• Português
  • 简体中文
  • 繁體中文
  • Deutsch
  • English
  • Español
  • Français
  • 日本語
  • Latviešu
  • Lietuvių
  • Русский

Submitted Conference Content

Full name

Tiago Garcez

Job Agile Coach
email tiago [dot] garcez [at] agilar [dot] org
Company Agilar
City (Country) Brussels
Time 1h
Type of Conference Conference-Workshop < 100 attendees
Level Sensitized

How NOT to scale Agile - a Via Negativa perspective on the scaling challenge


Tiago is an Agile Coach and has been helping organizations implement change strategies focused on Agile / Lean and a culture of continuous improvement for the past 7 years. During this time he has been working with companies such as bpost, Belgacom, Vueling, TUI Travel and eBay, helping them along their Agile change initiatives. Working with both teams and managers, Tiago has experienced first hand many of the challenges faced by organisations trying to become more Agile. His recent activities and interests are in Agile outside of IT and Agile organisational design.


Scrum has gained wide acceptance as a framework for developing high-performance, collaborative and adaptive teams. So it should come as no surprise that organisations have been trying to adopt the same principles and practices at scale in order to reach the Agile utopia of a high-performing, collaborative and adaptive company. But scaling Agile has proven to be a challenge. This challenge has lead to the appearance in recent years of scaling frameworks such as SAFe, LeSS and DaD. We have also seen an exciting collaboration across disciplines, with market thinking and complexity science being invited into the conversation. This brought in frameworks such as Lean Startup, Design Thinking, Management 3.0 and Beyond Budgeting. Each introduced interesting concepts into the scaling conversation, yet, the scaling discussions continue. The root causes are many, ranging from cultural clash to technical and practical challenges, but the most prevalent thought across the minds of Agile coaches and Agile managers is that “nobody has really cracked the scaling Agile nut - there is no clear answer… yet.” Why is this so? Why are the discussions only getting louder instead of converging? In his book “Anti-Fragile”, Nassim Taleb re-introduced the concept of Via Negativa. Originally the term was used in theology, where it described a means of defining God by negation. The underlying assumption being that one could never actually describe God, but one could approach an understanding by defining what God is not. Similarly, Taleb uses the term to indicate the value of omission, arguing that avoidance (unlike addition) does not have risky side effects and unintended consequences. In this session, we will use the Via Negativa lens to look at the issue of scaling Agile, trying to get a better understanding of the topic by defining what is NOT Agile at scale. The key to the Via Negativa approach is that it requires a deep understanding of the principles at play. And it seems appropriate to apply it in a context where there is likely no clear-cut answer. Our reality is much too complex, with multiple variables in constant interplay, a situation only made more challenging by the increasing speed of innovation and creative destruction. We’re trying to solve a complex problem. In such an environment, understanding what an Agile organisation does NOT do is a key first step in creating a vision of how to scale Agile in a (unique) environment. That is the other key benefit of the Via Negativa perspective, it leaves room for people to introduce the challenges of their own work environment into the picture. Via Negativa doesn’t prescribe, it discovers. This session is divided into 2 parts: 1) Lecture, where the topic is clearly introduced and an initial list of how NOT to scale Agile in organisations is presented. We will delve into the principles and concepts at play, and a clearer picture will emerge of the reasons why so many organisations are hitting roadblocks when trying to scale Agile. Concepts such as projects, management, planning, organisational design, HR and metrics will be discussed, but always through the fresh perspective of the Via Negativa. 2) Discussion, where the participants will get an opportunity to digest the ideas presented and contextualise them in their own organisations. The result of the structured discussion will be a better understanding of the challenge of scaling Agile within your unique environment. Change agents and leaders interested in scaling Agile within their organisations will benefit from the insights and discussions of this workshop. Come with an open mind and be prepared to have some basic assumptions challenged.


People attending this session should have a good understanding of the basic principles and practices of Agile, as the talk will be discussing Agile organisational design. People without knowledge of Agile will still benefit from the session, but might miss some points about Agile at scale.

Benefits for the attendees

- Obtaining a clearer picture of what is an Agile organisation. - Understanding the principles and practices relevant to scaling Agile. - Defining specific organisational changes to be applied into your own environment (what my organisation should stop doing) - Acquiring a fresh perspective on the topic of Agile organisational design.

Go to the submission page!