Scaling Agile and Scrum

Understand Scrum is simple. If you don’t know what Scrum is and is not, there is a 17-page definition called Scrum Guide. If you like to know what is agile, go to the four values and 12 principles of the Agile Manifesto. The agile community mostly agrees on both. As scaling increases the complexity, there is no common agreement on how to scale agile and scrum. The good news is that there are many frameworks to choose from. A broad menu of options, and in agile we love options and there is no one way how to do things. So far so good. Some options are easier to apply, some harder, some less agile, some more. But remember Agile is not your goal, it’s just the way how to achieve your strategic goals. So at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The less agile ways are not necessarily a bad option for given circumstances. Some companies go faster, some slower on their agile journey.

To give you a few examples:

If you have a totally fixed mindset, no collaboration, hierarchical organization, even frameworks like SaFe can be useful. You might not become agile using them, but at least you start moving and changing. As any SaFe implementation didn’t create any magical success, companies keep looking and sooner or later find a better way of working and scaling.

If you have limited experience with self-organization, but like to be modern, cool, aka agile, the Spotify so-called model is a good choice for you. All that awesome terminology of tribes, squads, and guilds makes the job and at least some parts experience a certain level of agility. And step by step, as your mindset becomes more agile you can move towards a more agile way of working and implement LeSS as ING recently did.

A super-simplified tagline for each framework:

SaFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is scaling ‘fake’ Scrum with traditional mindset practices. A good start if you are stuck and need to get moving no matter in the direction, or if all you need is a stamp that you are agile without any change of mindset. It’s easy to implement, and it’s safe as most of the roles are just renamed, not really changed.

Scrum@Scale is mentally very close to SaFe, no real change will happen at the organizational level which remains very hierarchical. Scrum at the team level is rather technical (it’s all about practices), ScrumMaster somewhere between team assistant and manager. At a glance, it looks agile, but the lack of understanding of the self-organization concept will eventually kill any good intent and implementations will fail to bring any expected results.

Spotify is not really a model, but an inspirational story. Nevertheless, ING makes it so popular so every other bank is applying it. The cool terminology helps to spread the message around, and there is a chance that by applying it companies learn what is this agile really about. It’s also a good opportunity to descale your organization a bit and remove several layers of traditional management in exchange for the more flat structure of the above-mentioned tribes and squads.

LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) is Scrum. It’s the most agile way of how to scale. Similarly to Scrum, it’s simple to understand, hard to apply as you need to have courage, be ready to collaborate, increase transparency, remove silos, and redesign the organization. Do more with less. The good news is that it works. Don’t expect it to be a one-time change. Agile is a journey, and implementing LeSS is very agile so you are going to be on your journey for a while. You can get inspired by the case-studies.