Recently someone asked is Scrum ever successful in the large enterprise and one reply was that “agile” often hasn’t been given the chance to succeed because it wasn’t fully supported by management from the top down. In each of these cases I wonder what “agile” methodology is being utilized. Scrum is the predominant agile methodology that I have seen companies attempt to implement. Scrum has 3 roles, the product owner, scrum master and the team. The organization is credited with creating impediments that the Scrum Master is charged to remove. Viewing enterprise architecture and corporate governance as impediments along with assuming that every organization needs to be able to ship software every sprint is not very inclusive or thoughtful with respect to the larger enterprise. So the short answer to the original question is that I have seen scrum work very well in skunk works projects and in smaller firms but fail miserably in larger enterprises due to friction from stakeholders that don’t have an ownership stake in the success or failure of agile in their enterprise. The Scaled Agile Framework has been implemented successfully by BMC Software, Trade-station, John Deere and EMC to name a few and it builds on the best practices of ScrumXP, Lean software development and Kanban working to include enterprise architecture and governance while supporting continuous integration and deployment as required by the business. Scrum looks to optimize only the software development part of a value chain while the Scaled Agile Framework is a methodology for the enterprise to optimize the entire system. Optimizing only the software development cycle likely gives a false sense of velocity. While a Scrum of Scrums may attempt to manage cross team dependencies, it is not a very good way to manage a complex system. I have seen on many occasion individual scrum masters being more concerned with the “velocity” of their team than the overall goals of the enterprise. As William Deming stated; “A system must be managed. It will not manage itself. Left to themselves in the Western world, components become selfish, competitive, independent profit centers, and thus destroy the system.” The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a set of best practices that looks to include the entire organization to align efforts with the enterprise value stream. If a large organization truly wants to improve their agility they should investigate how SAFe can be utilized to transform their Portfolio and Program Management organizations into an Agile PMO.

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