What are the Scaling Agile Frameworks and How are they Different?

What are the scaling agile frameworks?

When it comes to scaling agile, several frameworks aim to address the challenges of agility at a larger scale. While there are various options like Nexus, Spotify model, and Scrum at Scale, the three prominent frameworks are Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and Disciplined Agile (DA). Clients often inquire about the differences and effectiveness of these frameworks. To shed some light on the matter, let’s compare these three main agile frameworks. Then we’ll explore our recommended solution for their implementation in large organisations.

LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum)

LeSS is a framework for scaling agile development to multiple teams. It builds on top of the Scrum principles such as empiricism and cross-functional, self-managing teams and provides a framework for applying that at scale. It provides simple structural rules and guidelines on how to adopt Scrum in large product development. LeSS is a good starting point when you already have Scrum in place and are just beginning to scale up with more teams, one at a time. The framework scales up with minimal additional processes compared to single-team Scrum. It also includes principles and practices for organisational design, systems thinking, theory of constraints, queuing theory, lean waste and more.

SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework

SAFe is described as an interactive knowledge base for implementing agile practices at enterprise scale. It provides a lot of guidance and covers a broad scope including financing and enterprise architecture. SAFe is prescriptive and addresses the enterprise at 3 levels*, team, program and portfolio. At the Team level, SAFe is not that different from Scrum extended with a few XP practices. The Program level aligns the teams around some additional common events to form an Agile Release Train (ART). The Portfolio level aligns the ART with the strategic goals of the organisation.

*SAFe is now 4 levels, since the introduction of the value stream layer between the ART and Portfolio layers as part of SAFe 4.0. For simplicity, this is initially hidden from newcomers to SAFe.

Both LeSS and SAFe share some common patterns: Scrum at the team level, many teams sharing a backlog, collaborative planning across multiple teams, along with the general principles of pull and self-organisation. Disciplined Agile is a little different but is worth exploring for an organisation embarking on an agile transformation.

DA (Disciplined Agile)

DA is not a scaling framework per se. It’s a process decision framework that provides a comprehensive guide to everything you need for an Agile transformation. DA utilises Scrum, and Kanban, along with transformation knowledge in areas like HR and Finance, Governance, DevOps, Portfolio Management and Culture. It’s a one-stop shop, organised around specific goals which allows you to consider your options and learn about your choices. What makes DA especially interesting and useful, is that it is based upon real data, providing you with an insight into what’s going on in other organisations. It’s not theory. It promotes enterprise awareness that’s based on industry successes, and what works and doesn’t work elsewhere. It covers the whole delivery lifecycle and beyond.

Which Framework Does AWA Use

While there are excellent parts within all of these frameworks (and others not covered here) neither should be seen as the goal of an organisation. This is because every organisation is different; there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.  Instead, treat each framework as a set of resources from which to create a model that is truly contextual to your organisation.

At AWA we work with our clients using our own successful and sustainable approach for enterprise agility called the “Enterprise Change Pattern” which results in people acquiring the skills they need to continually adapt and improve their work and outcomes. Individuals and teams both gain context for the role of their group in the wider organisation, shifting focus from a narrow focus to a wider product focus. They also learn how to develop trusting relationships and clear communication that allow organisations to succeed.