Supporting Several Lifecycles Allows for Wider Adoption of Agile

DAD Lifecycles

DAD Lifecycles

One of the key benefits of Disciplined Agile is its flexibility to apply different lifecycles, practices, and strategies based on the vast array of situations that a typical enterprise faces. It is “pragmatic agile” after all. Unfortunately many organizations box agile into a corner. Many try to standardize on one flavor such as Scrum/XP, Kanban, or worse, a prescriptive scaling pattern such as SAFe. We also sometimes see project authorities restrict agile to initiatives that pass all of a certain criteria such as; teams of less than nine people, full-time Product Owner, requirements not needed beyond user stories, collocated team, whole team, and other characteristics of “classic agile”. Using such restrictive selection criteria means that the percentage of teams that are permitted to adopt agile is often far less than if a more pragmatic approach to applying agile was permitted.   As a result we see situations whereby a large percentage of projects that could benefit from agile approaches are forced to use traditional methods. This marginalizes the adoption of agile in such enterprises as exceptions rather than the default approach that it should be.

We know that the majority of enterprises can benefit from each of DA’s lifecycles. There are some situations where a basic Agile/Scrum approach is the best choice, but in others where the work is difficult to plan a Lean lifecycle would be a better fit. On other teams that have good Disciplined DevOps technical practices in place the advantages of the Continuous Delivery:Lean lifecycle could be applied. Additionally, many organizations have leading edge initiatives such as mobile applications where the market demand of features is not known so it may be that the Exploratory lifecycle is the best fit.  Different teams require different approaches.  Choice is good.

Organizations that have adopted Disciplined Agile appreciate this flexibility and over time their mix of lifecycles changes as they move their the projects in their application portfolio from tradition to basic, and eventually to the advanced continuous lifecycles. The following diagram depicts an actual strategy of one of our customers, which shows their expected evolution to a mix of lifecycles as their adoption proceeds and their agile capabilities improve.

Adoption mix of lifecycles

As you can see from this example this organization expects to use Agile/Scrum for the majority of new agile initiatives but gradually increase the mix of the more advanced Continuous Delivery lifecycle as the teams’ capabilities improve. This is a typical pattern that we see for companies that are adopting Disciplined Agile, and in fact our new book Introduction to Disciplined Agile Delivery describes a team’s process improvement journey doing exactly that. The flexibility to adopt different lifecycles and apply a pragmatic and measured approach to adopting agile practices means that a far greater of percentage of projects can benefit from agile.

Have any Question or Comment?

2 comments on “Supporting Several Lifecycles Allows for Wider Adoption of Agile

Matthew A. Schneider

We are just beginning our agile journey, and are being “forced” to use SAFe (from a very high level, that we locally have little change of influencing/changing).

It’s clear that supporting several life cycles, would in fact allow for wider adoption of agile, and choice is good.

You seem to suggest that SAFe is just a bad idea? Can we somehow leverage DAD within SAFe’s “prescriptive scaling pattern”? Or are we doomed? 🙂


Yes, many teams apply DA to address the challenges with SAFe. SAFe is geared for a large team-of-teams working on the same product or platform. If that is your situation then it might make sense for you. If that is not your situation, or if you don’t have the skills and experience to pull that off, then it likely isn’t right for you.
Our advice is to apply the right technique for the situation that you face. In other words, use the right process for the job. DA helps you to understand the situation that you face and then to identify the techniques are are likely to work for you.


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