So, we’ve discussed SAFe enough, yes? Probably more than what you wanted, to be honest. I love SAFe, I do, but sometimes it seems it is the only Enterprise Agility framework that exists. But that’s not the case. There’s LeSS, for example.
LeSS, or Large Scale Scrum, is an agile framework specifically designed to streamline the process of scaling Scrum across multiple teams working on a single product. As organizations grow and undertake more complex projects, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that teams collaborate effectively and deliver high-quality products within budget and time constraints. LeSS provides the necessary tools and techniques to achieve these goals by emphasizing lean thinking, systems thinking, and empiricism.
Where does it comes from?
LeSS was created by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde, two experienced Scrum practitioners who sought to address the challenges of scaling Scrum without compromising its core principles. Drawing on their extensive experience coaching organizations in agile practices, Larman and Vodde developed the LeSS framework as a response to the growing need for a scalable Scrum solution that maintains the simplicity and agility of the original methodology. Their main philosophy could be seen as Keep it Simple as much as Possible, but no more. Compare and Contrast to SAFe Wall of Acronyms.
Key Principles of LeSS
Leverage Scrum’s Simplicity
LeSS retains the simplicity of Scrum by focusing on the essential elements that make Scrum an effective framework for product development. It avoids adding unnecessary complexity or bureaucracy, emphasizing that the same Scrum principles and practices apply to teams of all sizes.
LeSS emphasizes the importance of systems thinking in understanding how teams, products, and organizations interact. By considering the entire system, rather than individual components or teams in isolation, LeSS helps organizations identify areas for improvement and potential bottlenecks, ensuring smoother collaboration and more effective decision-making.
Empirical Process Control
Empiricism, or learning through experience, is at the core of LeSS. The framework encourages organizations to experiment, inspect, and adapt their processes, enabling them to continuously improve and respond to change effectively. LeSS also emphasizes the importance of transparency, inspection, and adaptation as the three pillars that support empirical process control.
LeSS incorporates the principles of lean thinking, which focus on maximizing customer value while minimizing waste. By identifying and eliminating non-value-adding activities, organizations using LeSS can increase their efficiency, reduce costs, and deliver better-quality products faster. Still, it incorporates principles rather than full-on practices like SAFe.
Key Practices of LeSS
One Product, Multiple Teams
LeSS emphasizes that all teams working on a product should be part of a single, unified effort. This approach ensures that teams share a common goal and that their work is coordinated and integrated, reducing the risk of duplicated efforts or misaligned priorities.
LeSS promotes the use of feature teams, which are cross-functional teams capable of delivering end-to-end product features. This structure encourages collaboration, reduces handoffs, and allows teams to work more autonomously, increasing their ability to adapt to changing requirements.
Coordinated Sprint Planning
In LeSS, multiple teams participate in coordinated sprint planning, aligning their efforts and synchronizing their work. This practice ensures that teams are working towards a common goal and that dependencies are identified and managed effectively.
Shared Product Backlog
A single, shared product backlog is used across all teams working on a product in LeSS. This approach simplifies backlog management, ensures that all teams have a clear understanding of the product’s priorities, and promotes collaboration and coordination.
Ok, Fede, that’s all well and good. But how does it compares with SAFe?
And when should you choose one over the other?
LeSS and SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) are both popular frameworks designed to help organizations scale their agile practices across multiple teams. While they share some similarities, such as their emphasis on lean and agile principles, they also differ in several key aspects. The following comparison will help illuminate the differences and similarities between these two approaches.
Philosophy and Complexity
LeSS is grounded in the simplicity of Scrum and focuses on retaining its straightforwardness while scaling. It emphasizes minimalism and aims to avoid adding unnecessary complexity, bureaucracy, or layers of management. LeSS strives to maintain the agility and adaptability of Scrum, even as the organization grows.
SAFe, on the other hand, is a more prescriptive and comprehensive framework. It provides a detailed blueprint for scaling agile practices and offers a wide range of roles, artifacts, and processes. While SAFe also seeks to maintain agility, its structure and complexity make it more suitable for larger enterprises with multiple layers of management and a higher degree of organizational complexity.
LeSS is easier to implement in organizations that are already using Scrum or are familiar with agile principles. Its lightweight nature and focus on the core concepts of Scrum make it a suitable option for those who want to scale their existing agile practices without introducing a significant amount of new processes or roles.
In contrast, SAFe requires more substantial organizational changes and a higher level of commitment from the entire organization. Implementing SAFe often necessitates restructuring teams, roles, and processes to align with the framework’s structure and principles. This may involve a steeper learning curve, but it can provide more guidance and support for organizations seeking a comprehensive approach to scaling agile practices.
Hierarchy and Decentralization
LeSS promotes decentralization, self-organization, and autonomy within teams. It aims to reduce dependencies and handoffs between teams, encouraging cross-functional feature teams that can work independently to deliver end-to-end product features.
SAFe, while still encouraging autonomy and self-organization, incorporates a more hierarchical structure, with specific roles and responsibilities defined for different levels of the organization. This structure is designed to coordinate efforts across teams, programs, and portfolios, but it may also result in a more top-down approach to decision-making and planning compared to LeSS.
Both LeSS and SAFe emphasize the importance of continuous improvement and learning through regular inspection and adaptation. However, LeSS places a stronger focus on empirical process control and systems thinking, encouraging organizations to experiment, learn, and adapt their processes based on real-world experience.
SAFe also values continuous improvement but places more emphasis on its structured and prescriptive framework for implementing agile practices. This structure can provide more guidance for organizations, but it may also limit experimentation and innovation to some extent.
So you go for LeSS when you have LeSS of an Enterprise structure and more of an Agile Mindset in place. Fintechs, Startups, etc. are great LeSS candidates. But for hierarchical institutions like Banks or Utilities companies, SAFe is often a safer bet. #sorrynotsorry
LeSS provides a powerful and effective solution for organizations looking to scale their Scrum practices while maintaining the agility, simplicity, and effectiveness of the original framework. By focusing on lean thinking, systems thinking, and empiricism, LeSS helps organizations to overcome the challenges of scaling, enabling them to deliver high-quality products more efficiently and effectively.