Friday, April 14, 2017

LeSS and Scrum Alliance against SAFe?

So last week the Scrum Alliance announced a partnership with LeSS. How this partnership is going to look like was not part of the announcement so we will have to wait for this. But I think it was a smart move for both the Scrum Alliance and the LeSS company. Too late, but smart never the less. A few random observations from my side:


- Scaling Agile / Scrum is becoming a more and more important argument for certification companies.

- (Ken Schwaber) created it's own scaling framework Nexus. See my Nexus review.

- SAFe is only about scaling agile. See my SAFe review.

- LeSS is only about scaling Scrum. Hence a good add-on for the Scrum Alliance since it is about Scrum only, and no other agile methods. See my LeSS review.

- Scrum Inc (Jeff Sutherland) created its own modular scaling approach Scrum at Scale. See my Scrum at Scale review.

- Scrum Alliance had no answer to the scaling question. This would be solved now.


- SAFe is selling very successfully in the enterprise world. When talking about the number of times a scaling framework is used SAFe is absolutely on top. See 11th State of Agile report for international numbers and Trends and Benchmarks of SwissQ for Swiss numbers.

- is very focused on software development only and seems to be very successful with it. The quality of their certifications is in my humble opinion better than those of the Scrum Alliance. This because of standardization and hard questions, were those of the Scrum Alliance are hit or miss depending on your trainer and own efforts and interest to learn.

- Scrum Alliance is very focused on selling certifications, and this only on a ScrumMaster / Product Owner / Developer / Coach level. This meant that management was completely left out of the picture. But they are usually the ones that are deciding on what framework to implement.  SAFe understands this very well. The Scrum Alliance tries to catch up with Agile Leadership certifications, but this is also the wrong thing to address when it comes to enterprise selling.

- LeSS is not much used in companies. There are a number of use cases, but there is not a large market traction. The partnership with Scrum Alliance could change this.

- SAFe is entering the certification market of and Scrum Alliance with their Advanced Scrum Master Certifications.


- SAFe has defined a very clear path to implementation with its implementation roadmap. There it addresses the very important point of training all executives, managers, and leaders even before you train your teams. Get their buy-in and understanding. This is absolutely the right way to do. Again, they seem to understand how the enterprise world works.

- LeSS also has written about how an implementation (they call it adoption) would work best. It is not as clear and detailed as that from SAFe, but it makes sense and is a good start.

- Scrum Alliance actually hardly mentions how you could implement Scrum in your organization. It's training and certification only focus on how to run a single Scrum team. This is a huge gap in their training.

- Scrum at Scale is not a framework and not something you can implement. But it is an incredibly helpful tool to help you create your own scaling strategy and/or framework.

- SAFe (like Scrum) is very prescriptive, so it easy to start with. All steps are defined for you. The way it is defined and how prescriptive it is takes away the Agile part of it. You could easily argue that SAFe is not Agile at all anymore.

- In order to successfully implement LeSS, Nexus or even Scrum, you will need significant changes in your organizational structure. With SAFe you do not, it is placed on top what you have, so it is easy for management to decide this because they do not have to change.   

What would I implement?

I already have written down my "Essential rules for Scaling Agile" in a previous post, and I still stand by them. But when I would be forced to select a framework for a product oriented company I think LeSS can be of high value when a goal of the company is becoming agile. When it is a company with a traditional project culture and is saying it wants to be agile, but is actually liking the status quo than it is far much easier and probably more successful to implement SAFe. 

It seems to me to be a compromise between the abstract desire for more agility and the typical constraint that the enterprise can get away without more agility. I appreciate its attempt to acknowledge the realities of the typical enterprise, but it seems to give enterprises an excuse not to change very much. I don't like it, but I understand why it exists and seems to be selling very well. The verdict is still out if it actually works very well for all those organizations.
Posted on Friday, April 14, 2017 by Henrico Dolfing