Case Study Update: LEGO finds the sweet spot
“ … this has improved the motivation of the team members. Going to work is more fun when there’s less confusion and less waste. And motivated people do better work, so it’s a positive cycle!
Another impact we’ve seen is that other parts of LEGO visit the meeting, get super inspired, and start exploring how to implement some of these principles and practices in their own department. In fact, agile is spreading like a virus within the company, and the highly visible nature of the PI planning event is like a a catalyst.”
About a year ago, the folks from LEGO® shared experiences from the first leg of their SAFe journey. What captured our attention was their innate understanding, right from the start, that every step of the implementation was going to involve discovery and learning and adapting. When something didn’t seem like a good fit, they weren’t afraid to experiment. Taking results from Inspect and Adapt, they tweaked SAFe to their needs with a simple guiding principle, “Keep the stuff that generates energy.”
One year later, Henrik Kniberg and Eik Thyrsted are back with the next chapter of their story. Their 20-team working group, LEGO Digital Solutions, is at the forefront of LEGO’s movement toward adapting to the faster-paced digital world, so the need to get it right is critical as it ultimately impacts the entire 17,000-person organization.
Their nipping and tucking of SAFe for optimal results runs the gamut from large edits to small tweaks. For instance, to keep energy and engagement up, they cut PI Planning from two days to one, and now limit the presentation of the draft plans to four teams doing 7.5 minute presentations. They started doing their program backlog on a physical board with printed cards, but moved that online to their backlog management tool, and projected it on the wall. For reality checks to avoid over-commitment, they use ‘Yesterday’s Weather,’ a feature from Extreme Programming (XP).
While they are sticking with one-day PI Planning, their consensus is that they needed the two-day event in the beginning to help them learn how to do it more effectively. It’s noteworthy that while they reduced length of PI Planning, to ensure that PI Planning is effective they now have three pre-planning sessions before each boundary.
Their determination to make it work has had an impact. They talk about the experience being “surprisingly positive,” and nobody seems to want to go back to how things were before SAFe. This is their latest summary of the outcome:
- Less duplicated work. Teams are more in tune with each other, so they waste less time on redundant work.
- Less dependency problems. Teams waste less time being blocked waiting for each other. Teams interact more smoothly with other departments and stakeholders.
- Managers can update priorities and resolve impediments faster, because they have a better idea of what is actually going on.
- Client trust has improved, because they have a better understanding of what the teams are working on and why.
- Planning is easier and commitments are met more often, because the teams and portfolio planners learn how much work we can commit to and what our actual capacity is.
We’re glad to see LEGO getting these kinds of results. SAFe is a framework and as such, it is intended to be applied and evolved in context. We don’t care if people modify it, so long as they make it leaner and get the right business results!
Their downloadable 36-page in-depth summary makes for fascinating reading as it’s full of candid commentary and generously describes the thought process behind each decision. It also includes the top four things that helped them get a successful start. Go to the LEGO case study page to get the download. There you will also find the original video from Henrik and Eik discussing the first phase of the implementation.
Thanks, as always, to Henrik (aka ‘Dr. Agile’) and Eik (‘Captain Agile’) for documenting the LEGO journey. It’s a great service to the community and showcases what is possible when people approach new ideas with open minds and a commitment to learn.