’t tell you which approach is best for you – you have to figure that out for yourself.
Mary Poppendieck started her career as a process control programmer, moved on to manage the IT department of a manufacturing plant, and then ended up in product development, where she was both a product champion and department manager.
Mary considered retirement 1998, but instead found herself managing a government software project where she first encountered the word "waterfall." When Mary compared her experience in successful software and product development to the prevailing opinions about how to manage software projects, she decided the time had come for a new paradigm. She wrote the award-winning book Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit in 2003 to explain how the lean principles from manufacturing offer a better approach to software development.
Over the past several years, Mary has found retirement elusive as she lectures and teaches classes with her husband Tom. Based on their on-going learning, they wrote a second book,Implementing Lean Software Development: From Concept to Cash in 2006, a third, Leading Lean Software Development: Results are Not the Point in 2009, and a fourth book, The Lean Mindset: Ask the Right Questions in 2013. A popular writer and speaker, Mary continues to bring fresh perspectives to the world of software development.