Implementation - Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence - Scaled Agile Framework (2023)

A guiding coalition acting as an effective team can process more information faster. It can also speed up the implementation of new approaches because powerful people are truly informed and involved in important decisions.

– John Kotter

this is the articlefournoSecure®implementation roadmap Serie. Click hereto see the entire script.

HimLean Agile Competence Center (LACE)is a small team of people dedicated to implementing the SAFe Lean-Agile way of working. Creating a LACE is often one of the key differentiators between organizations that practice Agile in name only and those that are fully committed to adopting Lean-Agile practices and achieving the best business outcomes. LACE is the third element of the Strong Enough Guiding Coalition for Change, made up of three main components:

  • Train multiple Lean-Agile Change AgentsifSAFe-Programmberater(SPC)
  • Train executives, managers and other executives
  • Rent a TIP

This article provides guidance on the size, structure and operation of LACE based on the SAFe knowledge base and the experience of others working directly in this space.

the articlesTrain Lean-Agile change agentsjTrain executives, managers and executivesdescribe how organizations can support change agents and leaders in gaining the knowledge and skills they need to lead transformation.

The challenge is that most people who are qualified to drive change have full-time duties in their current roles. While a significant portion of your time may be spent on itsecondaryMaking change requires a smaller and more committed group of peopleLidarTransformation across the organization. Although these groups have different names (Agile Center of Excellence, Agile Workgroup, Lean-Agile Transformation Team, Learning and Improvement Center), they all have individuals whose primary role is to implement change.

team size

How many committed employees does it take to build an effective LACE team and achieve change? In addition to the number of employees, leaders should also consider that the allocation of talented employees to the new charter has organizational and financial implications. As author John Kotter points out, “The size of an effective coalition appears to be related to the size of the organization. Change often starts with just two or three people. The group in successful transformations then grows to half a dozen in relatively small companies or in small units of larger companies. [1]

For perspective, it is commonly observed that in organizations practicing SAFe, small teams of four to six dedicated individuals can support a few hundred professionals, while teams roughly twice that size support proportionally larger groups. Additionally, team size becomes difficult, and a decentralized or hub-and-spoke model is often more effective, as discussed later in this article.


Regardless of size, a LACE's responsibilities generally include:

  • Communicate the need, urgency and changing vision of the business.
  • Develop an implementation plan and manage the transformation backlog
  • Define the metrics
  • Conduct training for executives, managers and leaders, agile teams and specialized roles, or look for training such as:product owner,product manager,Scrum-Master, SheStart train engineer
  • reliefvalue streamIdentification workshops (by means oftoolbox) and help with the definition and introductionAgile Release Trains (ART)
  • Advice and training for ART stakeholders and teams
  • Take part in important early events such asProgram Increment Planning (PI)jcontrol and adjust(I)
  • promote securitycommunities of practice(Police officer)
  • communicate progress
  • Implementation of Lean-Agile Focus Days with guest speakers and presentation of internal case studies
  • Benchmarking and connection with the external community
  • Promotion of continuous Lean-Agile training
  • Extend Lean-Agile practices to other areas of the business, includingtight budgets, lean portfolio management,contractsand staff
  • Help establish tireless improvements (seeAcceleratein the implementation roadmap)

As LACE assumes these responsibilities, it also becomes the logical focal point for evaluating and improving each of the seven core competencies of the Lean Enterprise. To learn more about these skills, read theSAFe for adapted companiesArticle.

For a small team, that's a pretty long list of responsibilities. But it's important to note that many of them are shared with countless othersCEPwho may or may not be regular LACE members.

organization and operation

LACE can be part of an organization's nascent Agile Program Management Office (APMO) or exist as a standalone entity. In either case, it serves as a focal point of activity, a continuous source of energy that can help guide the organization through necessary changes. In addition, since becoming a Lean-Agile company is a continuous journey and not a destination, LACE often becomes a long-term hub for relentless improvement toward business agility.

Operationally, LACE typically works as an agile team and applies the same iterations and cadences as PI. This allows LACE to plan, monitor and adjust in line with the ARTs and provide an example of agile team behaviour. Therefore, similar roles are required:

  • A product owner works with stakeholders to prioritize the team's transformation backlog.
  • A Scrum Master facilitates the process and helps remove roadblocks.
  • The team is cross-functional. Trusted persons from different functional organizations are integral members of the team. This allows them to address open issues where they arise, be it related to organization, culture, development process or technology.
  • A C-level leader typically acts as the team's product manager.


Such a team must be aligned towards a common mission. An example mission statement is included in Figure 1.

Implementation - Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence - Scaled Agile Framework (2)

Team Disposition

As mentioned earlier, the size of the team should be proportional to the size and distribution of the development company. For smaller businesses, a single, centralized LACE can balance speed with economies of scale. However, in larger organizations, typically those with more than 500 to 1,000 employees, it makes sense to consider using a decentralized or hub-and-spoke model, as shown in Figure 2.

Implementation - Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence - Scaled Agile Framework (3)

Figure 3 describes the situations in which each of these models is most effective.

Implementation - Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence - Scaled Agile Framework (4)

progressively improved

LACE has a big job to do: change the behavior and culture of a large development organization. Once a LACE is formed there is a natural desire to speed up progress and get the whole build done as quickly as possible. However, trying to remove all key organizational roadblocks early will slow down the transformation. Instead, with the support of the entire governing coalition, LACE is empowering the organization to achieve short-term gains through the definition and adoption of ART. Then build on those achievements as additional ARTs are released. This provides the positive impetus needed to address key organizational issues.

The Business Agility Assessment (see theArticle Measure and grow) can help LACE understand where a portfolio is headed along the waybusiness agility. LACE should create an assessment baseline at the beginning of the transformation, then continually measure progress and use the provided recommendations to drive improvement aggregation.

With each PI, ART and value stream, profit continues to increase and the organization gradually changes. These activities are the subject of other articles in this oneimplementation roadmapSerie.

From now on

Identification of value streams and ARTis the next crucial step.


Learn more

[1] John P. Kotter.Lead the change.Harvard Business Review Press, 1996.[2] Knaster, Richard and Dean Leffingwell.SAFe 5.0 distilled to achieve business agility with the Scaled Agile Framework. Addison-Wesley, 2020.

additional resources

Last updated: February 10, 2021

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