Who is paying the cost of Context Switching Habits when Scaling Agility?

Siraj Sirajuddin / Aug 1, 2023

When scaling agility, the cost of context switching habit can be borne by different stakeholders within an organization. Here are a few parties that may experience the impact:


  1. Individual team members: Context switching can have a significant impact on individual team members. When team members are constantly switching between different tasks, projects, or priorities, it disrupts their focus and productivity. It takes time and mental effort to switch contexts, which can lead to decreased efficiency, increased errors, and decreased job satisfaction.

  2. Agile teams: Agile teams may also bear the cost of context switching. When team members have to switch between different user stories or tasks, it can affect the team's overall flow and productivity. Frequent context switching can introduce delays, increase coordination overhead, and hinder the team's ability to deliver value consistently.

  3. Stakeholders and customers: Context switching can impact stakeholders and customers who rely on the output and deliverables of Agile teams. If teams are constantly switching between different priorities, it can lead to delays in delivering valuable features or addressing customer needs. This can result in dissatisfaction, missed opportunities, and strained relationships with stakeholders and customers.

  4. Project and program managers: Managers responsible for overseeing Agile projects or programs may experience the cost of context switching. They need to coordinate and manage multiple teams, align priorities, and ensure smooth progress. Frequent context switching can introduce complexities, disrupt planning, and require additional coordination efforts, increasing the workload and potential challenges for managers.

  5. Leadership and decision-makers: Leadership and decision-makers who oversee the scaling agility initiatives may also face the cost of context switching. They need to stay informed about the progress and challenges of various Agile teams, make strategic decisions, and provide guidance and support. Frequent context switching can make it difficult for leaders to have a clear overview and make well-informed decisions.

  6. Organizational efficiency and effectiveness: Overall, the cost of context switching impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the organization. When teams and individuals are constantly switching contexts, it can lead to inefficiencies, reduced throughput, increased lead times, and decreased quality. It hampers the organization's ability to deliver value consistently and adapt to changing needs effectively.


To mitigate the cost of context switching when scaling agility, organizations can implement strategies such as:


  • Prioritizing work and minimizing unnecessary multitasking.
  • Creating dedicated team time and protected periods for focused work.
  • Improving communication and coordination to minimize disruptions.
  • Streamlining processes and reducing unnecessary handoffs.
  • Promoting a culture of clear priorities and minimizing scope changes.
  • Providing sufficient resources and support to Agile teams.
  • Implementing Agile scaling frameworks that address context switching challenges, such as feature teams or scaling models that promote alignment and reduce dependencies.


By minimizing the cost of context switching, organizations can enhance productivity, improve team satisfaction, and optimize the delivery of value in their scaling agility initiatives.

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Topics: Agile, Agility, transformation, Agile Manifesto, Articles, Business Teams, Communication Breakdown, Compelling Shared Vision, Courage, systems thinking, temenos, translation, tvl, temenoseffect, Compelling Shared Vision lab, Community, Agile Release Train, Business Agility, transformations, Agile Transformation, transforming

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