Introduction Scaling Agile

SAFe Leadership Day

Increasingly, large corporations enjoy the benefits of start-ups while not being hampered by their impediments. Agile ways of working foster a ‘can do’ mentality of self-organizing co-located teams. Yet, as Agile teams turn projects into success, corporations like to scale the benefits, which in turn leads to a new set of challenges and constraints. Only leaders can change the system, and in scaling Agile the system in place needs transformation. Specifically, changes are required in the role of budgeting, architecture, and the chain of command.




Training, coaching and consulting effectively support further growth of the Agile ‘can do’ mentality and practices at various levels in your organization. However, we witnessed during the SAFe Leadership Day that gathering organizational leaders with thought leaders brings within reach a whole new level of Agile growth. Gladwell Academy feels honoured to have facilitated this event and share some key learnings.

Key note presenter Dean Leffingwell hit the mark focussing on the essence of scaling Agile. “SAFe wants to be a lazer on your best opportunities”, he said, while introducing the SAFe assessment to the group of about 20 leaders. For the next 20 minutes, Dean guides us through the self-assessment. It is encouraging to see how such a large framework is build-up from various tested and verified hypotheses. Valuable experiences from other enterprises while scaling Agile. SAFe becomes more a body of Agile knowledge rather than another method to follow.

SAFe essential self-assessement

How closely does an organization need to follow various SAFe practices to get the desired result? When diagnosing, we’ve found that the less successful enterprises have skipped some of the most essential practices. After all, it’s a big framework, how would you know what’s essential?

To that end, this subset describes the minimal 10 elements necessary to be successful, with a focus on the Agile program and portfolio level. Every element describes 5 essentials explaining why you can’t do without them. As a leader within your organization you can easily score your current state and see which practices may still need to be put in place. You’re well on your way to realizing the full benefits of SAFe!


“It is impossible to impose change, the one driver to success is continuous change itself”

Focus groups

All participants contributed to three focus groups about

  1. The role of HR in Agile transformation
  2. Agile Portfolio management and
  3. Organizational Change.

Producers innovate (Deming, PDCA) while customers validate (Ries, Lean Startup) so that we continuously deliver value (Lean/Agile). Invite HR in the Agile transformation. Organize workloads for Agile teams in a smarter way through portfolio management. Realize that you need to change the system, which in turn leads to changing people. It is impossible to impose change, the one driver to success is continuous change itself. Semantics are very important for our brains to respond. Quit stress on ‘resources’ and invite human beings.


About the author: Abram Janse

Abram Janse is trainer and coach at Gladwell Academy. He supports the development of social innovation and specializes in interactive agile and change management training. Here he makes use of serious gaming, gamification and online learning platforms for a playful and fun transfer of knowledge and skills.

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