BONUS: Dean Leffingwell on scaling Agile and the Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe

scaled agile overviewFor this first Christmas 2018 special we focus on scaling Agile, and specifically how the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) can help organizations take Agile and apply it in the large.

There are many systems that require multiple teams to work together. As more and more industries adopt software as a core part of their services and products, we also see many organizations developing many products concurrently, and large engineering organizations that require coordination across tens or hundreds of teams, including non-software teams.

In this episode, we discuss how SAFe can help you take Agile to that type of environments and organizations.

Read on for the detailed show notes, as well as all of the links.

The origins of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Dean shares how he found Agile for the first time, way back in 2001, and how that moment changed his view of software development.

At that time he worked on an Extreme Programming team (XP) and learned how Agile approaches can be both adaptable and disciplined.

Later on, Dean worked on Rational Unified Process (RUP), a process framework developed for large organizations and which had the unique feature of being fully customizable to the organizations adopting it.

However, Dean was fascinated by how Agile would apply to large system development. During his research and consultancy work he started documenting his findings in 2 seminal books in the scaling Agile domain. His first book on the topic was Scaling Software Agility by Dean Leffingwell and published as early as 2007.

But his research and work continued leading to his second book on the topic of scaling: Agile Software Requirments by Dean Leffingwell, which was published in 2011.

The work Dean developed over the years ultimately culminated with the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) which his company – Scaled Agile, Inc. – now supports with training and consulting.

The core aspects of Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Even if SAFe is an “all-in, all-inclusive” framework for large organizations developing software, it has some core aspects that Dean wanted to highlight in his description of the framework. We talk about Leadership, the critical disciplines and the portfolio aspects that SAFe includes.

SAFe promises concrete improvements in organizations, and we explore some of those with Dean. You can check-out the benefits from previous SAFe adoptions in the Scaled Agile Framework case studies page.

A conversation about SAFe would not be concluded without talking about the key differences that SAFe has when compared to other frameworks like Nexus by, Scaled Scrum by the Scrum Alliance or LeSS.

In this segment, we explore the key aspects of SAFe, as well as what Dean has learned from applying it that shaped the framework over time.

When should we scale Agile?

When is the right time to think about scaling Agile? There are certain characteristics, as well as certain numbers that tell us that the time is right to start scaling Agile.

From the obvious number of teams to more subtle reasons, we explore the conditions that should make us think about adapting our Agile approach to work at scale.

One of the aspects to consider is the ability of the business to steer the engineering organization. Especially in larger companies. We explore the Portfolio layer of SAFe and how that may help you focus on the company’s business agility.

Inevitably we discuss the concepts of projects, and the approaches to fund product development work, where SAFe has been a pioneer thanks to the work by Maarit Laanti and Rami Sirkiä who wrote the now famous Lean-Agile Financial planning whitepaper that is part of SAFe.

For more on that topic, you can look at The Principles of Product Development Flow: Second Generation Lean Product Development by Don Reinertsen and Continuous Digital by Allan Kelly.


About Dean Leffingwell

Dean Leffingwell, a forty-year software industry veteran. A renowned methodologist, author, multi-entrepreneur, consultant and executive, he has founded multiple software companies. He served as Vice President of Rational Software (now IBM). Later, he helped numerous distributed, multinational corporations implement Agile methods at scale.
He is the author of several books about software development and the creator of the Scaled Agile Framework, a public-facing knowledge base of proven best practices that bring the benefits of software agility to the largest software enterprises. He currently serves as both Chief Methodologist and CEO at Scaled Agile, Inc., which he co-founded in 2011.

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