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Scaling Agile Product Delivery Teams through the Lens of Mitosis

In the dynamic world of product development, the art of scaling teams is akin to the fascinating biological process of mitosis. Just as cells duplicate their DNA and divide to foster growth, product delivery  teams can replicate successful processes and methodologies to be able to expand both efficiently and sustainably. This analogy offers a unique perspective on structuring and scaling agile product delivery teams, ensuring each new unit retains the essence of the original, thriving ecosystem. Whilst also allowing room for its own personal growth.

Preparation: The Interphase of Team Scaling

Before the actual scaling begins, akin to the interphase in mitosis, there's a preparatory stage where the existing team aligns on processes, tools, and culture that are beneficial for all. This phase involves documenting good working  practices, solidifying communication channels, and ensuring that the core values and methodologies that contributed to the wider team's success are well understood and easily transferable. It's about making an inventory of what works and ensuring the team is ready to clone these successful elements into new teams, so that as a whole the system can still function.

Duplication: Prophase of Team Development

As we transition into the process of scaling, the focus shifts to duplicating and condensing the existing team's knowledge and practices. This involves creating comprehensive training materials, mentorship programs, and clear documentation of workflows and expectations. Just like chromosomes condense to prepare for division, the essence of the team's working style, knowledge, and culture is packaged in a way that can be easily absorbed by new members.  This section also looks at really condensing down on the practices that are beneficial for all teams to work cohesively together, and processes and tools that will help the new teams get off the ground faster.  The goal here is to give enough information to allow a team to start but not too much that you are forcing practices and processes on that just wouldn’t be suitable for them

Alignment: The Metaphase of Integration

The metaphase of team scaling is characterised by aligning new members with the established team. This is where everyone, old and new, lines up together, sharing the same goals, tools, and methodologies. Workshops, pairing, and collaborative projects help ensure that the knowledge transfer is not just theoretical but applied, ensuring the new team members understand and can contribute to the team's objectives effectively.  This can be achieved by having new team members join a squad for 2 sprints, getting a feel of how things are run and how they work together.

Division: Anaphase of Team Expansion

Following alignment, the anaphase of team scaling involves the deliberate division or branching out of teams. This is a strategic split, where new teams are formed, taking with them the replicated knowledge, practices, and culture.  It's crucial that this split is managed carefully to ensure each new team has its own purpose, vision, goals and scope, also that it is viable, with a balanced mix of skills and the autonomy needed to pursue their objectives while staying aligned with the broader organisational goals.  There are 2 ways that the split can occur, all new members can split out to join a new team, but this can cause risks for the success of that team, but it does allow the original team to stay in tact delivering against its existing commitments, the second way is to have a mix of older and newer members in the division.  Whilst this will have a short term impact on the product delivery, it will have a longer term positive impact ensuring that team members get a chance for variety of work, and knowledge and practices are more seamlessly integrated.

Independence: Telophase and Cytokinesis of New Beginnings

The final stage, resembling telophase and cytokinesis in mitosis, is where the newly formed teams start operating independently. Each team, now equipped with a complete set of instructions (the agile processes, culture, and tools), begins to establish its own identity. This phase involves the formation of new ways of working within the new teams, setting specific goals, and adapting the inherited processes to better suit their unique context. It’s about nurturing the new nucleus of each team, allowing for customization and improvements, fostering innovation, and maintaining a connection to the larger organisational ecosystem.

Conclusion: The Organic Growth of Agile Teams

Scaling agile product delivery teams by mirroring the process of mitosis is not just about growth; it's about sustainable and efficient expansion that maintains the core qualities of the original team. By preparing thoroughly, duplicating effectively, aligning closely, dividing strategically, and fostering independence, organisations can scale their agile teams in a way that promotes cohesion, maintains quality, and accelerates delivery. This biological metaphor not only simplifies the concept of scaling but also highlights the importance of a methodical and thoughtful approach to growth, ensuring every new 'cell' or team is as robust and capable as the one before.

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