Whom Do you Seek?

A major key to success of a sustainable agile transformation is finding the right person or persons to lead the transformation. This person(s) need great prior experience at the Enterprise level coaching and mentoring as a ‘Sherpa guide” through the difficulties of an Enterprise wide agile transformation. This is an “OZish” view of the behind the scenes of how an agile adoption can proceed, leadership and its role and the case for the “determined person”.

Follow the Yellow Brick Roadai??i??

I often ask people who their favorite character is in the movie ai???The Wizard of OZai???. Usually it is Dorothy or the Scarecrow. Those that answer Toto. I worry about. My answer is ai???I like the Man Behind the Curtainai???. Here is the actual wizard working the flash and bang of the big show from a small side stage and he does not mean to be seen or heard (other than through his avatar).

Man behind curtain

Good mentors are like that. Good Enterprise Transformation Coaches are very much like that. They project leadership and strong qualities, and work the invisible pedals and levers of the Transformation within your organization. A great coach or mentor is always taking a back seat to the Employee who leads the Transformation. Even though they may be for this one topic of Transformations ai???the smartest person in the roomai??? they donai??i??t act it. They work at drawing out people, providing behind the scenes coaching, salting the conversation with ideas that others can latch onto as their own.

If required, they have the strength of character and leadership capabilities to take charge, but as a least acceptable solution. The Enterprise Coach should get their sponsor and lead to step up to the role of leading the Transformation.

What Comprises a Set of Skills?

Defining the Enterprise Agile Transformation Coach role is a mix of:

  • Communicator (up and down the whole chain of command)
  • Agile experience and practices
  • Enterprise Transformation experience
  • Technology savvy across multiple knowledge domains
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  • Business experience and savvy to connect with non-IT types
  • Exposure and experience across the IT organization

Basically, someone who has been there done that, built and burned down the T-Shirt factory a few times. So they must have had experience with Enterprise Transformations before. There is no replacement for experience in this realm.

Most important they have a force of will to drive to get things done. Many years ago I read a paper on the concept of ai???The Determined Personai???. The basis of the story was that The Determined person is someone who, despite what seem to be overwhelming odds manages to persist through the effort to its conclusion. Someone of strong conviction and faith that we can solve problems and overcome inertia of culture. This strength of will is coupled with persistence. This persistence of vision from Calvin Coolidge is my favorite quote of all times.

ai???Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.ai???

Do I Hire Someone Who is Certified?

Certifications are not a replacement for experience. Iai??i??ll take the seasoned veteran of the fight any time over someone with 5 certs on their resume. An interesting question to ask in an interview to sort out who is experienced is ai???So tell me about a major transformation failure and how did you get out of it?ai??? An experienced coach will have interesting (and sometimes scary) stories for that one. (FYI, the more interesting part of the answer is how they got out of it).

TrekkersSomeone with little or no experience or who is too cautious to answer is likely not the kind of Mentor you are looking for. You want someone with wisdom, and unlike the catch phrase, ai???with age comes wisdomai??? it really should read with EXPERIENCE and failure comes wisdom.Ai?? Once youai??i??ve had your metaphorical legs blown off by stepping on the various landmines strewn on the path to Transformation, you learn what a landmine is and how to avoid it. I want to follow that person.

These Coaches Are Really Expensiveai??i??

So I got one of these people lined up, now I canai??i??t afford them. Yes, experience comes at a cost. The kinds of consulting we are discussing is expensive. Cheaping out just means you get what you pay for. Besides, transformations are cheaper with a good guide. Experienced coaches save you money by offering up, “I did this in three accounts, it worked in these two and failed here because… This kind of guidance can save lots of time, energy and money.

The value a Mentor brings is the experience and guidance to provide you with the capability to succeed. Just like climbers of Mount Everest hire Sherpas, you need to do the same.

I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned from our “Playing the Agile Transformation Game” Blog series. Did it answer some your questions? We’d love to hear from you…

And stay tuned for ourAi??upcoming blogs!

Iai??i??ve been working at doing Enterprise transformations for 18 years now and I can guarantee you that Murphyai??i??s law is quite alive and well. Or as technologists know – the perversity of the universe is optimized toward the maximum. I do have to say all of these events are predictable, and with proper vigilance, can all be avoided. Now you just have to pay attention to find the ones I have not identified.

Here are lots of lessons learned from war stories of how large scale adoptions go off the rails with great ease.

ai???Left to themselves, things tend to go from bad to worse.ai??? – Murphyai??i??s First Corollary

Failure of the Agile Transformation Team to Deliver

So it turns out you have assembled the best team capable of delivering a new agile transformation to the organization. We have key representatives from all contributing departments; we have the best and brightest decision makers to get to right plans in place and we are ready to begin. We hold our first Transformation team meeting and we have a 70% or better “no show” rate because of press of business on the part of all these people who also have full time (as in 120% booked) day jobs.

Fallen chess pieces

This becomes a real failure upon the part of the Agile Transformation Team to deliver. The team consistently fails to meet; they consistently fail to deliver any assigned work as it is not as important as their day jobs. Essentially you get nothing done.

What happens to your well-conceived Agile Transformation is that you encounter the Second Law of Thermodynamics ai??i?? and a state of entropy occurs. Your transformation dies a universal death.

Failure to Measure Against a Plan

Simple logic dictates plan the work, work the plan. This is a simple axiom to follow, yet it seems when we actually encounter the work, the plans go out the window. This always amazes me when professional project leaders dump logic and purpose for panic.

It seems that staff on the Agile Transformation Team are not aware we will fight battles, win some lose some, and as long as we win a majority and re-fight when we are in a stronger position for the others, we will ultimately win the war. Instead, each battle is assumed to be the war.

If the plan is no good, of course jettison the plan in favor of a better one. Just donai??i??t proceed day to day without middle term and long term goals and objectives and a path to get there.

Measure progress forward and backward to the plan, use it to gauge and inspect and adapt to the vagaries of the workplace. As Dwight Eisenhower said ai???Plans are nothing, but Planning is essentialai???. Do contingency planning, have a Plan B, C, D and Z if necessary.

Failure to Communicate

“What We got here is a Failure to Communicate” ai??i?? Strother Martin from ai???Cool Hand Lukeai???

Failure to communicate is often a cause for failure. Our goal is to establish an agile environment where Transparency and Trust are vital to the success of agile adoption and our transformation. Too often, due to the nature of trying to deliver ai???stuffai??? (ai???Stuffai??? is a technical term for anything we need that is support or infrastructure necessary to our cause) we miss the opportunity to shout from the rooftops the availability of ai???stuffai??? for teams to use to do their jobs.

Or we miss the opportunity to create celebration moments for highlighting successes. We do this for generating excitement and good will for the program. When was the last time you celebrated a success with the team? Get your leadership from both the IT and business sides to go to the team and congratulate them in front of their peers who may not yet be on agile teams. ai???Hey, look the boss is throwing a pizza party for the agile team, how do I get a pizza party?ai??? That is what you want everyone NOT on an agile team to start thinkingai??i?? then we can introduce them to agile.

Communication Plans and Change Management plans ala Cotter or ADKAR as essential to the success of a transformation. Use every means at hand to communicate whatai??i??s happening. Especially WHY you are doing what you are doing. The WHY is just as important as the HOW and the WHAT.

Failure to Lead

I once read an article that dealt with the topic of ai???the determined personai??? and how that person would use their talents to overcome any obstacle placed before them. I view agile transformations at the enterprise level to fit that category of ai???any obstacleai???. Lots of barriers, cultural roadblocks, technical traps and management indifference await the determined person who will now need to overcome these barriers.

These types of barriers and more are already in place and awaiting you to be challenged. If you fail to provide leadership and the ability to lead by example, how can you expect that your Agile Transformation Team will follow you? All these barriers, challenges and obstacles will require your best every day to overcome them.

ai???Everything will go wrong at onceai??? – A Modern Revisionistai??i??s Murphyai??i??s Law

Thinking Too Small

Agile Transformations for very large organizations (2000 staff and up) can take years. Donai??i??t get caught without a strategic plan to accomplish growth over time. Your timeline could look something like:

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  • 1 ai??i?? 6 months Organize, Mobilize and plan the whole effort
  • 4 months to end of year 1 ai??i?? Early Adopter and piloting
  • 1 year ai??i?? 3 years Bulk of the adoption based upon organization size and complexity
  • 1 year and on ai??i?? Establishing stability of the conversion

Donai??i??t get caught thinking that for very large organizations, you will get this done in a year. If you can and do, maybe you belong with the Justice League saving the universe.

Organically Growing Due to Lack Of Management Education

This is a result of abandoning planning. You are just moving from one shiny object to another based on management whim. As an agile Transformation team, you need to broadcast and syndicate support for a plan across the board. Make it public and work the plan. Having a rolling 4 quarter plan that accommodates change is fine. Just keep it in front of everyone so there are no gotchas.

Little or No Change Management Capabilities

Key messaging and managing expectations are keys to success for these Enterprise Transformatons. You have to let everyone in the division know whatai??i??s happening, when they may be part of an agile team, what the expectations are, what training they will receive, that coaches are availableai??i?? you get the idea. Spew information like Linda Blair in the exorcist spewed pea soup all over the priest. If the staff start telling you ai???too much Information,ai??? youai??i??re doing your job well.

Failure to Get Bottom Up Support for Your Efforts

This is a variation on a theme of the Failure to communicate problem. Actively solicit your teams to speak with leadership; have them tell their stories to their peers. Ask them to sponsor communities of interest for various aspects of agile practice. Work the teams to tell their stories and talk with their peers. This is much more powerful than you think.

ai???It is impossible to make things foolproof, because fools are ingeniousai??? ai??i?? Murphyai??i??s second Corollary

Failure to Keep Your Ear To The Ground To Help Avoid External Events Like Poor Business Performance Terminating Your Budget

This happened recently to a company I know of. A downturn in business caused severe budget cuts in the IT area (as well as companywide cuts). End result is many of the Agile Coaching and Enterprise Transformation staff got cut. This caused a loss of capability to achieve forward motion. Agile Transformations can be very expensive, and therefore are a potential target for budget cuts.

One shop I worked in had invested $18.5 Mil in a transformation, they were acquired and the acquiring company having just come out of a bankruptcy had a mentality that ai???if it does not make us a penny today, donai??i??t do itai??? The $28.5 Mil investment in the Transformation was scrapped. Keep your ears open for events like this. Even public companies can show signs of upcoming bad news. How would you prepare for a downsized Agile Transformation so you can keep it alive?

Loss of A Key Sponsor

It has happened to me three times now in 22 shops. One heart attack, two changes in management for reasons I cannot mention. The losses were sudden, and new replacements essentially meant new direction too. There was always some period where the new sponsor undertook to come up to speed so as not to rock the boat initially, but in all three cases, the new CIO wanted to prove something to their superiors, that they could get more done with less.

This put a large target on any efforts that were not directly contributing to the business, and unless your transformation is well documented, has serious success stories, has won the hearts and minds of the new CIOs senior staff and is well entrenched as a ai???good thingai??? for the business, you should be checking out alternate business opportunities within or outside of the company because your future as the lead of the Agile Transformation team is a short term thing.

Backsliding or Just Plain Failure of Teams to Adopt

My experience says adopting agile is not that hard. Almost all teams properly mobilized and organized can practice agile as SCRUM or KANBAN. So if you are encountering failure to launch, or serious backsliding, check the competence of your coaches, evaluate the competence and effectiveness of your training materials, question the veracity of your competence surveys before you blame the teams. Something in your delivery mechanism is broken. Look internally first, before you blame the teams.

Missing Overcoming the FUD Factor

FUD – Fear Uncertainty and Doubt. Having teams overcome the FUD factor when adopting agile is very important. If they never get over it, that team will be a failure. The FUD Factor is not hard to discover. You can actually see it in the faces of the team members who just donai??i??t get it, or those who see their current job description being disintegrated before their eyes. Having the successes to point at, having leadership address the change in methods and that all are still valued under the new ways are good ways to address this problem.

So there you have it, the challenges, the pitfalls, the problems, the landlines, and Murphy. But don’t despair… Just be prepared!

Get ready for our next and last blog coming soon.


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Shrek: No
Donkey: Are we there yet?
Fiona: No, not yet!
Donkey: Are we there yet?
Shrek: Yes!
Donkey: Really?
Shrek: No!!!!”
From Shrek-The Movie

Measuring an agile transformation effort is what we are looking at today. Several important questions present themselves about measures: What to measure? How to Measure? When to measure? Who to report it to? All good questions to help us determine two crucial things:

  • Are we there yet?
  • Are we sustaining the effort?

So here are some Tips and Tricks to picking the right metrics to provideAi??management and record the journey and the capability of sustainability. We can help define this journey by determining when you hit the ai???Critical Massai??? that is, when the transformation starts clicking over on its own.

To define the critical mass, I think there are three valuable metrics:

  • Conversion Rate
  • Hygien
  • Customer Satisfaction

These three metrics help us understand are we there yet, if weai??i??ve reached critical mass and if we are delivering value to the business customer.

What is Critical Mass?

At a point in time, your transformation all of a sudden takes on a life of its own, and the transformation is suddenly less of an uphill trudge and more of an enjoyable experience. What happens is that you reach a ai???Critical Massai??? in conversion. There are more staff educated and using agile techniques than are not.

I borrow the term ai???Critical Massai??? from nuclear technology to represent the phase a nuclear reactor achieves when a just enough sufficient amount of nuclear fissile material is brought together and a chain reaction (the giving off of electrons) takes place within the fissile material. This reaction is then controlled using graphite rods to keep the reaction going at a controlled pace.

Like the nuclear reaction, there is a point in the transformation where we achieve critical mass and we have enough going on that we find the effort is easier than before.

  • Enough staff are educated on agile methods
  • Enough staff are working on agile teams producing valuable software for their customers
  • Enough of the leadership on both the technology and business branches see the value of what we are doing.

Measure the Results of the Transformation

The Conversion Metrics

So we are faced with determining how many and when with regard to the staff in our organization.Ai??How do we track their agile journey? Some simple metrics help.

Letai??i??s track two simple metrics:

  • Their participation in agile training
  • Their participation on agile team(s)

Topography - MeasurementThese two simple metrics can be tracked in an inventory of all staff in a division or Information Management department. This gives us the view of how much of the IT unit we have converted. At some point when a minority to majority are converted, that Critical Mass event will take place. Iai??i??ve seen it happen as early as 25% conversion and in some very slow organizations as late as 75% conversion. When the event takes place has much to do with the prevailing culture of the organization. Culture and its effect on your agile transformation is a whole different conversation for another time.

FYI, don’t forget to include training management and leadership and recording their compliance too!

Hygiene metrics

When launchingAi??new agile teams, we need to be able to determine at some point after they are separated from coaching and mentoring whether or not they areAi??practicing good hygiene regarding the use of the ceremonies, practices, principles and tools.

This can be as simple as the practice of doing self-assessment surveys at regular intervals. I like the idea of once a quarter self-assessment that list three point of view: the team as individuals, the Scrum Master and the Mentor or coach ai??i?? optionally the Product Owner may also have a separate opportunity to vote on the same categories.

Categories are simple:

  • The Agile Ceremonies
  • Practices
  • Tool Usage

A simple 1 ai??i?? 5 scale works and a spreadsheet tool is very commonly used. Results are often mapped as spider diagrams like the one below. You define questions around the usage of agile practices and tools and then ask the team to take the survey. Compile the results and publish them for use in a retrospective.

Team Maturity Assessment

Figure 1. Team Maturity Assessment

Don’t forget converting Leadership as a measure of success!

Customer Satisfaction

Are we delivering Valuable Working Software? Measures for valuable software in the customerai??i??s hands could be:

  • Quality
  • What the customer needs
  • Delivered on a timely basis

Doing a customer satisfaction survey to get a baseline, then again measuring quarterly how are we doing? And sharing it with the team is important. Focus groups with the business customer that include all the team is also useful.

And of Course – Budget for and Measure Against a Plan

DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF DOCUMENTING PROGRESS AGAINST A BUDGET AND A PLAN. These are expensive programs. They are also not easy to accomplish. So like all good agile work, create a vision and translate that into a rolling quarter roadmap. Break the roadmap down into adoptable features and lay them out in the roadmap. Develop a release plan per quarter just prior to that quarter and execute against that plan. Some key components of this:

        • Make sure you have a plan
        • Make sure you document results against the progress (or lack of) against the plan
        • Be prepared to chuck and re-write the plan

The same applies to budgets ai??i?? by making work visible and measuring your accomplishments against them, it will be a lot easier to get budgets approved so you can move forward with the work.

FYI a great Project Management technique I found when things go wrong (notice I said WHEN not if) Be the first to note you screwed something up, then quickly move forward to figuring out how to fix it. It takes the focus off the finger pointing and the blame game and moves you into define the problem domain in an us against the problem mode.

I hope this has been informative. Stay tuned for the next article in our series that will address the potential landmines and pitfallsAi??to watch out when implementing a large scale agile transformation.

There is a lot of noise in the industry now about ai???Scalingai??? Agile. I think you need to consider scaling for the right reasons. An executive order may be the impetus, but what are the real reasons that inform the decision-making process? What do you intend to gain for the organization? What is the timeframe for adoption? What is the payback or Return on Investment?

In this blog, weai??i??ll review the scaling models and the need for them. As an Enterprise Agile Coach, I often describe the ai???Ideal versus the Realai??? when I speak about reasons for adoption. No two companies are alike but all have similar qualities and reasons for scaling. Here are some of them.

Why Would I Want to Scale?

So here are some of the reasons that would make logical sense to consider for scaling. Again, going back to the Ideal vs. Real concepts, Ideal Scrum is not always a good practice in real corporate life.

SCRUM or KANBAN Is Not Enough

We find that having SCRUM teams is good, but now we find that complex, large programs require more coordination, more collaboration and frankly, just more horsepower in our development engines than simple Scrum teams can provide.

Regulatory Compliance Needs

I have worked in several regulated industries, Utilities, Banking and others, that require more than User Stories and working software as documentation of systems. Regulated industries demand traceability and audit trails far beyond what is provided by simple outputs from SCRUM events.

Audit Compliance

As a corollary to the Regulated industries, Audit also requires knowing Inputs, Outputs, roles, separation of responsibilities and documenting the same ai??i?? not always the case with SCRUM practices where we overlap a lot of responsibilities.

Major New Initiatives Requiring Speed to Market

This may be another variation on a theme of SCRUM being too small for the effort required, however consider major manufacturing or government programs where there are thousands of contributors, hundreds to thousands of vendors and suppliers delivering to large scale systems. It takes more than just ai???more scrum teamsai??? to get the job done. We need an infrastructure capable of delivering major systems of systems on the scale of a jet fighter or an SAP conversion.

Enterprise PMO Looking for More Accountability

To do forward looking plans and budgets, large scale companies often employ Enterprise level Project Management Offices for the purpose of delivering Programs and projects for the enterprise with efficiency and effectiveness. These organizations will require more accountability on the part of SCRUM teams.

Tighter / More Effective Connection to the Businessai??i??s Needs

One on One in front of a whiteboard is the recommended approach for SCRUM teams to gather requirements for delivery of Minimum Viable Product. When your business customers are for example, banking managers for a global bank with participating units in 100+ different countries all with different banking laws, Face to Face does not work well.

In your organization, one, some or all of these topics (plus others) may be prevalent. What does your organization need to address? This sets the stage for making some headway on the topic of Scaling Agile across the enterprise.

What Does a Transformation Look Like?

An Enterprise Transformation is different for each individual company, but does have similar major phases and milestones. So here is a generic model for adoption.

Early Adoption-9

Figure 1 – Enterprise Agile Adoption Phases


In mobilization, we do the kinds of things discussed in the first entry in the series, we:

  • Define the Vision
  • Define and deliver the Executive Steering committee
  • Define and deliver the Adopter Delivery Group
  • Get a budget
  • Select measures to determine ai???Doneai???

Method Selection or ai???The Bake Offai???

  • Selection
  • Evaluation
  • Picking a ai???Winnerai???

Early Adoption

  • Customization
  • Training
  • Roll out
  • ai???Piloting (Early Adopters)ai???
  • Measuring
  • Publishing Success Stories
  • Develop a Communication Plan
  • Develop a Change Management plan
  • Develop a Metrics plan

Major Adoption

  • Continued rollout
  • Measuring ai???are we there yet?ai??? See next blogAi??for an explanation of Metrics
  • Measuring compliance with agile practices and tool usage for all adopters.


  • Ongoing maintenance and continuous improvement of the Enterprise Agile Transformation program intellectual property and practices.
  • Measuring compliance with agile practices and tool usage

So how long does an Enterprise Agile Transformation Take?

Well, the answer is a very Zen-like answer to a question which is “How long does a piece of string need to be?” The answer is “Long enough”. So how long does an Enterprise Agile Transformation take? As long as it takes. There are too many variables to give an accurate estimate. It can take 1 1/2 to 4 years depending on the size of your organization, your Transformation plan, How you approach it and what your “Definition of Done” is.

What does an Enterprise Agile Transformation look like?

An Enterprise Agile Transformation is a multi-layered beast. At its Core you find:

People Crosscutting the Org

To misquote Bill Clinton in his 1992 debates with George Bush, ai???Itai??i??s the people, stupidai???. At the heart of all of the work we do is the need to capture the hearts and minds of the people who do the work. NO amount of mandating by management will make an agile transformation work at any level, scaled or not.

We have multiple constituencies who we need to educate, and cause to change direction and stop using old patterns and adopt new ones. To do so, we have to assure that the people in the organization understand the why, what, when and how of what we are attempting to do.

Processes ai???Workable Selectionai???

Whatever process or method we choose for scaling, very likely it is not an IT-only decision process. And even within IT, there are several service groups affected differently by agile methods. All need to be included in the agile tent.

Tools ai???Enterprise or Local Selectionsai???

Tools are often like religion, there are many and it seems we have different selections within large corporations. Some companies mandate the use of a specific toolset, others are very linear in their attitudes about tool usage. Regardless, the tools need to often provide upward reporting of metrics on adoption and sustainability of agile practices.

Requires Strong Leadership

ai???Personnel is Policyai??? to misquote Elizabeth Warren. Whomever leads the charge needs to have strong leadership skills Someone who can influence, what I call ai???Sell or Tellai??? and can make their arguments heard and stick. More on this topic in the last in the series ai???The Man Behind the Curtain.ai???

Acceptance is Highly dependent on:

Change Management Plan

All the good works done by the steering committee and the adopter group are no good if we do not have a strong change management plan. This sets the direction and rollout for the enterprise.

Communications Management Plan

Also essential is great communication plan. This plan outlines the messaging required for all levels of management for top down communication, and also describes the strategies and tasks for generating bottom up support for the program.

Figure 2 - Holistic Approach to Enterprise Agile Transformations

Figure 2 – Holistic Approach to Enterprise Agile Transformations

OK, Iai??i??m Geared Up and Ready To Go! What Are My Choices?

Here are the most popular, in alphabetic order, showing No favorites:

  • DAD ai??i?? Disciplined Agile Delivery
  • Hybrid ai??i?? Mix of best practices from two or more
  • LeSS ai??i?? Large Scale Scrum
  • SAFe ai??i?? Scaled Agile Framework

Of the listed methods, one stands out from the rest in a recent survey conducted by VersionOne, an agile tool provider.Ai??Per their 10th Annual State of Agile Report, the Scaled Agile Frameworks leads the pack with 27% of respondents reflecting that they were in some stage of adoption. This compares to 6% for LeSS ai??i?? Large Scale Scrum and 3% for DAD ai??i?? Disciplined Agile Delivery.

SCRUM and SCRUM of SCRUMs leads all with 72% responding that that is their method of choice.

So what do each of these Methods look like?

Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) 2.0

DAD poster

Figure 3 ai??i?? Disciplined Agile Delivery 2.0

My Impressions:

Good for Regulated Companies

If you are in a regulated industry and need more technology related approaches to building your apps, DAD is a good process to follow. It is strong across the IT infrastructure and is growing into the business community. Strong Milestones, and data points ai??i?? lots of recommended system and technology related documentation.

Maturing to include Program and Portfolio levels

Differing from the original 1.0 version, there is new emphasis on Program and Portfolio level organization and delivery.

More Technology direction than other two

There is strong technical and technology direction form DAD. It covers details the others do not about ai???how toai??? in SCRUM and KANBAN environments.

Recognizes DevOPS Challenges

Separate from the other two, it specifically calls out and defines practices for DevOPS, a growing trend in these scaled methods.

Least adopted of the three proposed Methods.

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)

Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)

Figure 4 ai??i?? Large Scale SCRUM process

My Impressions:

A Scrum of Scrums

This for all intents is just a Scrum of Scrums. Great practice to follow if you have organizational discipline and can enforce the rigor of using this approach as with simple scrum.

Very Idealistic Scrum of Scrums Implementation

To my Ideal versus Real argument, like all these methods LeSS is an ideal picture of how things work. Your mileage may vary. The higher the regulation and compliance needs are probably the less (no pun intended) you will likely adopt Large Scale Scrum.

Requires Discipline and Rigor

This approach in particular, will require significant discipline and rigor for adoption and sustainability. Since it is scaled scrum, likely it would require some to a lot of customization to work in your organization.

Not really a Method, more a set of Procedures

This is the original definition of a scrum of scrums with some additional roles to help it scale a little better.

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)


Figure 5 ai??i?? Scaled Agile Framework 4.0 Expanded to 4 layers

My Impressions:

Most adopted of the three

According to VersionOneai??i??s 10th annual Survey of Agile, SAFe is the most widely adopted and accepted method of the three recommended. It has traditional KANBAN and SCRUM support, and for programs and projects has sync and cadence points for matching up disparate types of waterfall, and agile projects.

LEAN Based

SAFe does represent a built up, ground up approach to a method based upon LEAN practices.

Business centric based (lots of business collaboration)

As indicated by the diagram above it is in my opinion the method that goes the farthest to include the business in a collaborative process. Its sweet spot is 150 to 400 participants and covers the whole organization. It provides an even balance of Tech and Business focus.

Moving to Scrum implies aAi??behavioral change

ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??to the Agile mindset
ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??supported by the Agile Principles found in the Agile Manifesto
ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??potential organizational change

Many teams find themselves in the land of FrAgile (i.e., fake Agile)

ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Scrumbut (i.e., we are doing Scrum, but not some of the practices)
ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??WaterScrumFall (i.e., some elements of Scrum within a waterfall lifecycle)
ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Kantban (i.e., Kanban without respecting the queues)

This may be because thereai??i??

ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??wasn’t a commitment to go full Agile
ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??wasn’t an understanding of what an Agile method entails
ai??i??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??Ai??wasn’t the talent (such as an Agile Coach) available to help bring about that change
ai??i?? Ai?? Ai?? Ai??was an incremental Agile deployment approach which stalled along the way

Frameworks like LeSS, Dad and SAFe are developed by experts. Whoai??i??s writing your hybrid?Ai??How measurable is the work done under your hybrid?

Comparison Criteria

Each Enterprise has different needs and characteristics that would inform your decision making.

Here are some common areas to develop criteria to use if they apply to you:

  • Regulation (Sox, Banking, Pharma and other)
  • Geographic Distribution (multiple locations for both business and IT)
  • Offshore contracting / Vendors and Suppliers inside the firewall
    • (ai???Inside the firewallai??? meaning teams from these sources are part of the local team)
  • Size of teams (Do you organize around projects or work?)
  • Audit Requirements and Compliance needs
  • Internal Need for Command and Control (politics, cultural resistance to change)

Selection Criteria

So I have to start this section with a Disclaimer:

These sample criteria represent my opinions alone and no other organization or business. If you want to argue about them, feel free to ping me. Donai??i??t blame anyone else for my choices.

Hybrids are not represented as it would not be possible to determine value for individual Hybrids, Iai??i??ll leave that up to youai??i??

Here are SAMPLE Selection Criteria I have found useful over the years. Please bear in mind YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary) depending on any number of variables governed by and informed by Comparison Criteria.

Selection Criteria

Which One Should I Pick?

So hereai??i??s a simple consultantai??i??s answer: ai???IT DEPENDSai??i??ai???. It depends on your culture, your tolerance for change, on how you are organized, what timeframe you have, what problems you have to solve and what regulatory and compliance needs come up.

Each company Iai??i??ve worked with since my beginning Enterprise Rollouts in 1998 has had differing business models, differing requirements and what works for one org may not work for the next. What works in one portion of an org may not work in another. So you are left with the question, ai???What works for you?ai???. This is something you have to answer for yourself.

My Recommendations

However, I do have some recommendations based upon past experience doing Enterprise rollouts.

They are:

Stick with Popular Methods (DAD, LeSS, SAFe)

Look for commonly supported methods. Between these three you are very likely to find a solution that you can customize to your need. These are supportable, customizable and have a long life span of 3 to 10 years.

I should note that I am not a big fan of Hybrid solutions. They take too long to define, compromise by committee will not achieve your long term goals, and likely will end up worse than waterfall in execution. Hybrids are technology bound, do not have a support structure for the long term and usually die a quiet death over 2 ai??i?? 3 years due to adoption of methods that work.

Only scale for the right reasons ai??i?? have a solid business case with an ROI

Do not start an Enterprise rollout without a case and an expected ROI. How else will you justify a budget, and the time expense and change to the organization without one?

Do not expect to adopt a Method Out of the Box

I have yet to see a successful adoption that did not do some to major customization of the out of the box method. Just the evidence of different business models says ai???one size does not fit allai???. Expect youai??i??ll have to do some customization. Some of these methods are like the fake town at the end of the movie ai???Blazing Saddles:ai???, just propped up storefront explanations of deep and wide topics. Get a close a fit as possible then tailor to your need.

Get a Sherpa guide

Get a Sherpa guide. You will be surprised during the journey what you discover you did not know and did not consider. While it may seem an expensive step, it is going to save you a lot of money and time if you get an experienced guide. See the last blog, ai???The Man Behind the Curtainai??? for a more in-depth explanation.

I Picked One, Now What Do I Do?

So what comes first, what comes next? We do the mobilization steps until we reach a critical mass of staff and budget approval. Then we move forward with selection. Once we finish that, then we start with:


Any adoption will most likely require an Out of the box (OOTB) Method with customization to your companyai??i??s needs. OOTB solutions are generic, and not meant to be adopted wholesale. Expect that youai??i??ll make changes like a tailor building a bespoke suit of clothes.


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You have several groups that need training:

  • The Agile Transformation Team
  • The Early Adopter teams
  • The Leadership of the Early Adopter Teams
  • Executive management on both the IT and business side

Dealing with Vendors, suppliers and contractors also should be a matter of focusing their contracts and SLAs along the lines of supplying staff that are trained in basic agile skills, so they can get ramped up quickly whenAi??they join your teams.

Roll Out

As part of the Change and Communications plan, you will need a communications plans to establish a roll out plan and process to get the customized method and training (and potentially tools) in the hands of the early adopters.

ai???Piloting (Early Adopters)ai???

Have you noticed I keep referring to ai???Early Adoptersai???, not ai???Pilotsai???? I do not like the term Pilots. It is a term that makes me think that if the plane is going down, you can bail out. Early Adopters has more of finality ring to it.

Measuring Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Conversion measures begin with early adopters. The quality and quantity of the teams on the journey need to be measured.

Critical Mass and Sustainability

Our goal is conversion of most or all of the organization. So letai??i??s define what portions are being converted and target them in our change and communications and rollout plans.

Publishing Success Stories

Per John F Kennedy, “Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphanai??? ai??i?? letai??i??s celebrate our successes as much as possible. Letai??i??s find every possible communications channel to highlight that staff are being successful with agile within and outside of the organization.

Who does this work? ai??i?? The Steering committee, the Agile Adoption Group and Enterprise Coaching.

Parallel Processes are Engaged

Parallel Processes


Youai??i??ll find that once you start, there are a LOT of parallel processes you need to kick off. This implies a strong change management function be employed. I recommend the use of tools likeAi??any of the popular work item management tools Rational ALM, VersionOne, Jira, CA Agile, and others. Pick your own poison, but use one religiously to control all the parallelism and interaction of these different work streams.

Here is a sample list you might encounter:


  • Create / customize training materials
  • Configure tools templates
  • Create new outcomes and outputs from new processes
  • Create new metrics to measure new / different ways of doing work
  • Define new roles
  • Craft messaging for change management plan
  • Cobble together news sources to publish events and news about the new method and success stories

So, a hint, staff effectively!

Picking Early Adopter Projects

ai???Donai??i??t Use the Word ai???Pilotai???

As I’ve said before, don’t use the word “Pilot”. I like the term “Early Adopters”.

Choose Early Adopters Selectively

Look for potential successes for early adopters. I had a psychologist show me a card trick once, and regardless of who he played, and what selections were made, the answer was always the 10 of spades. We want to use the same mentality in picking early adopters. We want to maximize the selection criteria so that the teams will succeed despite picking up an entirely new method.

Choose 8 Or 10, Early Adopters – You Are Likely to End with 1 ai??i?? 3

The work assigned to early adopters can prove to be frail projects. My experience is that over the course of 6 ai??i?? 9 months, projects get killed, de-funded, put on hold for more important work, and what started as 8 to 10 selections winnows down to 1 ai??i?? 3 remaining survivors. Not a good showing when you want to validate the results with working teams.

Expect that youai??i??ll need to run these experiments for a while, about 3 ai??i?? 6 months, to determine actual success.

Hereai??i??s a model to also consider when selecting the teams. Some early adoption teams will like to take on new ideas and practices. Others at the opposite end of the spectrum, the Skeptics and Rebels may never adopt. My advice for that holdout group is ai???vote them off the islandai???, by finding them different roles in the organization where their negative attitudes do no harm. The figures are samples, YMMV.

Adoption TimingIai??i??d also pay attention to who is affected over time when adopting these new practices. There are a number of paradigm shifts that take place both for the adopter teams and for the rest of the organization.

Organizational units affected by change

Hopefully, this blog has given you a start in the right direction.

In the next blog, you’ll learn all about how to measure your transformation results. Stay tuned!

Enterprise Transformations are a great game. From the starting line, what do I need to do to transform my Enterprise into a lean, agile shop? Which Scaled Agile Model is right for me? What change can the Enterprise absorb quickly? What are the key aspects for creating a sustainable lean, agile Transformation model? How do I budget and staff for a transformation? What makes it work? Last, Whatai??i??s in it for me and the Enterprise?

Armed with your list of pain points, you can use this and the following articles as a high level guide to selecting and implementing a Scaled Agile Method that would be a best fit for your Enterprise.

Choose a Scaling Method that is sustainable for a long time ai??i?? what options are available to me?

Agile practices have been in mainstream use for about 16 years now, with real traction in major companies for at least the last 10 years to some degree or another. Scaling methods are relatively new, most either evolving from older iterative methods, or springing up new in the last 5 years or so. Despite their relative new-ness, these methods are finding great acceptance with large and global corporations who for the most part found shortcomings with SCRUM practices for small teams not meeting the needs of large scale corporate efforts.

Climbing, Scaling

Considering the cost, involvement and effort to make the transition, choose a method that will be sustainable for a minimum of 5 years and may be in place for as long as 20 years. Also assure that the chosen method allows or future flexibility and growth along with the Enterpriseai??i??s needs.Ai?? Some of the most commonly available and practical models to choose from are:

  • Disciplined Agile Delivery – DAD
  • Scaled Agile Framework – SAFe
  • Large Scale Scrum – LeSS
  • Hybrids of in-house methods and selected practices from the methods mentioned above

Later in this series, we will do some side by side comparisons. So where to start?

Gauge the Ability of the Enterprise to Accept Change

So you think you want to start down the path of change. Letai??i??s begin with the ability of the Enterprise to accept and adapt to change. Some questions immediately come to mind.

Will there be any major barriers to change, and what might they be?Ai??How big and diverse is my Enterprise, and what is the culture like regarding accepting change? Who will be impacted and how?

Answers to questions like these will determine the size and scope and timing of the Transformation. You will find that some of the answers to these questions, like the ability to accept change within the Enterprise, will set upper limits to how fast you can go, or if you can go at all. Geographic and demographic issues pop up, in-place agile efforts underway may need consideration or change, failed agile efforts may be an impediment.

How you structure the Transformation teams may also be a limiting factor. A 5-person team tackling a 2000-person Enterprise is likely to take a long time. Getting a handle on the size and scope of the Transformation is a great start.

Find a sponsor “Way Up” in the Enterprise

You have decided to move forward, so you will need executive sponsorship to assure this program is visible, funded and a priority. Find a sponsor who is one of the decision makers regarding the Enterprise, someone at the Enterprise level, not a department or a division. Expect that you need more than one – people who are valuable will move on, you will need replacements and these transformations can span one or more years so it is always wise to cultivate more than one sponsor.

Build a Fulcrum Upon Which You Can Leverage Change

Per Archimedes ai???Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum upon which to place it, and I shall move the worldai???. You cannot do this transformation alone. Even the most determined person is typically outmatched by the effort to change their world, so get help.


I recommend two groups, a Steering Committee to set direction for the Transformation and a Delivery Group to get the Transformation done. These two groups can become the fulcrum upon which you can lever your Enterprise.

Steering Committee

Create a Steering Committee made up of key affected staff with a strong interest or a stake in the success of the Transformation project whose sole focus is Agile Transformation by the Enterprise. This group of individuals (usually a cross functional management team who has the Accountability, the Authority and the Responsibility to get things done) is responsible for:

  • General operating policy, procedures, and related matters affecting the Agile Transformation as a whole
  • Defining Operation, Scope and Venue of the Transformation

All participants act as champions of the Agile Transformation whenever and wherever possible. They as senior managers are key message bringers who deliver the ai???top downai??? portions of the messaging from the change management plan.

In terms of Operation, they:

  • Set Goals and boundaries for the Transformation Process
  • Set Objectives for the Transformation project with a one-year horizon
  • Meet as required to provide guidance to Adopter Groups
  • Acts as SDM Change Management clearinghouse for changes
  • Spin off working committees to address significant matters that affect change in the Enterprise

Hereai??i??s a potential structure for a steering committeeai??i??

Delivery Team

In addition to the Steering Committee, you also need a bunch of ai???Doersai??? who get ai???stuffai??? done. (ai???Stuffai??? is the technical term I use regularly for all the messaging, change management, toolsmithing, templates, mentoring, coaching that takes place as the key transition activities of the Transformation).

The Delivery teamai??i??s makeup is mostly technical and consulting in nature as they are the delivery mechanism for all the ai???Stuffai??? required by the Enterprise making the transition to Agile.

The Delivery teamai??i??s major deliverables are:

A hint about these two groups, if the lead of the Enterprise Transformation heads both committees, you have a built in communications device for making sure that what is decided is implemented.

Attach your Fulcrum Teams to a Very Visible Enterprise Level Group

Now that you have your teams mobilized, insert them into the workstream of the Enterprise at the right level. Choose a visible and important internal Enterprise to attach the Enterprise Transformation effort. This Enterprise Level Groups is likely aligned with your executive sponsor, like an Enterprise PMO Group, or the Office of the CIO. A transformation of this type is normally highly visible and needs to be supported by the Executive management and given the visibility and priority it deserves.

Get a realistic budget for the first year

“Money makes the world go round” – Money from Cabaret

You need a competent budget. Or, another way to look at is it TANSTAAFL ai??i?? There Ainai??i??t No Such Thing as a Free Lunchai???. And yes, to mis-quote Midas (The muffler people, not the King with the Golden Touch, ai???You are going to pay a LOT for this mufflerai???. So get your moneyai??i??s worth from the effort.

Expect to pay for:

  • Training
    • For the Steering Committee
    • For the Delivery Group
    • For the staff being transformed
    • For other interested parties in the Enterprise touched by this transformation
  • Cost of Full Time Staff who do the transformation
    • Steering Committee
    • Delivery Group
    • Other supporting areas like purchasing, legal and others
  • Consulting
    • Likely you do not have these transformation skills in house
    • Good Mentors and coaches do not come cheap, bad ones do
  • Licensing for Methods
    • There is potential that selecting a specific Method may require some licensing fees
  • Licensing for (new?) tools
    • Unless you already have development platform tools with agile support, you may end up licensing new tools
    • Infrastructure for tools support
    • Time and effort to customize the tools to match the new Agile Method(s)

Set expectations of how long you may be at this effort, and how much it may cost. Delivery Team, training resources and budget are limiting factors and affect how fast can you go, and therefore how long will it take.

Plan to Live in a “Glass House”

Some advice, one of the most often asked questions I get is ai???If I have to adopt this, why arenai??i??t you? Expect that if evGlass Houseeryone else has to adopt agile tools and processes – you better do so too.

Also plan for transparency on all issues good and bad. Better you air your dirty laundry about successes and failures than others doing it for you. That way, you have a better chance of controlling the messaging that gets out surrounding failures.

Consider the End Goal

Last, envision what the Enterprise will look like in 2,3 5 years after the transformation – what will you gain for the effort? How far does the Transformation go? Ai??Write it down in a vision. 1 ai??i?? 3 pages long, take the major components and put them in a roadmap by Quarter for at least the first year and now you are ready to begin.

Develop Measures to define ai???Doneai???

A definition of ai???Doneai??? that we can all agree upon is also a key to success, you are not done until you are done. This will be important for long term adoption programs. What is the goal and how are we measuring progress (or lack of) against our goal.

Ok, this blog is DONE. Look for the next one in our series.

This information piece is a kind of monologue on the ability to organize, launch and avoid the death traps of an Agile Transformation in medium to large sized Enterprises. It is the “What” to be aware of, and to an extent the “Whys”, not the “How”. It is delivered over several blog entries, so stay tuned for the entire series.

Our planned topics are:

  • The Agile Transformation Game – Organizing for Stability
  • Picking the Right One, the Right Way – What Scaled Method is Right for My Enterprise?
  • Are we There Yet? – When Does an Agile Transformation Hit Critical Mass?
  • “INCOMING!” Agile Adoption Perils; Land Mines, Hand Grenades and Shell Shock along the Road to Agile Adoption
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  • “The Man Behind the Curtain” – Mentors and Their Role in an Agile Adoption

Several scaled agile practices are exposed, and you should make the correct choice of the one that meets your needs best. The focus is also not so much on the practices themselves, but how to launch a successful Transformation regardless of the chosen practice or method.

The “How” is something that as a company we provide through our services as experts in the Agile Transformation space.

Common Reasons for Seeking out a Scaled Agile Method

There are some common reasons for seeking out a Scaled Agile Method. These may be referred to as ai???Pain Pointsai???. You may find that in this list one or more of these situations apply (and others not listed):

  • Your Agile transformation is working ok, but you are finding that transforming teams is not enough
  • You are a business under change seeking new markets to exploit faster
  • You want better communications with business customer
  • As IT Management you are seeking better Governance
  • Your Management wants to make the project noise go away
  • You find you need a better method of complying to Audit Requirements
  • You need Metrics, Measurements, Commonality
  • You are merging companies, Blending IT Enterprises
  • You want to stop the bleeding of wasted capabilities in IT

Why Scaling the Enterprise is Necessary

Typically, common SCRUM practices are for small, co-located teams working on small to medium sized efforts.

Scrum recommends:

  • 7 members plus or minus 3 for teams
  • Co-Located within sight distance
  • Embedded Product Owners (Voice of the Customer)
  • Simple Roles – ScrumMaster, Product Owner and Team
  • Self Directed Teams accomplishing small units of work
  • Simple Delivery ceremonies – Planning, Daily stand-ups, Product Reviews and Retrospectives

Our teams do not look like this model, ours look like:

  • Multiple teams of 20 to 400 staff
  • Highly distributed geographically (Including Offshore Development)
  • Specialized and silo’ed roles
  • Highly focused on Command and Control
  • Mix of Contractors, Vendors, Specialists and internal support orgs all with their own agendas
  • Complicated and complex delivery cycles with silo’ed groups with arcane and sometimes black box processes
  • Highly integrated systems of systems that comprise the Enterprise IT capability utilizing a mixed bag of diversified languages, data structures, technologies and operating platforms

Most commercial Enterprises require the ability to “Scale up” to a larger capability utilizing the practices in an agile based SCRUM practice to reflect a more complex and complicated world. So we need to look for a Scaled Agile Method to support these real world models. This is what this monologue is all about.

Make sure to read next blogAi??in series, coming soon:Ai??The Agile Transformation Game – Organizing for Stability

Tom Weinberger has been practicing Enterprise Transformations for the last 18 years with both tools and process. He specializes in the conversion of large enterprises of 2000 or more staff. His experience extends to many industries including two global banks, 6 large insurance companies and many other industries. He is currently an Agile Transformation coach for Blue Agility, LLC.

Join Tom on Linkedin at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tomweinberger


Recently, while I was teaching new teams how SCRUM fits in a larger SAFeTM structure, the question kept coming up from a Product Owner. “Yes, all this new SCRUM stuff is great, BUT how do I juggle multiple requests from multiple stakeholders?” ai???My customers keep asking for more and more without taking anything off the plate.ai??? I often refer to this as stakeholders chasing ai???The Next Shiny Object.ai??? Or, I want it all and I want it now.

Our business customers often fall into this mode due to the delivery nature of the waterfall projects we have been running for 40 years, where we deliver late, we do not deliver all they want, and it is not the best quality. As a result, I think they ask for everything they think they might need, which results in some of the difficulties of delivering what they REALLY need.

So the answer led me to explain how, not only the SCRUM teams deliver work, but each of the teams is part of a larger ecosystem of project, program and portfolio control that helps define work and priorities from original stakeholder requests to the work dispatched to the individual team members.

Walking the team through the SAFe Big Picture was exciting, and I’m not sure everyone took it all in a short time, but the questions kept coming: ai???Where do we fit in?” ai???What happens if I get buttonholed in the hallway and asked to do something by one of my customers, do I promise to deliver what they want?” and (well, you get the idea), new practices, new ways of acting and reacting to old situations. As team members they were afraid to tell a customer ai???No, we cannot do thatai??? or ai???I donai??i??t know we have the staff to cover that request.ai???

In a recent engagement, the CIO never refused a request. We needed a way to corral her ai???Canai??i??t say noai??? responses with SAFe. And we did. Iai??i??ll explain further a little later. The end result of these problems is a book of work that continues to expand, priorities that are not met, pet projects that take precedence and generally, queued work that gets out of balance with priority requests.

SAFe has some of the answers. We need to look to adding a strong helping of simple discipline and rigor following the SAFe principles and practices. But in my opinion, SAFe adoption alone is not enough ai??i?? you need the Circle of Life in an IT shop: People, Practices and Tools. All three combined are a recipe for success.

SAFe BigPic

SAFe Big Pic -Scaled Agile Framework & SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.


People ai??i?? SAFe does give us governance structures, roles that staff needs to play and definitions of how they interact. This is highly valuable as it gives substance to the various roles in SAFe, while being flexible enough to add or revise, as needed. After all, it is a framework.

Process – With the introduction of SCRUM and Product Owners, all the Inspect and Adapt cycles, potential added capabilities with Portfolio management to direct traffic, the picture looks a lot better from the standpoint of someone driving and managing those priorities. Now we actually have a framework to customize and make ai???our ownai??? to manage a book of work for a medium to large shop (say 500 ai??i?? 10,000 staff). New versions of ai???Essential SAFeai??? are available for smaller shops as well.

Tools ai??i?? They give us the necessary discipline and rigor to carry through with the often complex dance of delivering systems and features to production. We need a single global collection point as a repository of the work to be delivered, a means of dispatching the work to various teams, a collection of metrics to report our current state, past efforts, future capabilities, compliance with practices, and so on. Tools provide us with the ability to do this. Strengthening the back end delivery through DevOps is also a great capability to deliver.

Still, Stakeholders of Systems want LOTS of features

So, our business customers are still going to come at us from many different directions with a ton of Features, which can often be identified as “The Next Shiny Object.”Ai??What work may already be in stream or in construction can get impacted as the ai???next shiny objectai??? can now be added to the list.

Shiny objects occur with amazing regularity as a result of:

  • A competitor introduces a new function ai??i?? keeping up with the Joneses.
  • Some stakeholder gets impatient for the delivery of a feature and becomes focused on that current shiny object.
  • That simple request in an email, which you mistakenly agree to do, goes from being a small paper airplane to a B-2 Stealth Bomber-sized project or program.

The results of stakeholders repeatedly chasing Shiny Objects tends to distract teams from delivery. Stakeholders can change their minds about what is important based on what is happening in the business world ai??i?? which is often disconnected from our IT delivery world. Unless we have a strong commitment to the SAFe processes and practices, we are unlikely to actually combat the Shiny Object syndrome.

SAFe practices corral, organize, prioritize and deliver whole categories of Shiny Objects based on the Needs and Priorities of the stakeholders.

At the Portfolio level:

  • We corral, organize and prioritize (and even set the value of) Shiny Objects.
  • We use Kanban capabilities to organize and prioritize objects.
  • We use Value Streams to align work and fund the work (unfunded work like those B-2 stealth projects die at this point).
  • We make strategic level decisions for the good of the enterprise.

Remember that errant CIO who promised everyone who asked whatever they asked for? We gave her a sheet that became an input form to the portfolio screening process.

So what happens when that commitment starts to backslide or fail? How can we make sure a complex system of systems like this keeps on working?

SAFe is based upon a set of key Lean and Agile principles:

# 1-Take an economic view

#2-Apply systems thinking

#3-Assume variability; preserve options

#4-Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles

#5-Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems

#6-Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths

#7-Apply cadence; synchronize with cross-domain planning

#8-Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers

#9-Decentralize decision-making

Also of critical importance are the Core Values of SAFe:

SAFe Core Values

For organizations to effectively implement SAFe, we also need a significant amount of individual and team based capabilities of Rigor and Discipline. In addition, we need some mechanism to keep us on track, and monitor speed, delivery, quality and compliance, plus deliveries in a priority cadence that is driven by the stakeholders.

Rigor and Discipline of this type comes in the form of using a global mechanized capability (such as VersionOne) as a key to providing work dispatch capabilities:

  1. Planning capabilities at various levels for various roles
  2. Metrics gathering
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  4. Quick methods of prioritizing
  5. Globally distributed capabilities of defining and managing work

In my own experience working with large and globally distributed organizations, performing SAFe planning and execution and utilizing technology with enterprise-wide capabilities of the caliber of VersionOne, provides them with the rigor and discipline to successfully be SAFe!