Things are getting more and more interesting with the use of agile in larger and larger projects. We now have a number of frameworks that we can use, such as LeSS, Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®), DAD and Scrum at Scale. These frameworks can all be investigated with a few clicks of your mouse. And in true style the internet has a number of people telling us that these frameworks are bad. That they are prescriptive, or that they lack flexibility. If you look you can find the flame wars where you can get messages such as:

  • Frameworks are bad and that you should simply make your own approach up
  • My framework is better than your framework
  • Frameworks are not agile
  • And indeed many others

I have a different view. These frameworks contain many years of experience from people who have been working in the software industry and have a rich experience. They have recorded their ideas and given us information about things that work. They are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others. Where have I heard that before? Of course if you think that you have more experience than all these people combined, then of course you should go it your own way. But if that is true, please tell us what your experiences are!

So which framework matches your needs best? Now that really is something that you can only answer, although you can take advice. All of the frameworks have something to recommend them, and while they are all built on what turns out to be very similar foundations, they do sometimes assume a different starting point. Some are for people who are more experienced, while some offer more structure to help you get started.

All of the frameworks include the principle of continuous improvement, meaning that they should all be seen as a starting point. As you learn, you will apply your lessons through inspect and adapt, or the familiar Deming cycle of PDCA. You own the framework that you adopt!

The warning is that frameworks are not a software development silver bullet. They will need investment and effort to establish and grow. How to design your framework, how to build it, and how to get the people ready are really key questions. Are you at a starting point for a framework or do you need to spend more time establishing your basic agile teams, educating the people or exploring your lean process?

The experience is that framework implementations which are nurtured and supported exceed beyond the expectations. While those that are established in the hopes of a quick and easy miracle, deliver as expected.

Good luck!

Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.


Join the Discussion

    • Malte Foegen

      I agree that the frameworks – SAFe and LeSS do contain valuable patterns. I think the problem is that frameworks are often understood as blueprints, to be done as is. That is why I tend to use the term pattern. If you look at the patterns, you will see that SAFe and LeSS are much closer than each side’s marketing makes you believe. (Yes, we have to sort some of the terminology out, but hey, the frameworks are work in progress.) The pattern thinking enables us to merge patterns from various frameworks. Scrum of Scrum by team members instead of a SoS of the Scrum Masters? I like that pattern from LeSS. Why not do it in SAFe? Doing product backlog refinement on a feature and a story level separately? I like that pattern from SAFe. Why not integrate it in LeSS? With patterns in mind, you become more open to adjust the patterns to your needs. For me that is the solution. Yes, use the knowledge that is in the patterns. But do build your own solution from the patterns. We actually have created a “puzzle” for clients to do that. It helps them to select the patterns and create their picture by putting them together.

    • Jim Schott

      The fact is most of these frameworks are far too complicated – they look like the kind of monstrous quagmire that a bunch of consultants would come up with if if they were given a blank check. Most of the “experience” the creators have is from the 90’s, and much of the stuff in the framework is not needed, outmoded, or could simply be done better in today’s leaner, faster paced organizations. If you are IBM and need to become agile, these frameworks might help…but for most companies these frameworks try too hard to place process around agile…which is the antithesis to what agile is really all about. Why do we need to handcuff agile to a process? And if these frameworks have to be constantly tailored, adapted, and updated so much, why not just create your own? Wouldn’t you be better off? The truth is, its a marketing and moneymaking scheme. You don’t need a framework. Adapt agile to your own context to create your own’ll be better off.

      • Mike Carew

        I think that this is a point of view which I have spoken to a number of people about. It does have a number of assumptions built in. The one that sounds like we don’t need help and can do this by ourselves without using any experience, is the most interesting. I bet if you try this you can learn many things. I would also bet you will have troubles selling this transformation to the CEO of a large corporation. Just trust us we are coders. If you have evidence of this working at scale please tell us. We would love to learn from you

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