Seed to Oak

Seed to Oak

Play Description

Also known as a “bottom-up” approach, the “Seed to Oak” play builds an agile organization around one or two individuals, who join others to form an agile team. That team matures enough that the organization can expand the use of agile by having multiple agile teams in a department or business unit. Finally, agile is extended out to other departments or divisions in the organization and up to leadership.

“Seed to Oak” is a common approach because it is somewhat obvious. Many members of the agile community recommend a bottom-up approach, so it is difficult to attribute this to one author.

Use When…

The “Seed-to-Oak” play works well when:

  • Agile-friendly individuals are common. The “Seed to Oak” play works extremely well when many individuals who know and support agile are present in an organization. This can happen when an organization intentionally hires individuals with agile backgrounds and then builds upon their experience. Or, it can occur by happenstance, when people are hired for other skills but also have agile experience.
  • No agile champion exists. The “Seed to Oak” play is often a good option when no agile champion exists in leadership to drive the transformation, because it doesn’t require a champion to be successful.
  • No “burning house” driving change. The “Seed to Oak” play is a good choice when there aren’t any immediate existential threats to the organization (a “burning house”), nor any major crises that agile might help to overcome. (Note: These are known as no “burning house” scenarios, because they require rapid respond to “put the fire out” and save the organization).

Play Authors

  • Various


  • Can be methodical. Because the organization can mature the organization on a team-by-team, department by department, and division-by-division basis, the “Seed to Oak” play makes it easy to be methodical about an agile transformation.
  • High success rate.  The “Seed to Oak” approach is generally very successful – at least in initial stages of an agile transformation.
  • Easy to build upon team frameworks. Because “Seed to Oak” succeeds by working bottom up, it is particularly successful when an organizations starts with team frameworks (e.g., “Scrum”, XP) and then builds up from there.


  • Takes a long time. Given the bottom-up nature of “Seed to Oak”, it generally takes many years to mature an large organization using it.
  • Struggles to move beyond team. Depending upon the number and location of agile-friendly individuals, “Seed to Oak” can struggle to move beyond the team because resistance is encountered elsewhere in the organization.
  • Pockets of agility. Often, the lack of enough agile-friendly individuals results in pockets of agility, where one team or department is highly agile but others are not. When this occurs, it is usually necessary to call another play in the playbook to progress further.

Additional Notes