When and how can FAST Agile help you spread agility throughout the enterprise?

hnvIMq-g_400x400On my roundtrip of frameworks for spreading agility in organizations, I stumbled upon Ron Quartel’s FAST Agile as well. FAST Agile is a new approach to organizing work, organizing people and also a collaboration model. FAST combines elements of Scrum, Extreme Programming (XP), Story Mapping and Open Space Technology (OST) in a way that has never been done before with the goal of high-bandwidth, high-quality software in short iterations. Scrum and XP are assumed to be known. Let’s dive into the other foundations and processes in order to see whether you can benefit from FAST Agile.

OpenSpace Technology

Harrison Owen is the inventor of OST. It was first used in 1985 as a way to organize a conference with hundreds of attendees. In 2008 Owen wrote Wave Rider about leveraging the power of self-organization for high performance in all sizes and types of organizations. Owen is the originator of the internationally popular Open Space Technology organizational change method, shows that self-organization is the most powerful force in organizations, but a force that is often muffled by well-meaning yet constricting management and leadership practices. The use of near-continuous open space meetings for planning is core to FAST Agile.


  • Face to face communication (includes/implies Collocation)>
  • Code Craftsmanship (includes/implies Code Quality and Technical Excellence)
  • Self-organization (includes/implies Trust and Collaboration)
  • Shared vision (includes/implies Shared Single Purpose and Alignment)
  • Kaizen (Continuous improvement)

FAST Agile elevator pitch

The sum total of developers on one project is called the Development Tribe. The tribe is collocated and work the same hours. The Development tribe and the FAST Product Director meet at the start of a two-day iteration to demonstrate completed work from the previous iteration, realign around the purpose and direction of a project (represented by a physical static Project Map) and then self-organize into teams around work for the current iteration. These dynamically formed teams will discuss architecture and dependencies with each other and the other teams as needed. This will allow the architecture to emerge in line with the project and handle the issues of cross team dependencies that comes with agile at scale.

Before you embark on FAST Agile, please refer to its prerequisites.

Roles, facilities & artifacts

FAST has a Product Director, somewhat similar to a Product Owner. Next, a Developer, Stakeholder, and the somewhat neutral Stakeholder, as there is a Story Steward for anyone suggesting improvements. However, in the meeting, also a FAST Project Manager pops up.

There’s only one artifact, the Release Map, referred to as Story Map and Product Wall as well, even in the FAST Agile page for this single artifact. So, even a single artifact can cause confusion. When and how stories are broken down is up to the tribe and is part of the work in an iteration.

The FAST meeting

FAST has only one meeting, the FAST meeting. It has phases/parts to it. But it is one meeting and marks the start of an iteration.

  1. Review. During this phase, each team that has completed work from the previous iteration will come up on the stage and show their work to the forum. The FAST Project Manager, stakeholders and anyone in the forum meeting may ask questions. The FAST Project Manager and Stakeholders will give critique and feedback.
  2. Marketplace. Volunteer Developers from the Development Tribe will approach the podium/stage and announce to the forum what story or problem they would like to work on in the next iteration (typically two days) and a brief description of how they intend to achieve this and perhaps why they are passionate about it. They put some placeholder to indicate this work into a marketplace slot which is indicative of reserving one of the development rooms. Once all of the rooms are accounted for (or there are no more volunteers for Story Shepherd), then the Project Manager inspects the marketplace and may ask some questions. From this, there might be a shuffling and change in market slots to more accurately reflect the priorities of the Project Manager but it is hoped that this shuffling would be an exception to the rule of the tribe choosing the right work to move the product forward in an incremental fashion.
  3. Announcements and vision alignment. While the entire product team is present (tribe + FPM + stakeholders), any public announcements are made and the enigmatic PM should not miss this opportunity to rally the troops around the vision with words of encouragement and reiterate the vision for the product.
  4. Team huddle, dependency management, and planning. To conclude Iteration Kickoff, the story shepherds review the iteration wall / marketplace in a quick huddle to identify if there are any dependencies that they need to be aware of. They then go to their respective rooms and wait to see who from the tribe has chosen to work with them that iteration. Once their team has arrived they go into a mini-planning session and if any dependencies with other teams have a larger meeting with the other teams to discuss strategy.
  5. Get coding!

Where’s the scaling?

Good question. FAST focuses on tribes that contain up to 150 persons. Why 150? Well, simply because of the Dunbar’s Number. The number of relationships you can maintain seriously. Hopefully, your partner and children, and extended family also belong to the same tribe. A bit naive, in my opinion. So, FAST is not that much about growth, scaling up, but has a different starting point, tribe, instead of one or more Scrum teams.

Check out who’s doing (parts of) FAST today. FAST is a work in progress. Don’t expect a full-swing framework such as SAFe or Scrum. Visuals, videos, etc. of FAST Agile in action……I cannot find. Who’s any experience?