SAFe Invitations – Part 3/3 – Combining Open Space Agility and SAFe

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In parts 1 and 2 of this series about bringing Invitations into the Scaled Agile Framework implementation approach I talked about various ways to switch from Mandates to Invitations when choosing the timing and the how-to. In this post I describe an even more Invitational style using an approach called Open Space Agility. Consider this an experimental suggestion that combines two field-proven practices into one mashup that is just looking for the first opportunity to get its field test (If you’re interested to go for it, let me know…)

In this approach the leader would say something like “We decided to use SAFe in order to XXX insert Commander’s intent here XXX. We know this is the direction we want to take but we need your help figuring out how this would work here in our group. Scaling Agile is a complex thing and while we the leadership team believe SAFe is a good starting point we also believe there are many open questions and risks and we want your help figuring this out. We also want to do this in a true agile fashion – Trying something and inspect and adapting along the way. In this week we will both learn about SAFe and experience running some of its key aspects and also open the space for discussion around how it might work here in practice, what might be the risks and what to do about them. This is your chance to influence this important journey. You don’t have to engage but we would love it if you do. We the leaders promise to listen and try to address whatever comes up”.

This Invitation language is taken from Open Space Agility (see also the Open Agile Adoption Facebook Group). An agile change management approach created by Daniel Mezick based on the Open Space Technology spirit.

The Invitation and Open Space will be followed up by running the first PI as a set of experiments in how SAFe can be used for this ART group. The Inspect and Adapt workshop at the end of the PI fits very well into the mold of the second open space described in Open Space Agility as a way to solidify the learning, gather a group of people interested in continuing to focus on improving the way SAFe is used in the group  (inviting people rather than forcing everybody to attend – typically ending with more engagement than typical and in my experience the same or even higher attendance rate…).

To sum up: I believe choosing a Pull/Invitation approach to change management is key to transformational success with any scaled agile approach, especially with a comprehensive approach such as SAFe that lends itself too easily to Mandates at the wrong/naive hands. I also believe that the Open Space Agility model can fit pretty nicely into the ART QuickStart/first PI cycle as well as ongoing PI Inspect and Adapt workshops thereafter. If you’re an SPC or RTE at the minimum I recommend you familiarize yourself with the language of Invitation and the Open Space Agility approach and use it to inform your thinking of how to run the different SAFe activities.