The real state of Scaled Agile

On Thursday I delivered the opening Keynote at Conferencia Agile Spain. They are an incredibly warm and supportive community. I highly recommend that speakers join them if they get the chance. ( The beer and tapas was fantastic! )

The talk started by introducing the Community of Needs / Solutions ( Video from LAScot ). Part of the talk explains how an idea progresses from “Need” to the “Chasm”.


The journey from “Need” to “Chasm” involves the idea encountering new contexts (or Fitness Landscapes) that it was not originally invented in. As a result the idea is refined. An idea starts in one place (even though their might be several similar ideas being developed at the same time) with one small group of people. Initially the idea spreads by word of mouth with “first followers” who have direct access to the originators. Then people share in workshops with people with similar ideas. By the time the idea reaches the chasm, most people access the idea through “books”, and most of these people do not have access to the originators.

As an idea travels towards the chasm more and more people encounter it, and start to value it as they understand how it can help them in their context.


I introduced the ideas/tools* that are needed to manage a Scaled Agile organisation. The CAS audience then voted using red and green cards to indicate whether they valued the idea and had started to learn about it as a result. We counted the percentage or red and green cards to understand where an idea is on its journey.


The results were much as I had expected.

If you listen to the people selling “Scaled Agile” frameworks, the consultancies selling Agile to executives who do not know what Agile is, they present an picture that looks like this.


I’m not describing the Agile Consultancies who act with integrity. I’m not talking about ThoughtWorks, BJSS, Radtac and Leading Agile. I’m talking about the consultancies that sold Waterfall and Off-Shoring to their clients as the way forward.

The CAS audience present a picture that was similar to the one I expected…


Now more than ever we need Communities of Need to try out the ideas in many contexts to ensure they are safe to cross the chasm to the unforgiving CEOs who live in a place that demands certainty, the realm of the early majority.

* The ideas/tools I referenced in the talk are:


  • Scrum
  • Kanban
  • Extreme Programming
  • Retrospectives
  • Given When Then


  • Cumulative Flow Diagrams
  • Cynefin
  • Cynefin AND Cumulative Flow Diagrams used together
  • Skills Matrix


  • Demand Mapping


Enabling Functions

  • Beyond Budgeting
  • HR policies that create a collaborative creative culture


About theitriskmanager

A IT programme manager specialising in delivering trading and risk management systems in Investment Banks. I achieve this by focusing on risk rather than cost. A focus on costs can lead to increased costs. View all posts by theitriskmanager

9 responses to “The real state of Scaled Agile

  • Kevin

    This sounds fun we should put it to practice!

    I agree the with the communities of need approach and some communities are definitely in need. I guess for me it will be interesting to see how we connect the communities. Training and upskilling is important when learning the “what” but getting the organisational layers to commit and understand the “how” is important. Recognising where we have potential Herbies through the layers, creating open feedback loops and trust is going to be a challenge.

  • Gastón Valle

    I was there and your keynote was really good! It is so true that there is still a lot to do in the organisations towards agility and this is at the same time challenging and exciting.
    Thanks for the keynote and this post.

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  • listyian

    Like the parallel between Moore’s Crossing the Chasm and the journey an idea takes, like wise the link between the Cynefin complex domain and the need for concurrent safe to fail experiments to validate the contexts in which an idea will work.

    Given the parallels with Lean Product Dev it needs either that entrepreneurial, early adopter, fix it for you approach, this will only come from those who really truly love finding and exploring new ideas, or we know that great innovation is driven by great need, so yes Communities of Need are required, but also the nurturing of the entrepreneurial spark in people and as you point out most “agile consultancies” are taker not givers.

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