Series of Blogs on Scaled Agile, Lean and SAFe®

September 27, 2014 — Posted by Al Shalloway

If this blog is of interest to you you should check out our SAFe resources page as well.

I have been in the Agile community for over 15 years now. This long perspective has provided me insights which I rarely see talked about.  This blog series will capture many of these.  Here’s a synopsis of each blog to come:

Different Sized Organizations Have Different Dynamics

This, of course, should come as no surprise to systems thinkers.  But this simple fact has been ignored by many in both the Scrum community and LKU.  In the Scrum community I believe this has been one of the reasons Scrum has had a poor track record of helping people achieve Agile at scale.  Almost a decade ago I suggested that one needed Lean’s holistic view to achieve scale with Scrum. This is still being resisted by many who insist a Scrum of Scrum approach is valid.  In LKU, there is a belief that change beyond kaizen must be delayed until after a kanban system has been put into place.  Different sizes and types of organizations require different approaches to change.

How Where an Approach Starts Seems to Influence It Forever

Both eXtreme Programming and Scrum have started out with small development teams.  The Kanban Method started out with maintenance organizations.  It is interesting to observe that starting with teams, where only a product owner has been needed, has led to the resistance of the product manager – product owner model that we’ve seen is necessary at scale (and, in fact, is part of the Scaled Agile Framework).  Also, Lean suggests load balancing, organizing into teams and adopting a good work order prior to implementing a kanban system.   I’ve often surmised that part of the reason LKU Kanban mostly ignores two of these issues, is because they weren’t relevant in maintenance organizations.  The point is to always be concerned about momentum playing a role in not changing one’s attitude about things once an approach has been settled on.

Main Causes of Waste at Scale

Much of the problems we face now are due to solutions we had at a team level that do not solve the problems at the cross-team and enterprise level.  This blog discusses what these wastes are which is our first step in avoiding them.

Net Objectives has been assisting large scale clients become Agile for almost a decade.  The essence of our approach is a combination of Lean-Thinking, Lean-Management, Lean-Culture and Lean-Tools.  This blog describes these key components and how they address the main causes of waste at scale.

SAFe® Is Not Popular Because of Great Marketing, It’s Popular Because It Fills a Need

SAFe has erupted on the software development scene not due to fabulous marketing as its detractors have claimed, but rather due to the fact that it addresses a need most practitioners in large organizations have intuitively felt and most in the Agile community has denied. The patience of those wanting to become more Agile has well worn thin.  Being told they are “butters”, “shallow” or “just not doing it right” has just added insult to injury.  This blog discusses how SAFe is a manifestation of the Lean concepts I discuss in the earlier blog.  Understanding the relationship between these two helps understand why SAFe works and how to adapt it to your needs.

What Is It That Can Make SAFe® Heavy?

Many of the detractors of SAFe say it is heavy. But it is only heavy if it is more than is needed.  Companies without automated testing and continuous integration often need the practices that SAFe prescribes.  People forget that SAFe is a starting point, a framework, not an ending point.   This blog addresses what about an approach can make it heavy.

Using the Understanding of When SAFe® Is Heavy Is How to Use It Properly a Organizations Smaller Than It Was Designed For

Once one understands what can make a process too heavy, one can also substitute lighter weight practices when they are applicable.  This enables SAFe to be applied in organizations smaller than it was design for.  This provides for the benefits of SAFe’s holistic approach while not being overly heavy by just applying it “out of the box.”


I intend to write these in order.  And I still have to finish the second of a two parter I already started.  But I wanted to get these in before the Lean Reactor Conference as I thought they may be useful there.

Please discuss these on the Lean Systems Society Discussion group.

Al Shalloway
CEO, Net Objectives


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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With 45 years of experience, Al is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, Scrum and agile design. He helps companies transition to Lean and Agile methods enterprise-wide as well teaches courses in these areas.


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Al Shalloway
Business, Operations, Process, Sales, Agile Design and Patterns, Personal Development, Agile, Lean, SAFe, Kanban, Kanban Method, Scrum, Scrumban, XP
Cory Foy
Change Management, Innovation Games, Team Agility, Transitioning to Agile
Guy Beaver
Business and Strategy Development, Executive Management, Management, Operations, DevOps, Planning/Estimation, Change Management, Lean Implementation, Transitioning to Agile, Lean-Agile, Lean, SAFe, Kanban, Scrum
Israel Gat
Business and Strategy Development, DevOps, Lean Implementation, Agile, Lean, Kanban, Scrum
Jim Trott
Business and Strategy Development, Analysis and Design Methods, Change Management, Knowledge Management, Lean Implementation, Team Agility, Transitioning to Agile, Workflow, Technical Writing, Certifications, Coaching, Mentoring, Online Training, Professional Development, Agile, Lean-Agile, SAFe, Kanban
Ken Pugh
Agile Design and Patterns, Software Design, Design Patterns, C++, C#, Java, Technical Writing, TDD, ATDD, Certifications, Coaching, Mentoring, Professional Development, Agile, Lean-Agile, Lean, SAFe, Kanban, Kanban Method, Scrum, Scrumban, XP
Marc Danziger
Business and Strategy Development, Change Management, Team Agility, Online Communities, Promotional Initiatives, Sales and Marketing Collateral
Max Guernsey
Analysis and Design Methods, Planning/Estimation, Database Agility, Design Patterns, TDD, TDD Databases, ATDD, Lean-Agile, Scrum
Scott Bain
Analysis and Design Methods, Agile Design and Patterns, Software Design, Design Patterns, Technical Writing, TDD, Coaching, Mentoring, Online Training, Professional Development, Agile
Steve Thomas
Business and Strategy Development, Change Management, Lean Implementation, Team Agility, Transitioning to Agile
Tom Grant
Business and Strategy Development, Executive Management, Management, DevOps, Analyst, Analysis and Design Methods, Planning/Estimation, Innovation Games, Lean Implementation, Agile, Lean-Agile, Lean, Kanban