Nov 4th, 2022

How Disney Implemented Scaled Agile Framework®?


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Disney is one of the biggest entertainment agencies in the world. The company has developed many hit movies and animated characters, including Mickey and Minnie Mouse, which have become recognizable worldwide brands. There are also very creative skills for Disney. For example, it participates in organizing events to help support local communities and makes donations to charities and foundations whenever possible.

First, however, you might wonder how Disney implements its agile framework at such a large scale. This article will discuss how Disney can use the Scaled Agile Framework® to address a large organization's challenges when implementing it in its software development process.

Struggle that Disney Faced Before Implementing SAFe®

In the early 20th century, producing animated shorts was a slow, manual process that often did not consistently deliver entertainment value. Because of the time, it took to draw the thousands of images required for even a ten-minute short film (Snow White in 1936 directed 250,000 individual drawings), the Director might not get a chance to see even a part of the final product until right before it shipped.

Disney's SDLC is similar to a project-based workflow, where UAT and QA (if they happen at all) take place right before the application is supposed to go into production. So, for example, he would commit to a portfolio of short films that he knew his distributor would have purchased from him by the time they went into theaters, but Payment wasn't made until after the film was screened in cinemas.

Then it was up to him and his teams to deliver Solutions through his animation Value Stream. It was Walt Disney's way of ensuring quality was maintained and making changes if they helped him achieve his goals. In addition, he tended to change his mind suddenly, which resulted in inconsistencies in requirements.

When Walt Disney created new ideas for movies, his directors and animators often struggled to convert those ideas into finished products. To make sure his work was perfect, he would work and rework until it felt just right. He occasionally cut out entire scenes from his films if he didn't think they were the best he could make.

How Did Scaled Agile Framework® Work for Disney?

Similarly to Agile, while the overall vision for the piece isn't likely to change, incremental work may dictate changes to scenes or characters. Due to this, Disney often spent a lot of overtime and on anxious days racing to meet deadlines to get the product its customers wanted. Similarly, as many organizations have done, Disney adopted an Agile mindset to ensure its animation processes were delivered on time and with the highest quality.

When Disney discovered he couldn't alter the sketching portion of the process, he began to look at other points in his supply chain to see where he might improve efficiency and raise the quality of his output. His method frequently makes me think about the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). One of the tools he invented was a form of Big Room Planning.

The movie business calls it Storyboarding. Quick sketches of critical scenes were lined up on the walls of a room where Walt, animators, and directors could talk through the entire story. A final product that would be created by teams of animators, inkers (who color the drawings), background artists, composers, sound effect creators, and performers had to be decided upon by the film crew. The creative team was called the System Group.

The movie would then be divided into segments that teams of one or more animators and their supporting artists would sketch. After Disney built an Agile Release Train, his animating teams were given free rein to run their Sprints. As Scrum Master, the Director coordinated the work between the animation Teams and ensured the continuity of characters and storylines.

In addition, Roy, Disney's brother, served as Business Owner, overseeing cost governance and ROI over the project as Product Manager. Disney also focused on quality. Instead of waiting for weeks to see his team's progress, he created a Test First system that let him regularly evaluate progress.


The animators filmed short takes of their work during the Sprint, then huddled around a small MO viola to watch Walt critique their work. This was similar to our SAFe® sprints, where Walt, the Business Owner, ensured that his animators were on track. They could fail quickly depending on how far off they were or how Disney changed his mind.

As a result of this "Shift Left" testing, waste time was reduced, and productivity was improved. The idea continues to this day. The advent of digital filming allows directors to see the results of various takes immediately, eliminating the Sweatbox experience.

Final Thoughts

Disney has taken its business to new levels by implementing the Scaled Agile Framework. This has allowed them to manage their projects better, improve communication and collaboration between teams, and deliver high-quality products on time and within budget. With these benefits, it's no wonder that Disney is considered a leader in project management.


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