We are in a period of heightened volatility due to a complex combination of technology, culture, economics, and politics worldwide. If those reasons weren’t enough to force change in work practices, throw in the pandemic and organizations are forced to adjust their workflow or face closing their doors.
The organizations that are thriving and surviving in this complex environment are profoundly different from the organizations that struggle to survive. What makes these successful organizations different? They have an innate ability to scale Scrum and drive Agile transformation by evolving the way they manage projects using Agile frameworks that drive innovation and speed time to market.
Statistics show that Agile Masters are 4.1 times more likely to have the right strategy and vision, and 2.3 times more likely to maintain a culture that empowers creativity and cross-functional team collaboration and input.
Successfully adopting and maintaining Agile frameworks within your organization can help you achieve higher revenue and profit growth. Organizations that are successful in Agile practices statistically achieve 60% higher profit and revenue.
In this article, we’re going to explore three top Agile frameworks that can benefit large organizations; how they differ, how they can benefit your organization, as well as how to implement the right framework for your industry needs.
What are the three top agile frameworks for large organizations?
The Agile methodology is a way to manage a project by breaking it up into several phases or sprints. It involves continuous collaboration across multi-disciplinary teams. There are continuous improvements at every stage. Teams typically cycle through a process of:
Each framework comes with specific areas of application and distinctive features. Three well-known frameworks for large organizations include:
• Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
• Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS)
• Fluid Scaling Technology (FAST) Agile
What is the SAFe Framework?
SAFe is the Scaled Agile Framework. To simplify, SAFe is a way to make your entire end-to-end business Agile, including non-project work and non-project employees. The SAFe framework benefits larger organizations that have huge projects requiring multiple teams working simultaneously.
There’s no cookie-cutter solution for the unique challenges each organization faces. Not every SAFe recommended practice will be relevant in every situation. Therefore, SAFe practices are built on stable principles. You can be confident the practices apply in most situations.
What are SAFe principles?
SAFe principles are based on ten fundamental Lean-Agile concepts, systems thinking, and observation of profitable companies.
1. Apply systems thinking - Everyone must understand the larger goal of the system.
2. Take an economic view - Delivering the best quality and value with the quickest sustainable lead time.
3. Assume variability and preserve options - Consider design options for a longer period during the development process and use realistic data to narrow your focus and optimize outcomes.
4. Incrementally construct with fast, integrated learning cycles - Creating solutions incrementally in a cycle of quick iterations facilitates faster client feedback that will allow you the ability to change directions early in the project if needed.
5. Base achievements on objective evaluation of working systems - Organizations, developers and customers should share the responsibility evaluating the system to ensure economic benefit.
6. Visualize and limit work in progress, batch sizes and control queue lengths.
7. Apply cadence and coordinate with cross-domain planning - Needed to operate effectively in the presence of development uncertainty.
8. Unlock the innate motivation of knowledge workers - Allowing autonomy and innovation free from constraints will improve employee engagement and overall positive outcomes.
9. Decentralize decision making - Creating a consistent decision-making framework is a significant step in empowering employees and guaranteeing a fast flow of value.
10. Organize around value - Organize around efficiency and the speed you can respond to the innovative needs of the client.
What are the SAFe pros and cons to consider?
• SAFe helps larger organizations work seamlessly together by placing individual Scrum teams in a productive order.
• If you are a large organization that has been in business for a while, SAFe might be easier to progress toward than strictly Scrum implementation at scale.
• SAFe applies the Agile method to the entire company, not solely to one team at a time.
• Adding managers can compromise the freedom of Scrum teams to be innovative and act independently. If you implement it wrong, SAFe can turn out just as challenging as an old-school approach such as the waterfall methodology.
• A SAFe product vision is not as flexible. Decisions are no longer made by the people closest to the problem.
• Some people feel SAFe doesn’t count as an Agile approach at all, since it doesn’t entirely commit to the principles in the Agile Manifesto.
If your organization is considering implementing SAFe, review the SAFe implementation roadmap for detailed steps regarding successful implementation strategies.
What is the LeSS framework?
Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) is a framework that resembles the traditional Scrum framework but is quite different. LeSS is a way for scaling Scrum to multiple teams that work in unison on the same project.
LeSS applies Scrum principles to organizations operating on a larger scale. LeSS focuses on implementing cross-functional teams that differ in size. There may be a handful of workers on one team, or there may be hundreds or thousands.
In the LeSS framework, teams should be independent and cross-functional. Scrum Masters focus on several teams and practices, instead of a single team. Managers are not always utilized in LeSS, and their duties may vary.
LeSS frameworks, and principles are designed to support the needs of larger teams. These principles help create more collaborative, responsible teams that have a greater customer focus. These guiding principles help teams concentrate on the customer. Transparency, and providing customer-centric values are needed for organizations to remain competitive and responsive.
Like SAFe, LeSS also has a number of core principles empowering teams to apply the general Scrum philosophy throughout the entire organization. The principles include:
1. Large Scale Scrum is Scrum
3. More with less
5. Systems thinking
6. Lean thinking
7. Whole product focus
8. Continuous improvement towards perfection
9. Queuing theory
10. Experimental process control
Let’s discuss the two configurations of LeSS, Basic LeSS and LeSS Huge.
• Basic LeSS is typically used for two to eight teams (10-50 people).
• LeSS Huge is used for over eight teams (50+ people)
What similarities do Basic LeSS and LeSS Huge share?
• One (overall) product backlog
• One definition of done
• One definition of ready
• One (overall) Senior/Lead Product Manager
• One sprint
What are the Differences? LeSS Huge has:
• Area Product Managers
• Area product backlogs
• Area product vision
• Set of parallel meetings per area
It’s important to remember these frameworks are just guides. Every organization has its own structure. It’s completely acceptable to adjust a framework to suit the organizational structure and industry sector.
What is FAST Agile?
FAST Agile (Fluid Scaling Technology) combines Open Space and Open Allocation to create a straightforward and simple to master agile approach. FAST may be a little ahead of its time and requires certain conditions to work. This was true of scrum and any agile method when first introduced. The way we worked and the way we looked at work had to change before agile could be accepted as a conventional way to work.
• Merge teams into a tribe
• Throw work on the wall
• Let teams self-organize around the work
• In 2-3 days, meet back and share progress
Like SAFe and LeSS, FAST also has several principles that guide the process. However FAST is its own method inspired by Open Space Technology. FAST principles include the following:
• Do the right thing.
• Mentor and be mentored.
• Be a T-shaped generalizing specialist.
• Emergent design and architecture.
• If you feel you can add more value by switching teams, then switch teams.
In a nutshell, FAST is focused on autonomy, shared purpose, self-organization and collaboration.
Taking the next step
We know it can be tempting to jump headfirst into an Agile framework. You may feel rushed to choose a certain framework. If your team or organization does not understand Agile principles, it’ll be difficult to get them engaged and aligned with the new processes and workflows they are expected to follow.
The main mistake most organizations make when implementing Agile is to try everything at once. The implementation should be treated as its own task, with phases toward completion and success metrics identified.
It is important to first understand why you are implementing an Agile framework before you can implement the correct one for your organization. By spending the time to ensure all involved understand the why behind the implementation first, your organization will be successful in earning the benefits and added value.
Achieving business agility and the added value and benefits of Lean-Agile at scale is not an insignificant effort. Organizations must fully embrace the Agile mindset and develop a culture that is nimble, open-minded and allows for autonomy.
Frameworks like SAFe, LeSS and FAST provide a sustainable path to help large organizations successfully scale Agile and achieve desired business outcomes.
Maintaining a creative culture that bolsters cross-functional team collaboration and input is crucial for product organizations. After all, it takes a winning team to build truly great products.
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