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Wednesday, August 8 • 14:45 - 15:15
Scaling XP Through Self-Similarity at Pivotal Cloud Foundry (Evan Willey) POPULAR

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Pivotal's mission is to transform how the world builds software. We believe in the core tenets of Do What Works, Do The Right Thing, and Be Kind. We express those beliefs every day through our commitment to following XP practices and principles, such as sustainable pace, test driven development, continuous integration, and pair programming. While Pivotal has had a long history with XP, it's been on the Pivotal Cloud Foundry project that we have been applying those practices and principles to our approach to Program Management. That's the story I'd like to tell you about in this experience report.
During the last four years the Cloud Foundry R&D team within Pivotal has grown from around 10 two-pizza teams to over 60. We've scaled from two offices to eight that now spread across the globe. Adoption of the Cloud Foundry Platform as a Service (PaaS) by over half of the fortune 500 has increased the stakes we're working under and the responsibilities created by a mature, successful product (a good problem to have!). Our growth has been consistent and shows no signs of slowing down, and all along the way we've used XP principles to adapt our systems to new challenges that scaling presents.
In my role as the Senior Director of Program Management I've been around for this journey and the many lessons we've learned along the way. In that time, we've grown the TPM team, defined what Program Management means within Pivotal's context, tried many experiments, and continue to leverage the learnings of a few that have worked out well.
View the Experience Report

Lessons Learned from Your Experience:
  • When facing a scaling challenge we find that it's usually best to first ask, "what would a single, high-functioning team do?" as a starting point, then take a small step forward via an experiment, and then reflecting on the results before expanding the solution further or refactoring.
  • Successful adoption of new ways of working happens best and lasts for the long haul if the change agents, who in our case are frequently the Technical Program Management team, work with, and not for, our product teams. We do this through pairing directly with product, engineering, and other functions across the org to grow empathy and buy-in for the right solution to the problem we're trying to tackle. Often, the problems we're addressing have been sourced from the teams themselves through regular cross-team retrospectives, a process that also helps with solution adoption.
  • Self-similarity isn't the be-all-end-all. For example, there have been times where individual teams' focus on a single backlog of prioritized customer problems hindered our ability to create healthy flow for cross-team 'chores' such as security or compliance work. We've had to invent some new techniques and tools to help things out there.
  • Conveying and understanding strategic intent across a growing product organization such that PMs and teams maintain agency over their own local context while still keeping alignment to larger organizational goals is difficult. Coming up with the right metaphor and level of abstraction for a single 'backlog to rule them all' of customer outcomes has been a challenge that we continue to iterate on.
  • Program Management's continuous focus on 'automating ourselves out of our jobs' and an R&D organization that sees the long-term value in allocating engineering Pivots to assist with that cause has been incredibly valuable. As a team, we are not comfortable doing the same thing we were doing this time last year.

avatar for Evan Willey

Evan Willey

Senior Director of Program Management, Pivotal

Wednesday August 8, 2018 14:45 - 15:15 PDT
Torrey Pines Room 1, 2, & 3