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:


On Wednesday, April 6, we had the pleasure of hosting Dean Leffingwell, Scaled Agile, Inc., co-founder and chief methodologist, and Ken France, SPCT4 and CEO at Blue Agility for a very special “Happy Hour” Web Event. Dean and Ken updated us on the latest and greatest with SAFe 4.0. They shared real-life use cases and how you can gain the business benefits of scaling agile to the enterprise to help you survive and thrive in the face of tough competition.

If youai??i??re looking for a better understanding of how you can take advantage of the improvements in SAFe 4.0, then this replay is for you.


SoAi??kickback, relax and enjoy an hour chock-full of valuable and actionable information.Ai?? buy baclofen online cheap, buy zithromax.

For large software development projects involving up to a 100 to several 100s of software developers, analysts and testers, the inherent techniques of agile methodologies such as Scrum or XP prove inadequate for effectively managing the progress of such enormous effort.

In this blog, we look at a quick comparison between two leading frameworks for scaling the Agile approach for large software development projects: Scaled Agile Framework (SAFeTM) and Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS).Ai?? Each has its strong points that may fit different organizational situations of large software product development.

Letai??i??s get started: the ai???Big Pictureai???

See below the overview pictures for SAFe ( and LeSS (

SAFe 4.0 Big Pic


LeSS Framework


Right off the bat, we see that while the SAFe Framework appears more comprehensive, it also appears more process-heavy. In fact, the inventors of the LeSS framework are proud of its acronym indicating less process, less artifacts, and fewer roles, remaining faithful to having only the original Scrum roles of PO, SM and Team.

As an example, SAFe offers the role of Program Manager, who is in charge of setting the priorities and overall scope of functionality to be delivered by a Program containing many Agile teams. The Product Owner in SAFe performs the usual Scrum role for up to a couple of Agile Teams.

In contrast, LeSS offers the regular Scrum role of Product Owner (PO) for up to 8 Teams.Ai?? This is because in LeSS, the PO is not a liaison with the end-Customer: the Teams get to interact directly with the end-Customer to understand the details of the requirements, giving the PO the opportunity to focus on the overall priorities and scope for up to 8 Scrum Teams.

Hence if an organization can afford the opportunity for the Agile Teams to interact directly with the end-Customer LeSS can be a good fit in this particular aspect. Otherwise, SAFe can accommodate both the Team-direct and the liaison-PO situations.

Organizational Structure

The inventors of LeSS very much believe that culture follows structure. To that end they offer LeSS not just as a practice to scale up the Scrum approach, but as a direct impetus for change of organizational structure.Ai?? The picture below shows what LeSS advocates for organizational structure for up to 8 Scrum Teams working together to develop a software product in order to provide what an Agile culture needs from an organization to succeed.

Organizational Structure of LeSS

In this picture, you can see that there are no functional departments (e.g. development vs. testing) or a PMO.Ai?? Instead, in addition to the Scrum Teams, there is the Head of the Product Group, which LeSS views (as it views all other managers similar to the ai???Toyota Wayai???) as a teacher of those reporting to him/her, the Product Owner team, which provides a pool of POs for every Scrum (large or small scale) effort, and the Undone Department.

The latter is a curious thing.Ai?? In LeSS, a permeating theme is that the Teams are supposed to do everything needed to put a high-quality software product in the hands of end-Customers: from analysis to development to testing to packaging, all while coordinating with other Teams.Ai?? This is represented in the Definition of Done of the Teams.Ai?? But it may take the Teams a few years to mature to that set of comprehensive capabilities.Ai?? Hence the Undone Department is a placeholder for resources that fill in for whatever the Teams are yet to be able to do (e.g. DevOps) until the Teams mature.

In contrast, SAFe does not advocate drastic organizational change as emphatically as LeSS.Ai?? It presents its approach for adoption even with the current organizational structure, and lets the organization take its time deciding when it may want to restructure to be more efficient with Agile.Ai?? Thatai??i??s not to say that LeSS presents its approach as an ai???all or nothing dealai??? ai??i?? it just emphasizes structural change in the organization more strongly than SAFe does.

Differences in Planning

SAFe stipulates that sprints should be grouped in sets of 4-5 consecutive sprints, each set being called a Program Increment (PI).Ai?? And while the Teams (and the Product as a whole) are expected to demonstrate incremental achievements at the end of each sprint, it is at the end of a PI that complete ai???Featuresai??? of the software product are expected to be available.Ai?? SAFe, however, maintains the option of releasing on-demand any time during a PI with the Features that happen to be complete at that point in time.

Planning in SAFe happens in a 2-day session at the beginning of each PI, in addition to the usual sprint planning at the beginning of each sprint.Ai?? In the PI planning session all the Teams working together in what SAFe calls an Agile Release Train (ART) attend to commit to delivering a set of Features for the PI, and to have each Team present a plan showing which stories (which are children of Features in SAFe) the Team plans to complete for each sprint in the PI.Ai?? Finally, in addition to the usual sprint demos and retrospective, SAFe has an overall PI demo at the end of each PI, and a general Inspect and Adapt session, which is a scaled up version of a sprint retrospective.

In contrast, LeSS remains faithful to just the usual sprints of Scrum, with the following additions:

  • Sprint Planning happens in 2 stages. The 1st stage is attended by 2 representatives of each Team, which do not usually include the Teamai??i??s Scrum Master.Ai?? This stage decides which items from the common Product Backlog each Team will develop.Ai?? It also has cross-team estimations to unify the estimation numbers. This is in contrast to SAFe, which suggests normalizing cross-Team estimations by equating 8 story points to 1 staff-day.The second stage of sprint planning is the same as sprint planning in regular Scrum
  • Each sprint review is held with all Teams as a ai???science fairai???, where each Team has a station to demonstrate its accomplishments for the sprint. Attending stakeholders can visit the stations in which they are interested.
  • The Sprint Retrospective is held in two stages: the first being the same as regular Scrum; the second is for the overall progress of the software product being developed by the Teams.

Portfolio Management

As represented in the top level of the SAFe ai???Big Pictureai??? shown earlier, SAFe offers a comprehensive approach to prioritizing projects (represented as Epics in SAFe) for the organization and budgeting for them in an Agile manner.Ai?? In its latest version, SAFe 4.0, there is an additional, optional, level for Value Streams below the Portfolio level ai??i?? it is usually relevant to projects with hundreds, or thousands of participants.

In contrast, LeSS does not delve into portfolio management: it only offers techniques that can be compared to the Program and Team layers of SAFe.

2 Versions of LeSS

LeSS has two versions:Ai?? the one we saw earlier for 2 to 8 Teams, and Less Huge for more than 8 Teams, depicted below.

buy cardura online cheap, zithromax without prescription. LeSS Framework

LeSS Huge is formed by having several regular LeSS frameworks working in parallel with each other.Ai?? The most notable addition in LeSS Huge is making each regular LeSS belong to a separate Requirements Area with its own Area Product Owner (APO) under the overall Product Owner.

If you were thinking ai???Well, isnai??i??t an ART the same as a Requirements Area?ai???, youai??i??d be partially right; a similarity is that the Product Backlog relationship to the Area Product Backlog is analogous to the relationship of a Portfolio Backlog to a Program Backlog in the sense that items on the former are coarser grained than items on the latter.Ai?? However, one of the differences is that an APO is still only one for 8 Teams, whereas the SAFe PO covers very fewer Teams.

Other Differences between LeSS and SAFe

  • LeSS can appear to offer one seemingly shocking advice (which is not offered by SAFe): Donai??i??t scale! (But if you have to scale, use LeSS J) It advocates that even very large software products can be built more successfully by a relatively small Team of co-located master programmers and testers.Ai?? They cite at least one example on their website ( of a huge software project that followed a torturous path to completion.Ai?? When the overall project director was asked if he were to do it again, what would he do differently, he said that heai??i??d pick the 10 best programmers and have them build it all.Ai?? I can cite a more recent example with the Affordable Care Act, where a traditional government contractor put an enormous number of resources on the project that failed miserably.Ai?? Later, about a dozen master developers and testers were put together in a house to work on fixing the ACA, which they did within a period of several months. (See
  • Whereas SAFe is generally tool-neutral, LeSS strongly recommends that you not use automated tools until after your organization becomes quite proficient with LeSS, opting instead to use manual resources like very big white boards and wall charts. Otherwise, LeSS declares that if you automate a mess, you get an automated mess.Ai?? And even after the Teams become proficient with LeSS, it recommends that you only use open source tools, which you can easily jettison if they donai??i??t work out for you, without losing high-dollar investments.
  • SAFe takes a more customary view of the role of Scrum Master. In SAFe, the SM is pretty much a permanent role with the Scrum Team and does a lot of intra-Team and inter-Team coordination. In LeSS, the SM is first and foremost a Teacher.Ai?? He can fade away from the day-to-day Team dynamics once the Team becomes proficient in the Scrum and LeSS approaches.
  • In SAFe: Epics, Features and Stories are explicitly handled as integral parts of the SAFe backlogs. LeSS, on the other hand, only talks about coarser vs. finer grained Backlog Items, staying faithful to Scrum by relegating Epics, Features and Stories as instruments of XP, which is not part of Scrum proper.


The quick comparison between LeSS and SAFe in this blog is by no means comprehensive.Ai?? However, it does show SAFe to be more wide-ranging in offering processes and roles to handle the development of software from the highest profile levels down to the individual Agile Team for large-scale Agile efforts, albeit at the cost of perhaps appearing too process-heavy.Ai?? However, it is perhaps more palatable for a typical traditional large organization to begin to adopt SAFe than LeSS, since the latter strongly advocates some major changes to the structure of the organization as early as possible in the adoption of LeSS.


In 1981 Yamaha launched what became known as the ai???Honda-Yamaha Warai???. In the battle for supremacy in the motorcycle marketplace, Yamaha challenged Hondaai??i??s leading position by opening a new factory that made Yamaha the worldai??i??s largest motorcycle manufacturer. The economics of this war seemed tilted in Yamahaai??i??s favor: a large modern factory enabled Yamaha to exploit economics of scale, reduce per unit costs and flood the market with motorcycles. Honda did not respond by creating an even larger factory to compete with the lower cost structure and battle Yamaha in a war of attrition. Rather, with the battle cry ai???Yamaha wo tsubusu!ai??? (ai???Weai??i??ll crush, squash, slaughter Yamaha!), Honda rapidly increased the rate at which it changed its product line and used variety to bury Yamaha.
Motorcycle Helmet

George Stalk’s account of the ai???Honda ai??i?? Yamaha war.”

ai???At the start of the war, Honda had 60 models of motorcycles. Over the next 18 months, Honda introduced or replaced 113 models, effectively turning over its entire product line twice. Yamaha also began the war with 60 models; it was able to manage only 37 changes in its product line during those 18 months.

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Hondaai??i??s new product introductions devastated Yamaha. First, Honda succeeded in making motorcycle design a matter of fashion, where newness and freshness were important attributes for consumers. Second, Honda raised the technological sophistication of its products, introducing four-valve engines, composites, direct drive, and other new features. Next to a Honda, Yamaha products looked old, unattractive, and out of date. Demand for Yamaha products dried up; in a desperate effort to move them, dealers were forced to price them below cost. But even that didnai??i??t work. At the most intense point in the H-Y War, Yamaha had more than 12 months of inventory in its dealersai??i??
Stalk, George Jr. “Timeai??i??The Next Source of Competitive Strategy: Seeking and Securing Competitive Advantage. Eds. Cynthia Montgomery and Michael E. Porter. 39-60. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1991. 39-60. Print.

How was the war won? Innovate, Innovate, Innovate.

Honda won the war by out-innovating Yamaha. It exploited fast decision cycles to get product to market faster, learn and adapt. Ok, but what do motorcycles have to do with software development? Imagine for a moment that your company could market new product and services faster than your competitor. What could you learn from consumer preferences? How quickly could you innovate and differentiate your products and services making your competitorsai??i?? products look old and inflexible, not serving their customersai??i?? needs? What would happen to your competition if you could out-innovate them?


The challenge remains that for many large enterprises (and a surprising number of smaller, supposedly nimbler ones), it can take years to bring a new product or service to market. The risk is to fall victim to a service provider who can deliver product and services faster than we can. Many organizations pursue agile software development methods as a solution to working faster through their development backlog. Many organizations start setting up Scrum teams, train Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and even hire external coaches. Many surveys suggest they often get good results: it takes less time to deliver software and at a lower cost. The software has fewer defects and there is greater customer satisfaction.

But there may lie the problem: we are treating agility as a solution to an IT problem, the perennial problem of budget overruns, late delivery, and defective products. But weai??i??re still executing the same strategy. Only now, itai??i??s a little faster. Rather than taking two years to deploy a new product or service, it might take only 18 months, or just a year. This is certainly good but it leaves so much on the table. Consider this: By some accounts, nearly 60% of software created is never used. That is outright waste! We used up valuable resources to create product and services no one wanted to use in the first place.Ai?? Why would we consider it a success if we can now waste effort faster?

Speed… or Lead?

Honda did not defeat Yamaha by executing the same strategy faster or for less cost. Honda beat Yamaha by changing their strategy, learning what was truly valuable to their customers, and also by shaping their customersai??i?? tastes and desires. Attempting to beat a competitor by simply doing the same thing faster and cheaper is a war of attrition and a race to the bottom. Rather, we need to think about how we can outmaneuver our competitors [Adolph, S.Ai??”What Lessons Can the Agile Community Learn from a Maverick Fighter Pilot”,Ai?? Proceedings Agile Conference 2006, Minneapolis, MN] and make their strategy irrelevant, much as Honda made Yamahaai??i??s irrelevant.


Old and New MotorcycleHow this translates into the software development world is that agility is not just a software thing, not just an IT thing. We can no longer think of IT as just a bag on the side organization. Rather IT and business are joined into a common business strategy. ai???Customer collaboration over contractsai??? is not just a cute ai???feel goodai??? article of the Agile manifesto. It truly means IT or product development tightly collaborates with the customer. This is often one of the greatest weakness in most agile transformation because customer collaboration usually ends at about the point where the business throws the requirements document ai???over the fenceai??? to IT. This also presents the greatest opportunity for improvement.

Often we have observed the Scrum Product Owner or XP customer representative is at best an IT, or engineering, methodological (or perhaps a mythological) figurehead volunteered for the role because the methodology says we need to fill that role. But the role has no real authority to prioritize work and balance the demand for work with the teamsai??i?? capacity to deliver that work. Unprioritized work is still tossed at the team from all directions. Individuals at higher pay grades than the hapless Product Owner go directly to team members and demand work. There is little alignment or collaboration on discovering what is truly valuable. There is no opportunity to quickly learn and innovate, much like how Honda defeated Yamaha. This is happening because many organizations fail to see how agility is relevant to them beyond IT. Typical team level Agile methodologies such as Scrum or XP do not provide guidance for how an organization may manage large scale initiatives, where value cannot be represented by small user stories. They do not provide any real guidance for how a large product organization can work a collection of small self organizing development teams.

Scaling Framework as a Bridge to Success

It does not have to be this way. There are numerous scaling frameworks (SAFeTM, DADTM, LeSS, etc.), which all provide mechanisms for the business to engage with IT and engineering at a level and scope which is meaningful and relevant to the business. Some methodologies, like SAFe, employ a hierarchical single line of content authority model, where a Product Manager owns a fairly significant piece of work (expressed in SAFe as a Feature) which is elaborated into smaller user story size chunks that are managed by the Product Owners. The product manager and product owner are aligned on their priorities.

Program Manager

A simple case study of this comes from one electronics client adopting Agile practices. An initial proposal for how the business wouldAi??step in was for the product manager to serve as the Product Owner for foiur Scrum teams. The product manager was far from enthusiastic about this idea because he saw his job as being out in the field talking to dealers and not day to day management of engineers. That was the role of the engineering leads. Furthermore he had little interest in the incremental valueAi??add that a 2 week sprint would create. His expertise was understanding the marketplace for cool new features, not the algorithm for how video amplifier switched between inputs. He understood the importance of this, but his interest was in what he could take to the dealers. His interpretation of collaboratively working with the teams was that he would have to work daily with teams on items that were of little interest to him at the expense of those that were.

What changed his attitude and enabled him to work collaboratively with teams was to bring the process up to a level that was valuable to him. With the introduction of release planning, he could collaborate with the teams on a time and feature scale that was relevant to him. He did not have to collaborate with the teams every day–rather he could be out in the field working with the dealers. Yet there was a clear line of content authority from the Product Manager, through the POs, and the POs could act on behalf of the product managers, much like Dukes of old enforced the Kingai??i??s will on their domain. The introduction of a product council meant he could collaborate and direct the POs to keep them aligned with his wishes.

These changes enabled the business to work more collaboratively with engineering. Furthermore, the product manager no longer had to write voluminous feature description documents and throw it over the fence to engineering, and hoping that in 6 to 9 months he may see something that might work in the marketplace. Working collaboratively, he wrote smaller Epics and Features, which could be released on a two month cadence. This approach enabled us to find the middle ground that enabled the client to have a shorter cycle time enabling the business to collaborate with the engineering teams.

As any business, we must be out to crush our competitors. It sounds nasty but that is what commerce is about. But it is also this competition that can stimulate the collaboration needed to quickly innovate and outmaneuver our competition, just as Honda outmaneuvered Yamaha. Otherwise, we are using agility to simply do the same thing faster and cheaper. This is a war of attrition and leaving so much competitive advantage on the table. Seriously – do you just want to create waste faster, or would you prefer to outai??i??innovate your competitor?