In Focus: Who or What is the LACE?

In Focus: Who or What is the LACE? - banner with title of article and agile hive logo

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world;
indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
- Margaret Mead

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Before we get too far, in this article we are not talking about changing the entire world, just the culture and processes within your own organization. Just so we’re clear.

That being said, sometimes affecting real change within the organizations we are part of can feel monumentally difficult. Maybe commitments have been made, small steps were taken - some forward, some back - and yet things feel like “business as usual”. Specifically we are speaking of the efforts made to implement the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) Lean-Agile methodology throughout an organization.

At the outset, it’s important to understand that the journey to implementing SAFe® is just that; a journey, not a destination. It’s a continuous, ongoing, ever-evolving process. Don’t ever expect your CEO to declare “we’ve done it, we’ve completed our SAFe® transformation!” - or certainly be cautious if he or she does!

In this article we will discuss the critical role the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence, or LACE, plays in a successful implementation of SAFe®.

It Takes A Village, Or At Least A Coalition

Is it necessary to have a LACE within your organization to implement SAFe® successfully? No, not per se. Is it more likely your organization’s implementation of SAFe® will be successful throughout all levels of your organization and achieve greater results? Yes, most especially.

According to the folks in the know, Scaled Agile, Inc., a LACE is the final of three components needed to establish a successful and guiding coalition for change within an organization;

Train a number of Lean-Agile change agents as SAFe® Program Consultants (SPCs)
Train executives, managers, and other leaders
Charter a LACE

A LACE is to be composed of team members from throughout the organization who are committed to its mission of supporting the SAFe® core values of alignment, transparency, built-in quality, and program execution. The LACE should include a C-level member within its ranks in order to ensure the group has the authority required necessary to effect real and lasting change.

As mentioned above, the SAFe® process is a journey not a destination, and as such, the LACE will review their mission and its scope on a periodic basis. LACE members can be thought of as the drivers of transformation vs. those whose roles support the change.

Size, Structure & Scope

In Focus: Who or What is LACE? - graphic detailing the SAFe transformation process for organizations, with the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence, or Lace, right at the beginning

As seen in the image above, ideally the LACE is formed at the earliest stages of the decision to undertake a SAFe® transformation. While there is no hard and fast rule as to the actual size of the LACE, typically they are comprised of anywhere between three and nine members. This includes a Scrum Master to facilitate and a Product Owner who prioritizes the backlog working with various stakeholders, and one or more senior C-level executives.

Along with the flexibility as to the actual size of the LACE, its structure can take different forms, reflecting the structure of the organization and how it generally operates.

In Focus: Who or What is LACE? - different kinds of distribution models: centralized, decentralized and hub-and-spokeIn Focus: Who or What is LACE? - graphic detailing the SAFe transformation process for organizations, with the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence, or Lace, right at the beginning

  • Centralized
    • Single portfolio, single SAFe® instance
    • One common budget for Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and value streams
    • Funding for LACE participants, coaching, and related costs are centralized
  • Decentralized
    • Independent, SAFe® portfolios for each respective unit
    • Knowledge sharing across business units
    • Funding for LACE participants, coaching, and related costs are decentralized
  • Hub-and-Spoke
    • Smaller, central LACE acts as “hub”
    • Best practices developed centrally, shared with various units (“spokes”)
    • Centralized funding for LACE individuals in the “hub”

The scope of the responsibilities of the LACE, specifically in relation to the core values of SAFe®, can run the gamut, but can be roughly categorized as follows:

Alignment - assist with and help maintain the implementation roadmap, integrate SAFe® practices, and establish metrics.

Transparency - creation of Lean-Agile events, transformation progress is made visible for all to see, extension of SAFe® across the organization.

Built-in Quality - set the tone for consistency and repeatability of practices, enable or lead training for specific leaders and/or teams.

Program Execution - support for events such as Inspect & Adapt, PI Planning, works to create an environment of continuous improvement.

The LACE could be likened to movie or television producers. From Masterclass.com, “a producer is the person responsible for finding and launching a project; arranging financing; hiring writers, a director, and key members of the creative team; and overseeing all elements of pre-production, production, and post-production, right up to release. It is not uncommon for a film production or TV show to have several producers.”

Not including the financing responsibilities, this description matches pretty closely with that of the LACE. Consider them the producers of a successful SAFe® transformation. The overall benefits to the organization are many, including being that guiding force, the overseers, the folks who truly “make it happen”. And by “it” we mean not just saying your organization is implementing Lean-Agile practices at scale but actually doing it.

Next Steps In The Journey

We hope this gives you a glimpse into the many facets of a LACE and its overall importance to the successful implementation of SAFe® within an organization. To note, this only scratches the surface.

Our recommendation for a great next step would be to visit the SAFe® website and their in-depth resources that give a much deeper understanding of a LACE. And if you’re Interested in learning more about the nuances of Agile Hive and our implementation of “SAFe in Jira”, we’d love to start a conversation with you.

Feel free to visit our website to contact us and to learn more about Agile Hive - we’re anxious to hear from you!


Further Reading