Modelling the Scaled Agile Framework using System Dynamics -- A MITRE Internal Research Project

This talk will present a MITRE internal research project that uses System Dynamics modelling to investigate the effectiveness of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) in large, government programs.

In an effort to increase the speed of new software delivery, many government programs are turning to Agile practices. But large-scale organizational change doesn't come without uncertainty, and these programs often have many questions such as: Will Agile work in our organization? What kind of benefit can we expect from adopting Agile practices? Will the benefits merit the cost of change? As we shift to Agile, where should we focus our efforts first? Over the past year, we have developed a tool that gives programs answers to many of these questions. We have created a System Dynamics model of the Scaled Agile Framework (one framework that is increasingly popular among government programs) that allows decision makers to quantify and visualize the benefits that applying Agile practices will have on their specific organization. Users can virtually prototype their program by providing parameter values to the model to reflect their actual program and then run a simulation to see how their program will perform. They can then adjust parameters to discover how doing things differently can lead to much better results. This model can be used as a decision support tool when setting up a new Agile program or when deciding where to focus your efforts to improve an existing Agile program.

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Outline/structure of the Session

This will be a 40-minute PowerPoint presentation that includes recorded demonstrations followed by 5 minutes of Q&A.

PowerPoint outline:

  1. Project/Team Introduction
  2. Agile Scaling Variables
    • This section describes our work in identifying patterns of success and the variables that contribute to them in large, governmental organizations that are implementing Agile.
  3. Modelling Agile Dynamics at Scale
    • This section gives a brief primer on System Dynamics and describes how we are using it to create a "management flight simulator" that allows companies to test drive the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and see how it can benefit their specific situation. This tool can be used to explore previously undiscovered dynamic relationships between operations in an Agile enterprise and quantify the beneficial effects of Agile practices.
  4. Simulating a Real Project
    • This section presents the results of a case study that we performed on a real government program. Using our System Dynamics model, we showed that by making one simple change, they could increase productivity by 54% and decrease defects by 88%.

Learning Outcome

Attendees will become familiar with cutting-edge research in quantifying the benefits of applying Agile practices in large organizations. They will be introduced to new tools that are in development that can aide management and decision makers in designing more effective Agile programs.

Target Audience

Participants who are interested in government implementations of Agile at Scale and the concept of a development program as an object of design.


Familiarity with the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and/or System Dynamics is useful but not strictly necessary.

schedule Submitted 1 month ago

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