SAFe Certification: Understanding Scrum, Lean and Agile


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Can you be both lean and agile? Is Scrum a methodology or framework? If you are on your way to take your SAFe Agilist certification, these are important questions you’ll want to have clear answers too. 

For certified SAFe professionals it’s imperative to have a strong understanding of the underlying principles derived from Lean and Agile, along with a thorough understanding of Scrum. This will allow you to support the successful transformation of an organization into a lean and agile enterprise.

We are breaking down the tasks associated with Lean and Agile, and how Scrum fits in. 

Lean and Agile – What’s the Connection and Differences?

Lean sets the foundation for Agile, so it is common to get them confused or think they are the same. They both are popular in the software development space. They both help teams deliver faster. And they both are principles that can be applied to different methods like Scrum or Kanban.

So what are the key differences between lean and agile principles?

Agile Thinking

Agile Manifesto came to be when software developers came together to make a more bureaucratic, predictable process for their projects. Their goal was to be able to express creativity and collaboratively work together in a continuous, easy to measure process.

Agile development is based on 4 core principles:

  1. Individuals and interactions over tools and process
  2. Software operation over comprehensive documentation
  3. Client collaboration over contract negotiation 
  4. Responding to change over following plans

Agile takes these principles and applies them to 3 primary concepts which are: an iterative approach to development, shorten feedback loops and a disciplined project management process. 

These concepts mean teams can deliver code in smaller pieces and more frequently. The Agile methodology also allows teams to get client feedback and use that to improve upon their next iteration. This allows for late development changes, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible.

Agile’s main focus is to make all processes it touches more flexible and be able to adapt to changes (like last-minute client requests) more quickly and within budget. As teams become agile they can become faster and thus more efficient.

What is Lean Methodology?

Lean pushes teams to deliver fast, just like Agile. This process structure is all about minimizing risk and waste to improve focus. Lean focuses on 8 wastes that create inefficiency and lower productivity in companies. They are:

  • Wait
  • Defect
  • Transport
  • Movement
  • Excess inventory
  • Excess production
  • Unnecessary processing
  • Unused talent

Once you receive your SAFe Agilist certification you’ll be able to apply both agile and lean principles throughout all areas of the business. 

Is Scrum a Framework or Methodology?

The Scrum framework is used to apply Lean and Agile methodologies. It offers a set of practices, roles, events, artifacts and rules which guide teams to execute on projects. Through lean teams, Scrum allows for more agility in the execution in IT processes and creates a solid division of roles for clarity. 

The main characteristics of the Scrum Framework are:

  • Set up multidisciplinary teams
  • Work as a team
  • Create a task list that must be fulfilled
  • Implement a regular feedback routine daily
  • Organize sprints of work with timelines to completion

Lean, Agile, and Scrum Working Together

The Agile method is the umbrella that holds the Scrum framework and Lean methodology. 

This way of thinking encompasses 3 main aspects:

  1. Client-centric (continually consulted with the client)
  2. Working in iterations 
  3. Testing progress and validating before moving forward

With your SAFe Agilist certification you will be able to help your organization reach maturity in Agile methods and begin to enjoy the benefits. Organizations that effectively implement Agile methods report the following advantages. 

Lower development costs

By working in iterations, bugs are reduced, risks can be more effectively spotted, and teams are better able to communicate. Organizations can significantly reduce development and even maintenance costs of projects.

Better understanding and faster return on investment

With the Agile methodology, you are continually delivering software that is ready to be used immediately. It also allows the client to determine the priority of features and focus on the business value. Together these will keep you ahead of your competitors and allow for value from the software in the first stages of iteration.

Having your SAFe Agilist certification will allow you to help the organization reach its business goals faster and finish projects on-time more often.

Reduced Risks

Correctly implemented, Agile methodologies can eliminate project failure risk down to zero. 

With more certainty, it is possible to increase predictability. Through short planning and delivery cycles, assertive estimates, and building with integrity you will decrease uncertainty in software development.

By having control and visibility of the development cycle you can provide accurate information about the project at any given time. This allows for better decision making and improved management.

With constant client engagement, you ensure their needs are met. Each feature incrementally delivers value back to them, not just an IT component. You are also able to gain valuable feedback throughout the project from them.

Greater Productivity

With increased project control, the elimination of waste and improvement in the quality of the code being delivered it offers a considerable increase in productivity of the development team. This will allow you to improve your time to market and the efficiency of your team.

Ready to Tackle Agile Thinking?

Once you have your SAFe Agilist certification you will be well on your way to help organizations become lean and agile. Help them achieve flawless cooperation and gain the benefits that come with Agile.