Scalable KAFE Updated

“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”  John C. Maxwell

The Journey

For over three years I have been working on a new version of the Kanban Ace Method. In summary Kanban Ace is an innovative way to organize and manage teams, it helps them improve the way they work so that any product, initiative, service, or even a whole organization can be more effective in delivering value to the customer.

The way forward was not clear, it felt like looking through a dense fog, particularly since Kanban Ace was fairly complete, we even teach courses online about it! So the temptation to write a book on what was already available was strong. However, two things dissuaded me: First there are many good introductory books about Kanban, and even though they are not the same flavor of Kanban Ace they are pretty good, and we do have a lot in common, futhermore I have deep respect for those authors. Second, I wanted to advance the state of the art, and solve problems I was seeing over and over in larger organizations struggling to do Agile Transformations.

This last challenge is difficult, how can we do an Agile Transformation for many agile teams? Teams of teams with hundreds or thousands of people inside of them. This journey of discovery took me into several useful detours: the Scaled Agile Framework, Large Scale Scrum, Disciplined Agile Delivery, the Spotify model of Tribes and Chapters, and several modern military strategies. The more I read about them, and the more I experimented with my own Kanban Ace solutions for scaling, it became clear that this was the future of Kanban Ace.

Announcing “Scalable KAFE”

Now you may say not another one!  But do believe me this one is very different from the rest. It can work well with others, and it will allow you to use the best from other frameworks inside a coherent whole that is lighter and less complex, that is why I call it SCALABLE it will fit your organization.

KAFE stands for Kanban Ace for Effectiveness. Effectiveness is at the heart of the agile strategy for large organizations: improving the whole system is much more important than a tiny part of it, and many times software development is a small piece of the puzzle as Klaus Leopold makes very clear on his latest book and on this diagram:

Klaus-Leopold-agile only in DEV-v2

Three key pieces of KAFE have already been written in the past two years, one has even been published in full (the Akashi Bridge) and the last one is ongoing. They are at the core of this new framework:

1. KAFE’s Akashi Bridge.

From the beginning it became clear that there is a need to welcome fellow Scrum practitioners into a larger team that also includes Kanban. The Akashi Bridge is a technique available today that makes it easy for Scrum teams to adopt Kanban Ace, keep all the roles and features they love from Scrum, and gain all the power of Kanban.

2. KAFE’s Scale.

A neutral and universal way to measure objectively the level of agility vs. complexity introduced by any scaling framework, and to pick and choose key elements for your Enterprise Agile Transformation version of Scalable KAFE. Initially we will support SAFe fully, but we will also provide you the tools and criteria to use it for any scaling framework.

3. KAFE’s Ship.

As wonderful as having a fully multi-functional team is, the fact is that it is not always possible to have many agile teams become fully multi-functional. The reasons are scarcity of specialists, scarcity of budget, and the need to work with teams using both Scrum and Kanban. KAFE’s Ship will allow you to build a Scalable Group of Agile Teams, where agility is encouraged, but limitations are also acknowledged and minimized. It shows clearly what the ideal would be (fully multi-functional) but it also provides great coordination and agility today.

4. KAFE’s Gear Levels


This technique is based on this principle: To improve an organization start at the top, where changes have a massive multiplier effect. One single improvement at the top, will become a massive improvement at the team level.

KAFE’s Gears Levels are:

  • The Strategy and Vision Level
  • The Portfolio Level
  • The Program Level
  • The Team or Operational Level

Our approach is similar to Klaus Leopold’s Flight Levels, but we also make it clear that the way the system works, the MOVEMENT can also be modified, or upgraded, this is Lean Agile Organizational re-design for higher flow and efficiency.

5. KAFE’s Movement

Notice that very level inside of an organization is connected hierarchically, and to each other, like gears in a mechanical watch to form a system. Realize that those gears, the teams, the people, the processes, can be re-positioned, and re-designed for higher efficiency and better collaboration and flow.

This re-design will allow us to create new organizational collaboration structures, or a new “movement” that makes the organization tick better. Those movement can be localized or they can reach the whole company. The way those movements are built is part of Lean Agile Transformation at scale.

The Consulting Life

It seems almost unreal to me that I am updating this page 5 years after actually writing it. KAFE was delayed by very demanding work doing several Agile Transformations using SAFe, Scrum and Kanban at large companies who wanted Agile to work at scale, companies such as Bloomberg, Viacom, Genentech and Wells Fargo.

I see this pause in updating KAFE as a positive one, since it gave me plenty of real life experience making Agile work in large organizations, and knowing the pros and cons of decisions made in the pursuit of agility such as adopting SAFe.

Update – The BREAKthrough Agility Method

I am happy to share that on February 2023, I was finally able to write a high-level method that takes the best of ideas of KAFE, and of my whole agile experience of over 15 years in the pursuit of faster, more effective, and more efficient teams and companies.

I call this approach BREAKthrough Agility, a method that can work with any previously existing management approach, agile or not, and improve it significantly. My objective was: How can we bring maximum benefits for minimum change?

If you would like to learn more, head over to the BREAKthrough Agility online guide, I think you will like what you see. Also, contact me to know more, and especially to bring the powerful benefits of real agility to your company. 

7 comments on “Scalable KAFE Updated

  1. Allison Creed

    Hello Joseph. Interesting read although much of the vocab/language is completely new to me. Not sure how recent this blog is but I look forward to reading more and encourage your aspirations 🙂


    • Thanks Allison! It’s fairly recent. I decided to go with a different approach: a business novel that shows the principles in action. I will publish the novel chapter by chapter here, and get feedback, the lean agile way 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. HI Joseph … poking around in you sandbox a bit. After reading your blog post I am certain that you will enjoy our book Flow. My brother Andrew is SAFe certified but we use our own structure to optimize organizational high performance. I will watch for your additional posts.


    • Thanks Ted, I am also a SAFe SPC. KAFE is a different way to achieve agility. The book is taking longer because I want to write a business novel, it’s a challenge, but I think it will also make it better.


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