Is SAFe unSAFe – My Thoughts

Thoughts on how the Scaled Agile Framework is perceived by some agilists

At the moment the Scaled Agile Framework is getting a lot of attention as it provides answers to challenges common for large scale agile initiatives / large agile programs. SAFe being an agile/lean framework is also part of the Agile 2013 conference, something Ken Schwaber doesn’t seem to like:

Beside this tweet Ken also wrote a small article where he explains (his impression) that SAFe might be more dangerous as helpful as it has it’s root in RUP and Processes & Tools are overemphasized in comparison to People & Interactions:

Ken Schwaber’s Blog: Telling Like It Is – unSAFe at any speed.

While the article itself lacks some substance (you just notice how uncomfortable Ken is with SAFe) the comments are very interesting as real practitioners share thoughts and their experience with SAFe (good ones, bad ones).

*Updated*

A far more detailed article has been written by David Anderson (Mr. Software Kanban) in which he also expresses his concerns regarding SAFe. He wrote his article „Kanban – the anti-SAFe for almost a decade already“ about SAFe but also acknowledged that he just did some brief research and has no real experience with it:

To be honest, I don’t know a great deal about SAFe.

Still his summary is:

It is fair to say that this approach is the antithesis of the Kanban Method!

and also adds

I’m not impressed with the Kanban related material or its suggested usage in SAFe.

From his point of view

SAFe appears to collect together a number of techniques from software development processes from the 1990s and 2000s. It offers these as one large framework.

With that he seems to underestimate how many feedback cycles (learning & improving) during the last years finally resulted in what is now known as SAFe and he completely misses (from my perspective) the embedded Lean Product Development Principles (Donald Reinertsen) and the Lean Leadership foundation (part of the SAFe Lean Thinking House).

As you might have noticed I do not share the opinions of Ken Schwaber or David Anderson but I am happy to see that these two thought leaders finally found something they can agree on.

What are my thoughts on the Scaled Agile Framework?

SAFe is prescriptive – but it is just the start of your journey

From my own experience the implementation of SAFe is a quite challenging undertaking as SAFe seems to be a quite prescriptive framework with a lot of guidance and governance („Processes & Tools“) but still you have to have a deep understanding of the agile / lean foundations to implement (tailor, adapt) it in an organization specific way („People & Interactions“). I personally feel it is worth the effort because SAFe provides a proven framework with values, principles and best practices that address the common challenges you have to overcome when scaling agile and especially when scaling agile in a non green field environment. Having said that I believe it is key that you teach/establish real agile/lean thinking and learning cycles so the organization can further adapt and improve  („Kaizen“). Only with these Inspect & Adapt cycles „SAFe“ is going to work for your organization on the long run.

There are a lot more topics to discuss and to improve over time (your „SAFe Path“):
maus-lesend

  • how to find / optimize your agile release trains
  • how to do the portfolio planning in your context
  • how to optimize the demand management
  • how to prioritize in a scaled environment
  • what to do with the HIP sprint
  • when and how to release to production (the shorter the cycles the better)
  • how to facilitate & organize the inspect & adapt workshop for optimal group feedback
  • decide on which KPIs are really important for your company

Failing to see that this is the journey your organization needs to undertake will leave you stuck in the predefined default practices / processes / tool that you can find on the SAFe website. Keep in mind: Real agile-lean companies are always learning, adapting and improving.

Resistance as it is not Agile?

In companies that have existing Scrum teams I usually experience some resistance of agile practitioners as the team level loses some freedom of choice. Have a look at the role of the SAFe Product Owner for example, the need to have cadence AND synchronization or the need to commit to several sprint during the release planning event (sounds weird for most agile people who did not experience such an event before).

Global optimization required

Very often these people need to be trained to see the value of overall alignment and enterprise wide transparency (see SAFe Cove values). Single teams excelling in their own context _may_ sum up to a lot of local optima but (at the same time) may not be useful to reach a global (organization) optimization. Not understanding this is like not understanding how your company is creating value.

Role of Scrum in SAFe

Important to note is also that SAFe is not against Scrum but uses the principles of Scrum as a team process (perfect match for most teams in a SAFe environment) and Scrum as thinking model (guiding you how to organize and optimize your organization). However one could argue that it is not „Scrum.org Scrum“ as there are some adjustments made (as with most Scrum implementations „in the wild“) but still it shares the same spirit and goals, taking inspiration also from Donald Reinertsen’s Product Development Principles not only for developing products but also for improving the own processes.

What does really matter? It’s you!

While SAFe is about alignment, transparency, program execution and (code) quality it’s about how YOU are going to implement the ideas, principles and practices in YOUR environment. In the end it’s the implementation that matters: It’s you, your colleagues, your shared goals/values and the business value you produce.

Thoughts on how the Scaled Agile Framework is perceived by some agilists

At the moment the Scaled Agile Framework is getting a lot of attention as it provides answers to challenges common for large scale agile initiatives / large agile programs. SAFe being an agile/lean framework is also part of the Agile 2013 conference, something Ken Schwaber doesn’t seem to like:

Beside this tweet Ken also wrote a small article where he explains (his impression) that SAFe might be more dangerous as helpful as it has it’s root in RUP and Processes & Tools are overemphasized in comparison to People & Interactions:

Ken Schwaber’s Blog: Telling Like It Is – unSAFe at any speed.

While the article itself lacks some substance (you just notice how uncomfortable Ken is with SAFe) the comments are very interesting as real practitioners share thoughts and their experience with SAFe (good ones, bad ones).

*Updated*

A far more detailed article has been written by David Anderson (Mr. Software Kanban) in which he also expresses his concerns regarding SAFe. He wrote his article „Kanban – the anti-SAFe for almost a decade already“ about SAFe but also acknowledged that he just did some brief research and has no real experience with it:

To be honest, I don’t know a great deal about SAFe.

Still his summary is:

It is fair to say that this approach is the antithesis of the Kanban Method!

and also adds

I’m not impressed with the Kanban related material or its suggested usage in SAFe.

From his point of view

SAFe appears to collect together a number of techniques from software development processes from the 1990s and 2000s. It offers these as one large framework.

With that he seems to underestimate how many feedback cycles (learning & improving) during the last years finally resulted in what is now known as SAFe and he completely misses (from my perspective) the embedded Lean Product Development Principles (Donald Reinertsen) and the Lean Leadership foundation (part of the SAFe Lean Thinking House).

As you might have noticed I do not share the opinions of Ken Schwaber or David Anderson but I am happy to see that these two thought leaders finally found something they can agree on.

What are my thoughts on the Scaled Agile Framework?

SAFe is prescriptive – but it is just the start of your journey

From my own experience the implementation of SAFe is a quite challenging undertaking as SAFe seems to be a quite prescriptive framework with a lot of guidance and governance („Processes & Tools“) but still you have to have a deep understanding of the agile / lean foundations to implement (tailor, adapt) it in an organization specific way („People & Interactions“). I personally feel it is worth the effort because SAFe provides a proven framework with values, principles and best practices that address the common challenges you have to overcome when scaling agile and especially when scaling agile in a non green field environment. Having said that I believe it is key that you teach/establish real agile/lean thinking and learning cycles so the organization can further adapt and improve  („Kaizen“). Only with these Inspect & Adapt cycles „SAFe“ is going to work for your organization on the long run.

There are a lot more topics to discuss and to improve over time (your „SAFe Path“):
maus-lesend

  • how to find / optimize your agile release trains
  • how to do the portfolio planning in your context
  • how to optimize the demand management
  • how to prioritize in a scaled environment
  • what to do with the HIP sprint
  • when and how to release to production (the shorter the cycles the better)
  • how to facilitate & organize the inspect & adapt workshop for optimal group feedback
  • decide on which KPIs are really important for your company

Failing to see that this is the journey your organization needs to undertake will leave you stuck in the predefined default practices / processes / tool that you can find on the SAFe website. Keep in mind: Real agile-lean companies are always learning, adapting and improving.

Resistance as it is not Agile?

In companies that have existing Scrum teams I usually experience some resistance of agile practitioners as the team level loses some freedom of choice. Have a look at the role of the SAFe Product Owner for example, the need to have cadence AND synchronization or the need to commit to several sprint during the release planning event (sounds weird for most agile people who did not experience such an event before).

Global optimization required

Very often these people need to be trained to see the value of overall alignment and enterprise wide transparency (see SAFe Cove values). Single teams excelling in their own context _may_ sum up to a lot of local optima but (at the same time) may not be useful to reach a global (organization) optimization. Not understanding this is like not understanding how your company is creating value.

Role of Scrum in SAFe

Important to note is also that SAFe is not against Scrum but uses the principles of Scrum as a team process (perfect match for most teams in a SAFe environment) and Scrum as thinking model (guiding you how to organize and optimize your organization). However one could argue that it is not „Scrum.org Scrum“ as there are some adjustments made (as with most Scrum implementations „in the wild“) but still it shares the same spirit and goals, taking inspiration also from Donald Reinertsen’s Product Development Principles not only for developing products but also for improving the own processes.

What does really matter? It’s you!

While SAFe is about alignment, transparency, program execution and (code) quality it’s about how YOU are going to implement the ideas, principles and practices in YOUR environment. In the end it’s the implementation that matters: It’s you, your colleagues, your shared goals/values and the business value you produce.

SAFe Mindmap 0.5SAFe Mindmap 0.5

Passend zum Artikel in dem das Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) vorgestellt wird, habe ich eine einfache Mindmap mit den wichtigsten Elementen aus SAFe erstellt:

Die Mindmap wurde mit XMind erstellt und eine editierbare Version kann via xmind.net heruntergeladen werden.

Über Kommentare / Verbesserungsvorschläge freue ich mich.For the article (German only) about the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) I also created a simple mind map that consists of the most important elements of SAFe:

Scrum.org announces CIFScrum.org announces CIF

Kurzmitteilung

Finally the long awaited CIF (Continuous Improvement Framework) has been announced by Ken Schwaber / Scrum.org („Scale Scrum beyond your Team„).

A first overview has been made available to the public.

Time to cover CIF in our series about scaling Agile/Lean!Finally the long awaited CIF (Continuous Improvement Framework) has been announced by Ken Schwaber / Scrum.org („Scale Scrum beyond your Team„).

A first overview has been made available to the public.

Time to cover CIF in our series about scaling Agile/Lean!

Agile Tour Germany / SAFe Meetup Germany PicturesAgile Tour Germany / SAFe Meetup Germany Pictures

Galerie

Diese Galerie enthält 8 Fotos.

On November 22nd the first Agile Tour Germany was held in Stuttgart. Part of the event was a meet up of experts for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) which was discussed in several presentations and in an Open Space session. … Weiterlesen

SAFe Meetup at Agile Tour 2012 Germany

There are not that many experts for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) in Germany yet but it is becoming more and more popular. At the moment I am one of just two certified SAFe Program Consultants (SPC) in Germany. Together with other experts for SAFe we will meet at the Agile Tour in Stuttgart/Germany, November 22nd.

Part of the program for Agile Tour is a short introduction to the Scaled Agile Framework and Rally will demonstrate how their tools are supporting SAFe.

So in case you are interested in the Scaled Agile Framework you should not miss the opportunity to talk to the SAFe experts present at the Agile Tour.

There are also a lot of other highly interesting topics that are covered by the program and the best is: Its a real bargain! For only 50 EUR (which also includes food & drinks) you get a whole day of agile topics and the chance to network with agile experts and other agile adopters. Additionally there is a room for open space sessions where you might be able to put your topics on the agenda.

My advice: Don’t miss the chance and attend the first German Agile Tour event!

 

Please note: Most of the presentations will probably given in German.

A new new taskboard for product development

There are loads of blog posts covering topics on how to shape the perfect taskboard (Kanban/Scrumban/Scrum/Task-boards) for your agile team. My team tries to complete an ever changing project with less than twelve two-day sprints, which puts our regular board design to its limits. We tried to create a board that can actually accommodate our ever changing ideas (and solutions) and thereby created a completely different kind of taskboard.

This is how we did it:

Product Owner, UX experts and the development team sketched the components (and interactions, events, …) for a new feature onto a plain whiteboard and thereby drew the goal for the next iterations. By doing so the board even became part of the documentation as all UI elements are already displayed (and prioritized) as part of the daily work. This clearly increased the teams product focus and made the goal of the current super short iteration visible: Finish the component you are currently working on!

The current task for each developer is shown with his very own magnet. Our WIP-Limit at hand is one – so there is just one magnet per team member. Whenever a task (e.g. frontend-element) is finished the developer reviews it with another team member. If both agree, that it fulfills our definition of done (DoD) both just put a checkmark on it.
Things that are not sketchable on the board like profiling, backend-services or stylesheets have their bubbles outside the drawn userinterface.
As many other teams we also have technical dept. For bugs we have our very own fastlane bubble where bugs can be placed and the next free developer can start working on them.

On a board like this it is difficult to visualize the priority of work items. For that reason we scribbled the priority of the UI elements directly onto the front end elements. That leads to the drawback that one has to search the board when looking for the “next important” element, but this seems to be a small price to pay for such a taskboard.

By the way, since the task board has been designed and the elements have been visualized ,we were much more successful to identify further important improvements (to be addressed in the next 2 day iteration) while working on the elements.

At the moment we are very satisfied with the results we get – but we are still in the beginning of our project with only a few two-day sprints finished. We believe that there are still loads of opportunities to further improve the design of the taskboard and the way we are working with it.

Our “inspect and adapt” cycle has just started.

Agile Eastern Europe 2012

The last two years we (Stanislav and I) haven been at the Agile Eastern Europe conference in Kiev. We enjoyed the conference a lot (see summaries for  AgileEE 2010, AgileEE 2011) as we met fantastic peoples, had highly interesting discussions and I gave a lightening talk about the Definition of Ready (DoR).

Unfortunately we will not make it to the conference this year but we decided to join the info partnership program and therefore we will publish the latest announcements for AgileEE 2012 here in our blog.

Announcement:

AGILEEE 2012
Conference
AGILE LEAN
Preached & Practiced

6-7 October, 2012

Kiev, Ukraine

We have considered the last years’ experience. We have incorporated the past times’ success. We have practiced, preached and matured.

RESERVE YOUR SEAT!

Save $100 with the Regular price>>

SPEAKING LOUD

AGILEEE 2012 is speaking loud with four amazing keynotes in two days!

GO HIGH

Henrik Kniberg will challenge how far you can go. His talk, based on his book “Lean from the Trenches,” will present lessons learned from an enterprise-scale Lean and Agile transformation.

GO DEEP

Lyssa Adkins and Michael Spayd will take you through rich team coaching experiences with their paired and highly collaborative talk.

GO WILD

The Dude is back! David Hussman will perform live jazz on the keynote stage. You don’t have to believe it. Come and witness for yourself.

GO BIZ

Steve Keil: outstanding speaker, investor and teacher will fire your entrepreneurial spirit.