What I like the most about the Scaled Agile Framework®

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SAFe® – A missing guest on this blog

A friend told me recently I don’t write here often enough (or at all?) about the Scaled Agile Framework®. And he was right. So, my resolution for the upcoming months is to try and fix that a bit. I already have a couple of ideas to write up. But let’s start with what I think of SAFe®.

Me & SAFe®

But, First of all what is my relation to SAFe®? Well I’ve been helping organizations with agile at scale since 2009 so was following very closely works like Dean Leffingwell’s Scaling Software Agility and Craig Larman and Bas Vodde’s Scaling Lean&Agile Development  and was trying/adapting/extending upon their ideas. Two years ago in Spring 2013 I took Dean’s “SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC)” class and since then experimented even more with the various concepts in SAFe® especially the approach to implementation.

What I like the most about SAFe®

One of the things I like the most about SAFe® is the approach towards implementation with its emphasis on engaging leaders/management from the start and attending to their needs. I’ve been trying to advance a “start with leaders/managers” approach for some years now and I believe SAFe is certainly one good way to go about achieving this. I like the fact that identifying Value Streams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs) drives you to think in cross-functional end-to-end delivery in true Lean style. Even if you choose to wait with moving to cross-functional feature teams and build your ART/VS out of component teams you at least have the team of teams that is cross-functional and value-stream oriented. That is a pretty important step forward for many organizations. This is also pretty well aligned with my “Product Stream Kanban” approach that worked great in the field so far.

Continuing with implementation I like the Agile Release Train Quickstart Week which emphasizes training the train together with a good mix of theory, practice and starting the actual work. When Inbar & Roni first came back from SPC training and told us (The AgileSparks team) about this approach it was hard to grasp especially the “training the whole train together” approach when we would typically split to training classes of about 20-30 people at a time. Since then I had a chance to learn more about this in the SPC class as well as try some of this style of event myself and I’m now a strong proponent and use this approach regardless of whether the organization is going for SAFe or another framework for scaling. I believe it is more effective and I love how it feels as the coach/facilitator to run one of these events. Actually running a quickstart week in Boston a couple of months ago was one of my best experiences as an agile coach.

The Release Planning event – PI Planning, ART Release Planning – I like the amount of attention to effective participatory facilitation at scale. I like the “PI Confidence Vote” as the catalyst to risk management (what we sometimes call futurespective). I liked these so much that I took these ideas into a lot of the workshops I’ve been running since the SPC class in 2013.
BTW I typically use a “constellations” based confidence vote to get people moving about.

I like the effective choice of engineering practices to focus on. Not too much of the crazy extreme practices that turn people off but just enough of the right ones.

I like the fact that Flow is considered the underlying thinking. (There are some principles I would use more, but that’s for another section/blog post…)

I like the fact that SAFe® has a pretty high barrier of entry – you need to be serious about it in order to go through the implementation recommendations. This tends to screen out the tire kickers for people who are actually willing to go through a serious change in their organization.

Lots of reason to like SAFe®… Stay tuned for “What would make SAFe® even better” from my perspective…