XSCALE Agile Performance (XAP) Practitioner

Do your IT costs keep increasing but productivity is getting worse?

Are your critical business projects running late and over budget?

XAP is both a fast start for enabling high performance teams and a productivity supercharger for existing Agile teams and Scrums. It gives hands-on guidance in Agile best practices including Extreme Programming (XP), Lean Kanban, Behavior Driven Development (BDD) and Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CICD).

As one of the four XSCALE pattern languages, XAP also integrates these disciplines with efficient stream and portfolio coordination.

XSCALE Agile Performance is about the five questions …

  • How do you minimise tech debt and flatten the cost of change curve?
  • How do you optimise team ceremonies and tool use for self-organisation?
  • How do you reconcile consensus decision-making with individual responsibilities?
  • How do you empower the team to share ownership of architecture and outcomes?
  • How do you maximise the amount of work not done to get the job done?

… that distinguish high productivity teams.

The XAP course is purely pragmatic, giving hands-on experience in the direct application of high performance practices to your specific delivery context.

Why learn about XSCALE Agile Performance?

Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.

Sustaining Agile delivery requires a value stream to flatten its cost of change curve. Although Scrum is the most popular Agile process, it doesn’t cover the engineering practices we need to achieve that. These make Agile harder to learn, so for a long time Scrum was the natural first step toward an Agile culture. With self-organizing transformation, however, there’s a better, faster and cheaper way.

When change programs begin with Scrum, a natural next step is the addition of XP practices. Unfortunately, the ScrumXP combination generates anti-patterns that make it less effective than XP alone. XAP combines XP with Kanban, BDD, CICD and Teal practices that support principled, sustainable, high performance Agile delivery.


XAP provides a focused fast start for teams with no prior Agile experience and also a way to re-energise Scrums that find themselves struggling with the tech debts and cultural compromises induced by “Cargo-Cult Agile”, “Dark Scrum”, “Scrumbut”, “Sabotagile” and just plain ordinary Scrum. XAP makes a quick way for DevOps / Systems teams get to speed in Agile best practices too.


XAP starts with Scrumban practices: pulling the work through Stream Kanbans, standup meetings that walk the wall, squad showcase and retro ceremonies, definitions of ready/done, and grooming backlogs both with and without estimates. Then it uses Lego simulation and BDD as process bridges to teach XP. It combines these with Leadership as a Service to distribute the work of traditional Scrum roles round-robin, generating truly self-organizing teams.


Extreme Programming is a proper superset of Scrum practices. That’s to say Scrum introduced no beneficial practices that were not already in XP, but simply out-marketed it by slowing it down and leaving out the elements that require technical understanding. XAP combines XP with BDD so that this understanding isn’t necessary for non-technical team members to contribute to technical outcomes. As a self-reinforcing language of small-team engineering practices, XP applies continuous feedback to minimise technical debt and maximise the efficiency of collaboration. Critical XP practices include test-first delivery, promiscuous pairing, shared ownership using DVCS, merciless refactoring, continuous integration, simplest working thing, release planning, sustainable pace, self-documenting code and “You Aren’t Gonna Need It” (YAGNI).

Scrumban combines Kanban, the first and simplest Lean method, with the collaborative ceremonies that gave Scrum its form. It replaces the weaker aspects of Scrum with one-piece flow, continuously pulling backlog items into a “done” state rather than pushing new work into progress to maintain needless sprint commitments. Instead, XAP manages those commitments by combining Scrumban with XPM‘s breadth-first feature-based release planning to make the simplest possible continuous Agile value stream.

Leadership as a Service is a protocol that minimises politics and speeds the flow of learnings within and between teams. Already a part of the XP planning game, XAP applies this protocol to replace Scrum roles with DRIs and consensus decision-making.

Continuous Integration / Continuous Delivery (CICD) enables multiple Feature teams to release asynchronously without tripping over each others’ feet or centralising ownership of technical components. More importantly, it enables the XP “Merciless Refactoring” practice which is just too risky to do without it. Modern software engineering plugs Decentralised Version Control (DVCS) and CICD together, and XAP shows how to combine them with BDD to decouple silos and decentralise dependencies.

Behavior Driven Development (BDD) makes sure system behaviors remain consistent even when many independent teams are continuously varying them. It dramatically reduces the cost of ownership of quality automation and process automation, enabling Design, Delivery and DevOps teams to maintain a consistent source of truth for acceptance criteria across multiple system behaviours over time.

Stream Kanban & Throughput Diagrams provide a continuous view of workflow across multiple teams per stream. Throughput diagrams combine business analytics with workflow cumulative flow curves to make it easy for teams to visualise and open their mutual bottlenecks. XAP uses physical cards on a wall to teach teams how to generate and combine these artefacts to coordinate delivery priorities continuously without requiring big-room planning meetings.

© 2019 John Ferguson Smart