Scaling Agile, Method or Madness…., with figures

Scaling Agile, Method or Madness…., with figures

This is a blog about the 2 sessions Laurens and I hosted at Agile Coach Camp Denmark 2014.

At first it looks like it’s only about one session, but I sneakily pulled in the outcome of a second session, namely “The Awesome (Open Space) Session8R”. The outcome can be recognized by the number between the brackets. To save time… so you know… I provided you with a summary at the end of this blog.

Laurens and I wanted to do this workshop about agile scaling models. This was decided in 2 minutes of texting, only agreeing up on using my matrix of comparison I took from the ASK matrix and which I extended with aspects I think are important. As we learned before, a catchy title (1) Always does wonders to the number of participants coming to a session..

Laurens came up with this title: “Scaling Agile, Methods or Madness”, which I lent to draw your attention to this blog post too.

Nils, a fellow participant also wanted to discuss agile scaling models, in particular differences / similarities between SAFe and scaledprinciples . We combined the two ideas at the start of the open space; the Market Place.

Just 30 minutes prior to the start of our session we decide about structure and stuff (2) and agreed up on adding a few elements of interaction (3). These were:

  • asking what participant knew about scaling models,
  • if they could add any method themselves that wasn’t on the list and
  • some silent brainstorming
  • I draw up some flip charts (4)
  • Nils and I would present and Laurens, being a sketch note addict, would do all the writing (5)

We started discussing the 6 methods who are in the ASK matrix and discovered there are 2 more: (made by the Germans) and POA ® (being: Plain Old Agile) which has a registered trademark as of may 24th .

This trademark is claimed by Laurens & Ron, workers from to competing companies in the Netherlands (Xebia and Prowareness), which in itself is a awesome thing in my view –

So Laurens added the two extra methods to the flipcharts and we started asking / noting stuff like: what is it/ whose is it, the web link to materials. Then we discussed of the methods are low – middle – high on heaviness.

Only then we realized that 1 hour would be too short, giving the number of attendees and the fierce discussions. I suggested we do only three questions; the ones I think are the most important and which Jenny wanted to address too. These 3 questions were:

  • What does it solve
  • What works
  • What smells

At that point Laurens took over… and proposed to dot vote (6) on the method we would like to do a silent brainstorm (7) for, by drawing only 2 dots per participant on any of the 8 methods.

As we were 19 participants, 38 dots were placed:

The 3 flipcharts I draw in advanced were turned into three new ones (of course again by Laurens) where we could stick our post-its upon. Each of us could write a maximum 2 post-its (8) for every questions on the 3 scaling methods that got the most dots: Less, Agile path and SAFe.

As we discovered we had adepts of the 3 methods in our midst and we asked (9) them to summarize what was said on the post-its.

A simple (10) count revealed that the methods with the most dots (SAFe) also got the most comments on the questions:

So we could easily conclude this method was hot topic in Agile-land. As a bonus and because we suddenly had a few minutes left; we asked all participant to write a post-it on which they could state what people / which role in a company would like each of the methods most:

  • Who likes it

Take a way:

I wrote to the inventors of the ASK matrix (e.g. Steve Spearman at all.) : Knock, knock: Could be useful for adding to the matrix. smiley

All sum of sums you can find below:

Dot votes: 0 for SoS – scrum of scrums, 0 for scaledprinciples, 0 for plain old agile POA ®, 4 for “Spotify”, 5 for Disciplined Agile Delivery – DAD, 6 for  Large Scale Scrum – LeSS,10 for Agile Path And 13 dot votes for Scaled Agile Framework – SAFe. 38 in total.

Summary of comments


  • LeSS ( 5 comments): way to combine lean, agile, TOC and systems thinking, agile thinking on large scale (up to Product owners level)
  • Agile Path (5 comments): stepwise structured change, management language and focus, better products
  • SAFe (10 comments): link strategy to development, buy-in at management level, shared backlog, separation of roles and responsibilities at all levels

What works:

  • Less (5 comments): its simplicity, it’s adoptable, you have choices, with lean, thru PO & feature teams
  • Agile Path (2 comments): agile capability matrix, high quality support by
  • SAFe (10 comments): clear connection to vision and strategy, alignment / inter team dependencies, easy to like by C-level, less change needed, big room planning

What smells:

  • LeSS (5 comments): topdown / big bang agile and lean transformation, perfect in theory/ hard in practice
  • Agile Path (6 comments): IT focused or initiated, no explanation how to do my job as manager, not broadly used yet
  • SAFe (16 comments): too prescriptive, can easily limit team and personal autonomy, legalizes companies “to do what they always did”: command and control, money blurred vision.

Who likes it:

  • LeSS (8 comments): product – middle and other management, ‘scrum solves all’ fanatics
  • Agile Path (4 comments): agile evangelists, toolbox fetishists, team and product owner, vendors
  • SAFe (7 comments): higher and portfolio managers, old school people, consultants, vendor.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog you can find some tips on how to make an awesome session of which Laurens did another session on: “The Awesome (Open Space) Session8R” with has a first subtitle: “Hung-over Ideation From the Trenches (by two bitter Snoring Vets)” and a sub-sub
title “How to Come Up With a Legendary Session in 2 Minutes” Just  follow the numbers inside the brackets.

Oh, I promised a summary/ list 😉 well, here you are:

  1. Structure: title, subtitle
  2. Structure: who does what, time
  3. Expectations: put in interaction
  4. Recording / capturing: flipcharts, post-its, take a picture
  5. Participation / visual knowledge exchange: Write on flipchart or whiteboard
  6. Simplicity: dot vote
  7. Simplicity: silent brainstorm (prevents groupthink)
  8. Simplicity: restrain to maximum dots or post-its per question
  9. Need help/ask participants to join/ summarize
  10.  Simplicity: count and draw conclusions from there.

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