agile at scale

Agile at Scale: Comparing the 5 most popular frameworks

Agile frameworks help companies deliver to customers faster and more reliably. In doing so, it's fairly easy to implement Agile in individual teams. The challenge is to implement Agile working across the entire organization. 

I'll show you which frameworks you can use to approach Scaled Agile for your company and which 7 principles you should pay attention to. And: I will explain how you can scale Agile in 6 steps, regardless of the framework.


Agile vs Scaled Agile

Well, actually “Agile vs Scaled Agile” is not the right expression because both terms are closely related. So what do they each mean and how are they connected?

What is Agile?

Agile describes the iterative way of thinking and behaving to flexibly develop and manage products. This usually involves self-managing, cross-functional teams working on a product. The product can be any type of deliverable. For example, it can be software, a marketing campaign, or a process improvement.

The concept of agile can be traced back to Toyota's lean manufacturing approach. In the 1940s, Toyota wanted to continuously improve its products in this way and waste fewer resources. In the 1990s, the software industry adopted these principles. Agile here referred primarily to iterative software development and the delivery of customer value. What's more, it created autonomy and self-organization within teams. From then on, Agile spread to all areas of the company.

What is Agile at Scale?

The Agile at Scale definition describes the holistic anchoring of agile principles, mindsets, values, and practices in a company. Therefore, the Agile at Scale definition involves transforming not only all employees, but also programs, portfolios, IT and culture to Agile. Agile at Scale is introduced both horizontally and vertically in an organization. The goal is to improve collaboration and processes to produce faster and more agile results. This is a very brief definition of the question “What is Agile at Scale” but it should give you a good first idea.


What frameworks are available for agile scaling?

Well, first I have to say: There is no one single right way to implement agile at scale throughout your organization. Rather, there are several frameworks you can choose from to implement the agile way of working at all levels. Here are the most important frameworks:


The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) provides you with various organizational and workflow templates to implement agile practices in your organization. SAFe concentrates on the three areas of "Agile software development", "Lean product development" and "Systematic thinking". It promotes collaboration and coordination, as well as execution across multiple teams. We'll show you exactly how the framework works in our blog post "SAFe® Scaled Agile Framework: Explained in a nutshell".



Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) is a minimalist framework that –, unlike other – frameworks, only includes a few rules and roles. It applies regular scrum to large-scale development. LeSS and SAFe partly use the same pattern: Both use Scrum at team level, a backlog for different teams, cross-team planning and the principles of self-organization. You can get a more detailed picture of LeSS in our blog post "Large Scale Scrum (LeSS): A short & crisp introduction" .


Disciplined Agile (DA), formerly known as Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), is a process decision framework designed to deliver IT solutions in a results-oriented manner. The framework creates a foundation to implement Agile at Scale in large enterprises. Therefore, it combines Scrum and Kanban with transformational skills in areas including portfolio management, governance, DevOps, human resources and finance.


Actually, Spotify didn't want to develop its own framework, just let employees work more autonomously and flexibly. Over time, however, agile principles and practices have evolved at all levels of the company to the point where it has become a holistic framework. It is an employee-oriented, autonomous framework for Agile at Scale. Spotify attaches particular importance to the corporate culture and the networks in the organization. In this context, Spotify has established the Spotify Health Check, among other things. We'll show you what you can check with this in our blog post "Spotify Health Check: Everything You Need to Know".

S @ S

Scrum@Scale (S@S) is based - as the name suggests - on Scrum. It is an extension of Scrum that is usually used by companies that already work with Scrum on a team level. The framework aims to align the growing organization with common goals. In doing so, the so-called Scrum of Scrums, which consists of the Scrum Masters of the individual teams and the MetaScrum of all product owners, coordinates the implementation of the framework.

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 Differences between the frameworks for Agile at Scale

You now have a first impression of how Scaled Agile works for companies. And: You know, for example, which frameworks come into question. To decide which framework is right for you, take a look at the details of the individual models in our graphic. This way, you'll find a framework that fits your organization:


Source: Agile at scale at Atlassian

5 fundamental principles for Agile at Scale

Regardless of which approach each framework uses for Agile at Scale, there are 5 principles that unite all frameworks. You should establish and standardize these in your organization:

1. Clearly defined roles and company structure

It must be clearly regulated who takes on which role in the agile transformation in the company. This also means that the corporate structure must reflect how you want to implement Agile at Scale.

2. Focus on customer value

You must approach every task and project with the goal of delivering a better outcome for your customers. It is especially important that the product has a high added value for customers.

3. Agile practices at all levels

You need to implement agile practices and rhythms at all levels - horizontal and vertical.

4. Continuous improvement

In the beginning, your agile maturity will be low. Over time, however, it should grow steadily. At first, you'll achieve this by introducing agile working to more and more teams and workspaces. Once you've implemented agile working across the organization, you'll need to improve existing processes.

5. Employee and team orientation

Agile working always focuses on employees and teams. Agile gives them a scope of action in which they can act and react autonomously and flexibly.

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How to scale Agile in 6 steps 

Whether you choose a single framework or specific parts of different frameworks, the process of scaling is often similar. You can introduce Agile at Scale in these 6 steps:

1. Define the starting point!

Before you can tackle Scaled Agile for enterprise, you need to know where you stand with your organization. Therefore, you need to define what agile capabilities and competencies are already in place and how ready the organization is to fully commit to an agile way of thinking and acting. Only with these facts in mind can you introduce strategies and practices that promote the agile transformation in your organization. 

2. Create a vision!

So that you not only know where you are starting with Scaled Agile, but also where you want to go, create a vision. This does not have to be a detailed roadmap. It's enough if you succinctly define a vision with a clear goal. This does not have to be a final vision. Rather, you can adjust the vision again and again along the path of agile transformation. McKinsey, for example, has set up this vision to shape the culture in the company in an agile way:


Source: Practical lessons on building an agile culture | McKinsey

3. Deploy leaders!

Agile transformation requires catalysts to guide and change employee thinking and behavior. To do this, you need servant leaders to help you implement Agile at Scale. That doesn't mean you need to have the entire executive team on board from the start. It is enough if a few leaders have confidence in your project and provide you with budget for it. Through initial successes, you can then continue to build trust in the company and thus win over more leaders. 

4. Decide on a framework!

To implement Scaled Agile for enterprise, you need a framework that you can follow. This should fit your organization. You don't necessarily have to choose a single framework. You can also use individual components of different frameworks for Agile at Scale. The important thing is: Your framework should serve the current core challenges and goals of your organization. To do this, the framework components must be aligned with the value stream and increase customer value.

5. Start the agile transformation!

You can now start the agile transformation - at least in theory. In doing so, you can consider whether you want to use a pull or push transformation - or combine both. The question is basically whether you want to implement Agile at Scale from the top down or from the bottom up. In our experience, a mix of both is particularly promising. In general, be prepared for teams and employees to make mistakes. Embrace it and learn from the mistakes. 

6. Introduce retrospectives!

To check how your company is progressing with the agile transformation, you can use retrospectives. You can use them to uncover how teams and processes are gradually converting to Agile. In doing so, you can also identify important problems in processes and collaboration, which you can then address in a targeted manner. 

"If you adopt only one agile practice, let it be retrospectives. Everything else will follow " 

Woody Zuill (Agile Pioneer & Evangelist)



Agile at Scale is not a task that you can do overnight. Rather, Agile at Scale is a process that you have to adjust over and over again. You optimize the path and goal of the agile transformation until processes and employees are fully agile. To support you and your company in the agile transformation, we have designed an Agile at Scale training. This will show you in various webinars how to properly approach an agile transformation and which 7 mistakes you should definitely avoid. The Agile at Scale Training is free. Have a look!

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