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A Brief Guide to the Agile Frameworks List

What does it mean to ‘be agile’? We all want to be agile and nimble. Or in other words a state where we can change quickly, and adapt to the conditions in our environment. The same applies to organizations, where the ability to be agile can spell the difference between success and failure. So, what exactly does “being agile” mean? According to the Agile Manifesto—the holy bible for agile software development, being agile implies a mindset, where we value: Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Working software over comprehensive documentation Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation Responding to change over following a plan Values manifest themselves through the way we think and act in various scenarios. We design and implement certain activities with the mindset and associated values as the guiding light. Let’s say someone wishes to be healthy. In this context, being health conscious and the desire to be healthy is the mindset. What do you need to be healthy? Maybe sleep on time, exercise, have a balanced diet, meditate and more such activities. These are “practices” which align with the mindset.What is a framework?Different people may choose a different set of practices with varying degrees of commitment e.g. It may be ok for me if I sleep on time 6 days a week while someone may be ok with good sleep for just 4 days of the week; with varying order Again, I may prefer to exercise at 5 AM followed by a healthy breakfast while someone may prefer to exercise in the evening. Different routines, different activities, different ways of performing these activities-each one has something different that works for an individual. Now, imagine that I have tried the following way of staying healthy – Eating  3 meals a day with no fats along with 3 portions of fruit, cardio exercises for 30 minutes everyday, ensuring a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per day and 30 minutes of meditation in the evening. Also, I completely avoid eating out except on festivals and I give up on taking the elevator completely.Let’s say this has worked wonders for me. Now I share this successful template with others. What have I done? I have effectively created a framework. It is a set of activities, done in a specific way and order which might be helpful for others.Agile FrameworksIt is not very different when it comes to agility. We saw the agile mindset and values a little earlier. There are different ways of implementing the values and principles associated with the agile mindset.  Each of these “ways” has its own set of practices, patterns and personas and are classified as agile frameworks. Some of the most popular agile frameworks are Scrum, Scaled Agile Framework®, Nexus, Large Scale Scrum(LeSS). Now the question is which framework is the best? This is similar to asking which is the best way of being healthy? If the focus is on the mindset and values, one would easily figure out that there is no one or “best” way. Each individual is different and a different “way” of staying healthy may work for each individual. The guiding principles may still be the same- they would be some combination of eating well, getting good sleep, work-life balance, exercise and a relaxed mind.So, what are your options? Let’s start with Scrum, which is the most popular agile framework. Scrum is a simple framework which is very well suited for small teams which are trying to develop a new product or improve an existing product. Scrum is based on the principle of building incrementally with fast feedback loops, typically every 2 weeks- a period generally referred to as a sprint.There are three roles-Product Owner, who represents the customer to the team and hence helps them prioritize “user stories” or slices of value that the team intends to create. The Scrum Master is the facilitator and coach for the team and guides them to get better every day and every sprint. The team creates a product increment every sprint and demonstrates (a thin slice of) the working system that it developed in the sprint to the stakeholders. Based on the feedback they improve the existing slice or start implementing the next most valuable thing.Extreme Programming, also known as XP is another framework which focusses on technical practices. Very rarely does scrum succeed without the focus on technical excellence that XP champions. Extreme programming promotes techniques like pair programming, behavior driven development, test driven development, etc. Scrum and XP are powerful together. In fact, XP started the concept of User Stories which were later adopted by Scrum.If your work is more flow based and your intention is, to improve the lead time for your work items, then Kanban is a great choice. Kanban is suitable for teams who do not need to reset their work every two weeks through the mechanism of sprints. Kanban helps bring in the discipline of limiting work in progress. This helps us  “stop starting” and “start finishing” work.One of the typical challenges that organizations face is that agile manifesto values and principles as implemented by scrum are hard to apply in the context of large organizations where no one team delivers value to a customer directly. In such a scenario, one needs to think about personas, practices and patterns which can be applied in a scaled organization. It is here that scaling frameworks come into the picture. Some of the most popular scaling frameworks are Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe), Large Scale Scrum(LeSS) and Nexus.What is SAFe? An important thing to note is that a framework would work only if its underlying principles and values are well understood. Let us take a deeper look into Scaled Agile Framework®(SAFe®) in this context. SAFe is the most widely used framework when it comes to the topic of scaling. SAFe is a rich body of knowledge with proven practices, patterns and workflows for Business Agility. SAFe is in fact more than just a scaling framework and provides guidance on how enterprises can achieve business agility through lean agile portfolio management practices and agile practices at team and program levels.Image SourceSAFe can be thought of as an “operating system” for enterprise agility that works in parallel to the hierarchical organization but with a different objective. While the hierarchical structure of organizations is optimized for stability, the second operating system i.e. SAFe is optimized for customer centricity and innovation. SAFe is built heavily on principles of Lean in addition to Agile. The origin of Lean Manufacturing was the Toyota Production System developed by Taichi Ohno in the middle of the 20th century. Lean thinking relies heavily on concepts like working in small batches and applying work in progress limits.SAFe has refined the principles of the agile manifesto and by bringing in Lean thinking into the mix, it has developed its own Lean Agile Principles. These principles are powerful and applicable to every part of the organization including portfolio and programs. The guiding philosophy of SAFe is to orchestrate the organization along value streams- which is a sequence of steps describing customer journey. What is more powerful than a cross functional team that plans, develops and demonstrates value creation in short cycles? The answer is a team of teams. SAFe introduces the construct of an Agile Release Train(ART) which is a team of teams organized along a value stream.The Reasons behind SAFe’s successWhat makes SAFe so powerful? It is the acknowledgement of the problem that having agile teams is not sufficient. An agile enterprise needs to be lean and nimble in the way it strategises, hypothesizes, builds and learns from it. SAFe promotes an organization-wide lean agile and systems thinking with lean economics and flow built in. If you are looking for a way to transform an enterprise’s way of collaborating and organizing with customer centricity in mind, SAFe is an excellent choice.SAFe’s overarching guidance at the enterprise level makes it a great de facto choice for all enterprises. If you have prior experience with a framework like Scrum, SAFe makes the transition to business agility smoother. If you do not have any past experience with any agile framework, it helps you understand that every part of the organization needs to come together and collaborate in a fashion that customer success and centricity become our central focus. It is for this very reason that SAFe is the market leader when it comes to agility at scale. If you have tried SAFe and it doesn’t work, it is quite likely that the foundation is weak and its principles and values have not been well understood. This is true for any other framework as well. Do not fall into the trap of adopting the roles and ceremonies of a framework like SAFe without getting the basics right. For example, the starting point of SAFe is getting all leaders through a “Leading SAFe” course so that leaders can unlearn some of the traditional ways of organizational design, responsibilities and measures of success.Generally, no framework is a silver bullet for any problem. The first step is to identify the real problem and take inspiration from a framework or multiple frameworks to solve them. In most cases, a framework cannot be applied directly and in its entirety to an organization. The first step should always be to start with the guidance provided there and gradually evolve parts of it depending on your context. Just as we weigh the options of “build vs buy” when developing a solution, we need to take a similar pragmatic approach when it comes to frameworks. Building one’s own framework from scratch is likely to be costly and time consuming, Instead, buy or reuse an existing framework and improve it through principles of empiricism. This is the secret to succeeding with frameworks. 

A Brief Guide to the Agile Frameworks List

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A Brief Guide to the Agile Frameworks List

What does it mean to ‘be agile’? 

We all want to be agile and nimble. Or in other words a state where we can change quickly, and adapt to the conditions in our environment. The same applies to organizations, where the ability to be agile can spell the difference between success and failure. So, what exactly does “being agile” mean? According to the Agile Manifesto—the holy bible for agile software development, being agile implies a mindset, where we value: 

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools 
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation 
  • Customer Collaboration over contract negotiation 
  • Responding to change over following a plan 

Values manifest themselves through the way we think and act in various scenarios. We design and implement certain activities with the mindset and associated values as the guiding light. Let’s say someone wishes to be healthy. In this context, being health conscious and the desire to be healthy is the mindset. What do you need to be healthy? Maybe sleep on time, exercise, have a balanced diet, meditate and more such activities. These are “practices” which align with the mindset.

What is a framework?

Different people may choose a different set of practices with varying degrees of commitment e.g. It may be ok for me if I sleep on time 6 days a week while someone may be ok with good sleep for just 4 days of the week; with varying order Again, may prefer to exercise at 5 AM followed by a healthy breakfast while someone may prefer to exercise in the evening. Different routines, different activities, different ways of performing these activities-each one has something different that works for an individual. Now, imagine that I have tried the following way of staying healthy – Eating  3 meals a day with no fats along with 3 portions of fruit, cardio exercises for 30 minutes everyday, ensuring a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per day and 30 minutes of meditation in the evening. Also, I completely avoid eating out except on festivals and I give up on taking the elevator completely.

Let’s say this has worked wonders for me. Now I share this successful template with others. What have I done? I have effectively created a frameworkIt is a set of activities, done in a specific way and order which might be helpful for others.

Agile Frameworks

It is not very different when it comes to agility. We saw the agile mindset and values a little earlier. There are different ways of implementing the values and principles associated with the agile mindset.  Each of these “ways” has its own set of practices, patterns and personas and are classified as agile frameworks. Some of the most popular agile frameworks are Scrum, Scaled Agile Framework®, Nexus, Large Scale Scrum(LeSS). 

Now the question is which framework is the best? This is similar to asking which is the best way of being healthy? If the focus is on the mindset and values, one would easily figure out that there is no one or “best” way. Each individual is different and a different “way” of staying healthy may work for each individual. The guiding principles may still be the same- they would be some combination of eating well, getting good sleep, work-life balance, exercise and a relaxed mind.

So, what are your options? Let’s start with Scrum, which is the most popular agile framework. Scrum is a simple framework which is very well suited for small teams which are trying to develop a new product or improve an existing product. Scrum is based on the principle of building incrementally with fast feedback loops, typically every 2 weeks- a period generally referred to as a sprint.Scrum FrameworkThere are three roles-Product Owner, who represents the customer to the team and hence helps them prioritize “user stories” or slices of value that the team intends to create. The Scrum Master is the facilitator and coach for the team and guides them to get better every day and every sprint. The team creates a product increment every sprint and demonstrates (a thin slice of) the working system that it developed in the sprint to the stakeholders. Based on the feedback they improve the existing slice or start implementing the next most valuable thing.

Extreme Programming, also known as XP is another framework which focusses on technical practices. Very rarely does scrum succeed without the focus on technical excellence that XP champions. Extreme programming promotes techniques like pair programming, behavior driven development, test driven development, etc. Scrum and XP are powerful together. In fact, XP started the concept of User Stories which were later adopted by Scrum.

If your work is more flow based and your intention is, to improve the lead time for your work items, then Kanban is a great choice. Kanban is suitable for teams who do not need to reset their work every two weeks through the mechanism of sprints. Kanban helps bring in the discipline of limiting work in progress. This helps us  “stop starting” and “start finishing” work.

One of the typical challenges that organizations face is that agile manifesto values and principles as implemented by scrum are hard to apply in the context of large organizations where no one team delivers value to a customer directly. In such a scenario, one needs to think about personas, practices and patterns which can be applied in a scaled organization. It is here that scaling frameworks come into the picture. Some of the most popular scaling frameworks are Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe), Large Scale Scrum(LeSS) and Nexus.

What is SAFe?

 An important thing to note is that a framework would work only if its underlying principles and values are well understood. Let us take a deeper look into Scaled Agile Framework®(SAFe®) in this context. SAFe is the most widely used framework when it comes to the topic of scaling. SAFe is a rich body of knowledge with proven practices, patterns and workflows for Business Agility. SAFe is in fact more than just a scaling framework and provides guidance on how enterprises can achieve business agility through lean agile portfolio management practices and agile practices at team and program levels.

Safe for lean enterprises

Image Source

SAFe can be thought of as an “operating system” for enterprise agility that works in parallel to the hierarchical organization but with a different objective. While the hierarchical structure of organizations is optimized for stability, the second operating system i.e. SAFe is optimized for customer centricity and innovation. SAFe is built heavily on principles of Lean in addition to Agile. The origin of Lean Manufacturing was the Toyota Production System developed by Taichi Ohno in the middle of the 20th century. Lean thinking relies heavily on concepts like working in small batches and applying work in progress limits.

SAFe has refined the principles of the agile manifesto and by bringing in Lean thinking into the mix, it has developed its own Lean Agile Principles. These principles are powerful and applicable to every part of the organization including portfolio and programs. The guiding philosophy of SAFe is to orchestrate the organization along value streams- which is a sequence of steps describing customer journey. What is more powerful than a cross functional team that plans, develops and demonstrates value creation in short cycles? The answer is a team of teamsSAFe introduces the construct of an Agile Release Train(ART) which is a team of teams organized along a value stream.

The Reasons behind SAFe’s success

What makes SAFe so powerful? It is the acknowledgement of the problem that having agile teams is not sufficient. An agile enterprise needs to be lean and nimble in the way it strategises, hypothesizes, builds and learns from it. SAFe promotes an organization-wide lean agile and systems thinking with lean economics and flow built in. If you are looking for a way to transform an enterprise’s way of collaborating and organizing with customer centricity in mind, SAFe is an excellent choice.

SAFe’s overarching guidance at the enterprise level makes it a great de facto choice for all enterprises. If you have prior experience with a framework like Scrum, SAFe makes the transition to business agility smoother. If you do not have any past experience with any agile framework, it helps you understand that every part of the organization needs to come together and collaborate in a fashion that customer success and centricity become our central focusIt is for this very reason that SAFe is the market leader when it comes to agility at scale. 

If you have tried SAFe and it doesn’t work, it is quite likely that the foundation is weak and its principles and values have not been well understood. This is true for any other framework as well. Do not fall into the trap of adopting the roles and ceremonies of a framework like SAFe without getting the basics right. For example, the starting point of SAFe is getting all leaders through a “Leading SAFe” course so that leaders can unlearn some of the traditional ways of organizational design, responsibilities and measures of success.

Generally, no framework is a silver bullet for any problem. The first step is to identify the real problem and take inspiration from a framework or multiple frameworks to solve them. In most cases, a framework cannot be applied directly and in its entirety to an organization. The first step should always be to start with the guidance provided there and gradually evolve parts of it depending on your context. Just as we weigh the options of “build vs buy” when developing a solution, we need to take a similar pragmatic approach when it comes to frameworks. Building one’s own framework from scratch is likely to be costly and time consuming, Instead, buy or reuse an existing framework and improve it through principles of empiricism. This is the secret to succeeding with frameworks. 

Prateek

Prateek Verma

Author

Prateek is an Agile and DevOps Enthusiast, Coach and Trainer. He is passionate about Continuous Value delivery and focuses on mindset shift towards agility at every level of an Enterprise including and beyond software development. Prateek has been a part of Transformation journeys at leading Fortune 100 Companies. He has consulted and coached teams and leaders on principles of business agility. A passionate speaker and blogger, Prateek has spoken at multiple conferences and has trained over a thousand people across the globe on Lean Agile Thinking and associated practices.

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Is a SAFe® Agilist Course Right for You?

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Top Learning Outcomes of Leading SAFe 5 Certification

In any organization, the business decisions made by leaders play an integral role in determining its future. Their mindset, actions and strategies influence the functioning of the organization and workforce. True leaders continuously learn and upskill themselves to be on par with the changing times and stay ahead of the competition. This is where adoption of a Lean-Agile Mindset becomes crucial. It serves as an intellectual and leadership foundation for applying SAFe® principles and practices. A Lean Agile Mindset is undoubtedly the need of the hour for everyone and especially for professionals who oversee a company’s destiny.  This article briefly looks at SAFe® 5.0’s main offering – “Business Agility”, dwells on the foundational competency – “Lean Agile Leadership” and finally talks about how Scaled Agile Inc’s “Leading SAFe®“ course  is one of the front runners in providing knowledge and guidance for building SAFe’s foundational competency in an Enterprise.  What is SAFe®?  Enterprises span across multiple geographical locations, cultures and time zones. External stakeholders like Suppliers and Partners further add on to the organizational milieu. In spite of the scale, the enterprise has to be nimble and agile to keep up with ever changing customer needs and tough competition.Practicing Agile in an Enterprise has its very own challenges because of the scale at which it operates and the high stakes involved.SAFe® is an Agile Framework that recommends ways and methods for enterprises to implement, sustain and improve Lean and Agile Practices. SAFe®1.0 was introduced in 2011 and has evolved into the SAFe®5.0 version which was released in Jan 2020.What is new in SAFe®5SAFe®5.0 introduces quite a few things, of which we look at two important ones- Business Agility and the Dual Operating System.   John Kotter , thought leader of Change Management, famously describes the need for a Dual Operating System that combines the entrepreneurial capability of a network with the organisational efficiency of traditional hierarchy. SAFe® 5 recommends organizing a network around value streams, in addition to the traditional hierarchy, to create a dual operating system to achieve Business Agility.  Image source: Kotter’s Dual Operating SystemImage source: SAFe as a second organizational operating systemBringing agility within Engineering teams may not be enough to create products and solutions that are viable and saleable. Everyone who is involved in building solutions and products – Executives, Senior Leadership, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Engineering, Support, IT, Legal, Compliance, HR- has to be brought into the ambit of Lean and Agile Practices to achieve true Business Agility.The responsibility of making “Business Agility” a reality lies largely with the Leaders of the Organizations.Lean Agile Leadership CompetencySAFe® recommends seven core competencies to become a Lean Enterprise and achieve Business Agility.  “Lean Agile Leadership” is one of the foundational competencies of great significance.Without the buy-in, support and complete conviction from leaders in the organization, the SAFe® implementation cannot happen effectively.  Lean Agile Leaders play a key role in introducing, nurturing and sustaining the SAFe® transformation within the organization.What is required of a Lean Agile Leader?Growth Mindset: Leaders should have a realistic bent of mind to acknowledge a need for change within themselves as well as the organization. The leaders with the right outlook believe in the SAFe Core Values, the Lean-Agile Mindset, and SAFe Principles. Leading By Example: As the famous saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words”. So by walking the talk, leaders can influence scores of people to start adopting the Lean Agile practices, Values and Principles exhibited by themselves. Leading Change: Organizational transformation and change is a very difficult and rocky road to take. There are many thought leaders and researchers producing dedicated models, theories and books for bringing about change and sustaining it. A leader who sets himself on this path is aware of the challenges and is ready to lead the change successfully.   Image Source: Lean Agile Leadership CompetencyOne of the tools for leaders at the helm of bringing about change is having deep rooted knowledge, understanding and purpose about the practices they have to exhibit, and thereby influence the other employees in their organizations.Obtaining the Scaled Agile Framework’s “Leading SAFe®” Certification is the perfect way to start for Lean Agile Leaders. By getting themselves trained, leaders can begin the transformation journey armed with the necessary information.Leading SAFe® Course and CertificationLearning OutcomesThe 2 day long Leading SAFe® course results in the following learning outcomes:The knowledge and principles of Lean, Agile, DevOps, Lean Product Development Insights into achieving Business Agility through organizing around value Understanding of Lean Portfolio Management which emphasizes the need for Lean principles and Lean Budgeting The importance of PI Planning events, co-ordinating Multiple Agile Release Trains, establishing team and technical agility Customer-centric mindset and design thinking approach to Agile product delivery The importance of sustaining SAFe® transformation by creating Communities of Practice and fully empowered employees and teams. In short, the SAFe® Implementation Roadmap helps the leaders to chalk out their organization’s transformation journey. Who should take the Leading SAFe® Course? This course is just right for leaders who are in a position to influence employees, organizational structure and the future of products / solutions.  Executives of the organization that decide on the future course of business Business Unit Heads who are responsible for a Portfolio Heads of functions like Marketing/Sales/Product/IT/Engineering etc Agile Program Managers and Project Managers who steer programs and projects, Managers of teams Technology leaders like Enterprise and Solution Architects/ Distinguished Engineers/ Fellows who command a large sphere of influence on teams Leading SAFe® CertificationAttending the 2 day Leading SAFe® course is a requirement to write the exam, and participants will get access to all the study materials and the exam. Once the exam is   successfully completed, the candidate gets the below privileges as per Scaled Agile, Inc. Certified SAFe® Agilist PDF certificate Certified SAFe® Agilist digital badge to promote your accomplishment online One-year membership to the SAFe Community Platform, which includes access to the SA Community of Practice Access to Meetup groups and events that connect you with other SAFe certified professionals A variety of learning resources to support you during your SAFe journey Benefits of taking Leading SAFe®5 trainingEvery change starts with – what is in it for me? The Leading SAFe® course outlines a generic framework that is applicable to any enterprise. For an individual employee it is a learning for life and can be applied to any organization he/she is associated with.  The SAFe® Agilist Course and Certification is one of the prestigious achievements in the individual’s professional life earning him/her respect and recognition within the Agile Community.           A SAFe®5 certified professional is eligible for better prospects within their own organization or in other organizations, if and when there is a need for job change.  According to Forrester’s Q2 2015 Global Agile Software Application Development Online Survey-“The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) is the most widely adopted enterprise Agile approach according to most survey data, with 33% using it”. With more than 70% of US Fortune 100 companies actively employing SAFe®, it is clear that the demand for Leading SAFe® is on a constant rise. Benefits of Leading SAFe®5 Training for the organization:Leadership is the foundation on which the “House of Lean” is built. A strong foundation of Lean Agile leaders, Managers and Executives help to create a learning culture for the organization by exhibiting the Lean Agile Mindset. This, in turn, paves the way for enterprise-wide transformation. Having a strong army of Agilists that are trained and certified helps the organization to sustain the principles of Lean and Agile.Agile ManifestoCorporate training for the leaders of the organization from a reputed Training provider like Knowledge Hut will ensure that all leaders are on the same page, hearing the same message at the same time. The training will become an opportunity for collaboration and the discussions during the training facilitated by the trainer can be tailored to suit organizational needs.   Why KnowledgeHut for Leading SAFe®5 Course?KnowledgeHut is a leading training provider offering a variety of accredited training programs for Corporates and Individuals. KnowledgeHut is a preferred training partner for various corporates.  KnowledgeHut offers training across 70 countries in over 250 industry-recognized courses. This includes a wide range of Courses in Agile and SAFe®.  Scaled Agile, Inc is the only certifying authority for SAFe® and KnowledgeHut is a Silver Partner of Scaled Agile, having trained more than 4000 professionals in various SAFe® certifications.  The Trainers for Leading SAFe® courses are an elite panel of accredited SPCs who also have years of experience as active SAFe® practitioners.  Learning happens through experiential workshops by accredited industry experts who bring in vast real-world experience imparting knowledge through in-class activities and simulations. Please refer here for all the details and the value-added services offered by KnowledgeHut for the “Leading SAFe® 5 “course. In conclusion, Scaled Agile Inc’s Leading SAFe®5 from KnowledgeHut will be a unique learning experience that will set the stage for success in one’s professional life. This credential benefits equally the individual, the organization and the larger cause of increasing the number of Agilists and improving the Agile Community at large.
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Top Learning Outcomes of Leading SAFe 5 Certificat...

In any organization, the business decisions made b... Read More