Scaling Agile Safe and Sound


We as researchers pushed Agilefant forward with a versatile-model-first approach. This is why it had the capability to support large scale agile already in 2007.

Still, I am rather agnostic with respect to whether agile should be scaled using frameworks such as SAFe, LESS or DAD – or in fact, if it should (or even could) be scaled at all.

However, many of the lean/agile thought leaders out there do have clear opinions on the matter. If you’re in the process of “scaling agile” or considering it, my advice is that you should explore these opinions, and carefully consider how the views expressed may or may not apply to your context.

To help you get started, I put together a table of some of the better (or at least most well-known) writings around the topic I’ve run into.

Many of the posts I’ve raised are critical of frameworks for scaling agile. Some are even critical about the notion of scaling agile in the first place. I made this choice because the organizations and people who are in the business of providing frameworks, tools and consultancy for scaling agile already cover the upside quite well.

By exploring the material below, you’ll at best become much more aware of the tensions around the topic – and thus are better able to steer clear of the potential pitfalls in your own transformation efforts.

P.S. As with any social media, to dig deeper, check out the commentary to the original post.

Author Year Post Quote
Jacob Creech @JacobCreech 2015 SAFe: How I learned to stop worrying and try the Scaled Agile Framework “Suffice to say, I have a reasonable perspective on SAFe in real life, which I prefer to the typical theological debates that arise when SAFe is discussed.”
Ari Tikka & Ran Nyman @aritikka, @ran_nyman 2015 Scaling Agility or Bureaucracy “Good consultation often helps to get results, also with SAFe. However, there is the risk that the systemic conditions are not changing, and the change remains superficial.”
Kristian Haugaard @haugaards 2015 Interview with Dean Leffingwell about SAFe “Many of [reviews of SAFe] have been written by authors who never spoke with anybody who had been involved in a SAFe implementation…”
Ari Tikka & Ran Nyman @aritikka, @ran_nyman 2015 LeSS SAFe comparison “[Both LESS and SAFe use Nokia as a reference, but] LeSS was and is mostly used at Nokia Networks […] while SAFe was mostly used at Nokia Mobile Phones”
Jeff Sutherland @jeffsutherland 2015 Q&A with Jeff Sutherland on Agile Leadership “scaling frameworks are often used to provide scaffolding for the legacy organization until they can evolve”
Ron Jeffries @ronjeffries 2015 Dependencies, Scrum of Scrums, and SAFe “[…] a huge fraction of the dependencies between teams are artificial. They are due to poor allocation of work from above, and to the existence of unnecessary silos of responsibility.”
Mike Cohn @mikewcohn 2015 You Don’t Need a Complicated Story Hierarchy “When teams are forced to use complicated taxonomies for their stories, they spend time worrying about whether a particular story is an epic, a saga or merely a headline.”
Sami Lilja @samililja 2014 The case against scaling “The problem is NOT that we lack ways to scale agile. The problem is NOT that we fail with agile in large organizations. The problem is that we are large. […] The frameworks take “large scale” as given, and do very little to reduce that.”
Patrick Roach 2014 Scrum at Scale: Changing the Conversation “no two Scrum implementations are identical. So why does the conversation about scaling Scrum focus on finding a proscriptive, one-size fits all solution?”
Richard Dolman & Steve Spearman @richarddolman, @sgspearman 2014 Agile Scaling “We saw a need for a way to objectively compare the different frameworks available for scaling Agile in multiple teams.”
Lyssa Adkins 2014 The Agile Coaches’ Coach Shares Her View on SAFe “Rumi urges us not to become too attached to one “grain”; one teacher or one way, or, in our world, one agile framework or one perspective. I urge the same. Rather, let us look out wider and farther.”
Mike Cohn @mikewcohn 2014 Introducing the LAFABLE Process for Scaling Agile “some of [scaling approaches have been] even tested on real teams before the marketing machinery spun up to promote them”
Ron Jeffries @ronjeffries 2014 SAFe – Good But Not Good Enough “SAFe is good. It’s just not good enough. It provides some benefit, but endangers an organization’s progress toward really high functioning”
Ron Jeffries @ronjeffries 2014 Issues with SAFe
Peter Saddington @agilescout 2014 The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – A Review “thoughtful and well-intentioned [but] takes it a bit too far and defines […] almost too much”
Charles Bradley @ScrumCrazy 2014 Is SAFe(tm) Bad? Is it unsafe? Is it Agile? Are there alternatives?
David J. Anderson @djaa 2013 Kanban – the anti-SAFe for almost a decade already “in 2003 I decided to focus on […] reducing or eliminating resistance to change. A process-centric focus wasn’t working without a lot of money, positional power and fear to motivate individuals to fall into line.”
Amr Elssamadisy @samadisy 2013 Is it safe? “The question is not whether SAFe should be used as the strategic basis for large Agile adoptions. The question is this: What will make those adoptions most successful?”
Ken Schwaber @kschwaber 2013 unSAFe at any speed “The boys from RUP are back, […] partnering with tool vendors. […] Consultants are available to customize [SAFe] for you, just like RUP”
Neil Killick @neil_killick 2012 The Horror Of The Scaled Agile Framework …” a horrible, money-making bastardisation […] of Scrum, Agile and Waterfall…”