The LeSS adoption principle „deep and narrow over broad and shallow“ in practice (EN)

10:45 - 12:15 LeSS Track

Speaker: Marc Lustig
Language: English


We will investigate how one of the guiding adoption principles of the LeSS scaling framework affects the success of an agile adoption.


In the introductory session the speaker will explain basic concepts such as transition lifecycle, the idea of a "full-stack" agile adoption and the importance of - focusing on creating light towers that include all adoption layers such as

  • establishing cross-functional and self-managing feature teams
  • continuous integration development culture
  • automated delivery pipeline
  • establishing whole-product focus
  • extending the DoD to cover everything necessary to deliver the PSPI as the sprint result
  • organizational descaling, e. g. removing managing roles (e. g. Defect Manager, Release Manager, Test Manager) and replacing fake Product Owners with empowered Product Owners
  • closing the feedback loop with end customers (users) to enter into a product innovation working mode.


The progress in a transition lifecycle is measured in terms of approaching the organization’s Perfection Vision. In LeSS, the Perfection Vision represents the target picture for the ideal way of working.

The idea behind the LeSS adoption principle “deep and narrow over broad and shallow” is that the focus should be on creating light-towers that are both tightly aligned with the organization’s Perfection Vision and implement the adoption layers explained above. “This minimizes risk and if you fail it triggers a focused learning opportunity. And when you succeed it creates a positive “word on the floor” that’s vital nourishment for further adoption.” ( Hence, a light-tower covers substantial improvements on a diverse range of adoption layers and gives the organization an idea of the concrete value of the agile way or working.


In the second part of the workshop we will work in groups and discuss different aspects of the topic. Each group will pick one of the following topics:

What are the actual layers of a “full-stack” agile adoption ?

  • why is it important to balance the adoption across those layers?
  • how are the adoption layers related to the key benefits of the agile way of working?
  • are there any concepts behind the layers related to engineering ?

What are the characteristics of a "shallow" agile adoption?

  • does shallow mean not successful. if yes, why?
  • what might lead to a shallow agile adoption?
  • are systemic improvements possible while avoiding a shallow adoption?

How to choose organizational units for a deep and narrow agile implementation?

  • what are the prerequisites for a “local” agile adoption (e. g. in an product area) ?
  • which other organizational units beyond teams are concerned?
  • why is a deep and narrow adoption not a local optimization?

Which are adequate improvement goals to cover the full range of an agile adoption?

  • consider improvement goals related to engineering
  • consider improvement goals related to team structure
  • consider improvement goals related to organizational descaling


To maintain focus of the discussion, groups will receive three questions to guide the discussions. A flipchart is provided to help the group structuring the outcome.

In the third part, group representatives will present the group’s proceedings using the flipchart and the stage is opened for questions and discussion. The speaker will contribute with in-depth comments and with his experience from agile transitions.

The comments include:

How is the successful application of the „deep and narrow over broad and shallow” principle dependent on implementing the other two adoption principles in LeSS (“Top-Down and Bottom-Up” and “Use Volunteering”) and how this leads to systemic improvement dynamics

 What are the dynamics that lead to a shallow agile adoption? from the speaker’s experience, the level of presence of asking the “Why?” question is a decisive factor. Without an initial kick-off discussion to determine the business goals and the Perfection Vision and without tracking the progress and inspect and adapt, agile adoption endeavors frequently lead to Cargo Cult and Renaming Game. The terms will be explained. This is reflected in Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behaviour.

Diving deeper into the idea of a transition lifecycle, the speaker will explain the Shu-Ha-Ri concept. The essential transition from the Shu (“doing by obeying”) level into the Ha (“adapting by experimenting”) level needs continuous reflection on the progress of approaching the goals. Without a clear idea of the business goals and the Perfection Vision, the outcome of experiments cannot be effectively evaluated will lead to local optimization

According to the speaker’s experience, the consequence of a shallow adoption are that a) people want to define the “new agile process” to tick the agile compliance requirement, b) on the Gemba (working place) the defined “process” is perceived as decoupled from the real problems and challenges and c) managers typically are reporting upwards in their line that “teams are fully working in agile”.

As culture follows structure, systemic changes are needed. However, systemic changes that are Top-Down enforced will be perceived as new compliance rules. Volunteering drives Bottom-Up dynamics and supplies the blood into improvement dynamics and the credibility of the adoption endeavor.



Schedule and workshop approach (based on 90 mins.)

  • Introduction (15 mins.)
  • Table Groups of 5 to 10 people, time-boxed 15 mins.
  • Presentation of the results by group representatives - time-boxed 3 min.
  • Discussion with the whole audience and additional input from the speaker. 7 - 10 mins

(Total for 4 groups: 45-50 minutes)

  • Overall summary and conclusions provided by the speaker: 5 - 10 mins


Learning Objectives


    • have reflected that an agile adoption needs to be accomplished in a lifecycle and that progress should be measured based on the Perfection Vision and the business goals
    • have acquired insights into how the principle is tightly related to the other two LeSS adoption principles
    • have improved their understanding (1) why an agile adoption is a “full-stack endeavor” and thus requires building light-towers with volunteers and (2) of the dynamics which lead to shallow adoptions.
Riekh Zimmer

Panel Discussion & Closing

Europasaal A

Take your chance to ask the key-note speakers, well experienced agile coaches, and people from business and industry your questions. Get their opinions, see if they align, and complete your Agile Austria experience with this enlightning moment. Happy to see you again next year.