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Leading Scaled Agile Methodologies – Similarities and Differences

How to select the right Scaling agile methodology for your organization? How do SAFe, DAD, LeSS, and Scrum of Scrums differ from each other? Do some of them fit certain industries or sizes of organizations better than others? How popular are they?

Is plain Scrum not enough? In large organizations, a gap is emerging between the teams doing the work and the finance manager who allocates the funding. To stay aligned, organizations are transforming from Scrum to the Scaling Agile, 2nd generation frameworks.

SAFe, LeSS, DAD, and Nexus are all agile at scale PM frameworks. We see them overtaking the market in the current decade. Implementing a scaling agile framework is an effort for the entire organization.

Scaling agile frameworks do not contradict proven agile methods, such as Scrum, Kanban, XP, or Cristal. The center of gravity only shifts from the product development good practices to the coordination of efforts across the company.

Agile vs Scaling agile

First, let’s look closer at how the scaling frameworks are different from the team-level, agile methods.

Table 1. First vs. second-generation methods
image - 2021-06-21T141003.356.png

Compare the “Big 4”

When choosing a Scaling methodology for your organization we recommend the following steps:

  1. Begin with the most detailed, formal, and prescriptive methodology (see the 2nd row of table 2).
  2. If, for whatever reason, it doesn’t fit, proceed to less formal methodologies.
  3. The less prescriptive a methodology the bigger the risk it will fail in combat.

Another factor is the number of certified practitioners. Is there a certified consultant available in your city or country? The more of them, the more proven a methodology is. Is there at least one certified person in any country in the world? – is a good question to ask yourself. SAFe shines here, so we marked it ‘Fairly mature’ in the third row of table 2.

image - 2021-06-21T141005.492.png

Table 2. Similarities and differences in leading Scaled Agile methodologies

image - 2021-06-21T141010.105.png
image - 2021-06-21T141012.371.png
image - 2021-06-21T141016.153.png

An effort was made to gather accurate data. Data current at the time of writing. Help improve the table – e-mail marketing (a)

Other scaling agile frameworks

Scrum@Scale – Jeff Sutherland and Scrum Alliance, 2017

Spotify model – a culture-centric approach to scaling agile

LeadingAgile – transformation roadmap rather than implementing abstract models and rules, Mike Cottmeyer, 2010

Lesser-known: Agile Portfolio Management, Enterprise Scrum, FAST Agile, Lean Management, Recipes for Agile Governance (RAGE), SCARE, Scrum Lean in Motion (Slim), Team of Teams.

Once we dig past “scale” to the real problem your company is most interested in solving right now, then one of these solutions might make more sense than the others. Note the especially important “How adaptable…” criterion in table 2.

Good practices

Truth be told, there’s no right way to scale agile. Nevertheless, let’s try:

  • Scaling agile is there to prevent a senior executive from personally poring over specifications and bug lists. Leaders communicate clear strategic intents, then trust the teams to deliver on that strategy.1
  • Most large organizations commit to a single agile at scale framework.
  • Companies that don’t – that try to pick and choose the best pieces from each – still want to create a single vision.
  • Ground the change in the context of your organization and this moment, instead of relying on someone else’s revealed wisdom.


For this comparison to be complete, we can’t skip those who question scaling agile frameworks altogether.

Leadership is frustrated because through middle management down to teams don’t seem to be getting traction on the goals/KPIs they want (alignment). They typically introduce more controls, more detailed processes and more measures (frameworks) that typically result in the exact opposite – Matt Barcomb

(With a scaling methodology having been implemented) what are some experiments your people will do at different levels in the organization to make a small improvement? Alistair Cockburn

Adding manpower to a late software project often makes it later. Brooks’ Law from The Mythical Man-Month book

Author: Marcin Gebicz


A very useful article. I am currently dealing with a specific requirement from a client on this subject.  @Anna-SoftwarePlant I think the webinar on 30 June will also be very interesting.

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Derek Fields Community Leader Jun 21, 2021

Nice article. Thanks for posting

Like # people like this

Thanks for your thoughts, @Anna-SoftwarePlant 

I agree with your idea that "there’s no right way to scale agile", adding there are plenty of worse ways to do so, including:

  • failing to understand the problem an enterprise wants to solve with scaling;
  • trying any scaling practices before first trying generic Kanban or Scrum without scaling;
  • forcing transformation too quickly to see outcomes, impacts, and costs;
  • assuming existing product development/funding models work with the scaling approach; and
  • forgetting to continually develop internal leaders to sustain the efforts.
Like Kalos Bonasia likes this
Anna-SoftwarePlant Marketplace Partner Jun 24, 2021

@Bill Sheboy

Thank you for a handful of relevant insights.

Choosing the accurate moment for the transformation in an organization can be essential. And, exactly as you mentioned, it should be preceded by understanding the internal & external circumstances as well as a deep understanding of issues that an organization intends to solve with scaling.

Thanks for the great article, @Anna-SoftwarePlant. 👍

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