Play Description

In gardening, cross-pollination spreads pollen from one flower to another one, increasing the diversity of the plant species while triggering the growth of fruit.

For the Agile Transformation Playbook, the “Cross-Pollination” play exposes existing teams to the work of agile teams so they can see agile in action, better understanding how agile is applied in a true work environment.

Cross-pollination can take many forms, including:

  1. Site visits or field trips, where one agile team visits another, learns about how they operate and observes for a day or less.
  2. Embedding, where members of an agile team spend a week or more sitting alongside an agile team observing, and sometimes participating in their work.
  3. Benchmarking, where one team collects quantitative and qualitative data to understand where are the areas of success for an agile team.

Use When…

The “Cross-pollination” play works well when:

  • Skepticism threatens success. Often, a team, department or division new to agile utters the words, “Sounds great, but this won’t work for us.” The best way to dispel this myth is to have these individuals see agile in action, allow them to ask questions, and to imagine themselves acting and behaving like the people being observed.
  • Team or department stuck in a rut. In some cases, a team or department has made good progress with agile but has not made any progress recently.  (In English, this is sometimes called “stuck in a rut”). One great way to help a team generate new ideas for improvement is cross-pollination, because the “stuck” team has a chance to see another team practicing agile in new and different ways.
  • Struggling to understand practical agile. Sometimes, agile is taught to teams in a way that is much too theoretical. As a result, new teams struggle to understand how to “do” agile. One great way to move beyond the theoretical and to the practical by using the “Cross-pollination” play.

Play Authors

  • Donald Patti


Cross-pollination has multiple advantages as a transformation play, including:

  • Low cost. Typically, a one-day site visit to another team or department in the same organization is almost zero. Similarly, a same-city visit to another organization is relatively low cost to arrange, as well.
  • Very persuasive. Because teams new to agile go and see for themselves, the realism of the experience tends to be very persuasive.
  • See good and the not-so-good. Visiting teams see the good and the not-so-good when they observe agile in the field. This makes it possible for them to see that others still have room to improve, but it also makes it easier to identify those same challenges when they occur in their home environment.
  • Bridges hypothetical and actual. By using cross-pollination to see agile used in a work environment, rather than hearing about it, bridges the gap between hypothetical and actual for many people new to agile.


There are some disadvantages to attempting the “Cross-pollination” play:

  • Difficult to find cross-pollinator. Sometimes, it is difficult to find a team, department or organization will to permit outsiders to observe them. It often takes more than two weeks to coordinate an activity like this, so try to avoid attempting cross-pollination in a single Sprint.
  • Exposure often time-limited. Because there are costs and time commitments for the hosting team or organization, site visits and embedding are often time-constrained. This may limit the amount of useful knowledge gathered through cross-pollination.
  • Significant gains unlikely. Though cross-pollination is very good and helping teams new to agile conclude “they can do it, too”, cross-pollination rarely results in enough new knowledge to make significant gains alone. As a result, it usually needs to be followed up by other transformation plays in order to achieve the best results.

Additional Notes

Cross-pollination is similar to "GOOB", or "Get Out of the Building" from Design Thinking. And, it is similar to "Gemba" - (go to) the real place in Lean.