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SLIM – an agile scaling pattern

SLIM – Scrum Lean In Motion framework

We value scaling organisations down, rather than scaling agile up.


What is SLIM? It’s one answer to scaling agile. Everywhere we go people are talking about scaling agile and different frameworks and ideas to support this. Listening to the explanations of the frameworks they seem very complicated and onerous. And apparently its all to aid communication and collaboration.

So how does SLIM help? Basically – instead of struggling to scale agile to large organisations – think instead about scaling down your organisation. When you have 60 people in Dev and then 120 in Business, it’s no surprise they don’t communicate well. As humans we just can’t cope with that many interactions. We naturally compartmentalise. We tend to favour the people most similar to us, rather than those we need to collaborate with.

The Dunbar number states that the number of people we can maintain social relationships with is around 150.

SLIM asks you to think about that. If you are a large org (anything more than 150 people), you probably have multiple projects or products running. What if you split your company along those lines? Each becoming a mini company of its own. The individuals involved will have more focus on their product/project. They will also be able to tell if their project/product is successful or not as it needs to support their now smaller company. The best part – less people, more collaboration, more working together and less confusion.

Many companies follow similar practices, so this isn’t new 🙂

  • Here is an article with some ideas of why smaller teams get more done.
  • And see point 3 for some Amazon thinking. I know their org structure works very similarly to what is described above – but I was unable to find any blog posts explaining this.
  • Here is a book Maverick, written by Ricardo Semler on how and why he split off and created new companies when they grew too big.
  • Apparently ThoughtWorks has a similar structure in place. (Though I could also not find any blog posts to support this.)

PS: SLIM doesn’t really exist. I just made it up so that my ‘framework’ for scaling agile (or rather scaling your company) sounds more credible 😉 Everyone loves an acronym.


4 thoughts on “SLIM – an agile scaling pattern”

  1. Interestingly enough, I have read that Gore, a company so much admired by outsiders for their lean management and agile way of thinking have a firm limit on the size of teams. They go so far as to build new office buildings as they grow in order to maintain the agility of small teams.

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