A SAFe Dialogue

I want to write a few words about SAFe. It’s been a hot topic but, now, it’s on fire.

When I returned from SAFe class, there were definitely pieces about it which gave me cause for concern. Mostly, they were around points made in the training and how they would manifest in the hands of someone who was not experienced to an inexperienced audience. For example, there was guidance on a Scrum Master ratio of 1:4 (teams). The ratio may be possible when you have teams who are high-performing but, not at all appropriate for new teams starting out. Anyway, following my training, I worked with my first Release Train and the experience was powerful. Watching the teams come together to collaborate with their Product Management, Leadership and other Services there to work with them and ensure the “tracks” stayed clear was, frankly, a sight to behold.

There’s a risk of any framework not working well and it’s not the framework that makes it risky. It’s people. People make frameworks and processes work. The buying of any framework is also risky because of people salespeople. The person selling SAFe has an obligation to represent more than just the framework. SAFe is Agile at scale which means there are cultural and tactical elements. To get the results organizations want they must pay attention to and work on both.

I don’t believe Dean Leffingwell set out to take people out of the equation or diminish Agile in any way. I don’t believe he has executed the launch and adoption of SAFe to take focus away from the people either. Possibly, there could be language added in the abstracts to speak more to the culture or people aspects but, the consultants who are out there training it have roots in Agile and I trust in them to maintain, teach and strike the right balance. I also trust in them to recognize that frameworks are guidelines and there’s no on-size-fits-all implementation. Just as with the implementation of Scrum, there’s give and take at first and work continues to get as close as possible within the constraints that exist….until they don’t any longer.

I would rather some c-level person see the SAFe framework and give Agile a go than not. I’m also glad there are people out there who are courageous enough to post their thoughts in order to get a constructive dialogue going. Also, can’t we all just get along while having constructive disagreements?


Originally posted on Valerie’s personal blog Agile Yammering

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About Valerie Santillo

Valerie Santillo is a Senior Agile Coach and Trainer with Davisbase Consulting. She has over fifteen years experience the Financial Services industry working across multiple lines of business including Core Banking, Digital, Mobile and Card Marketing and Servicing. Other areas include Operations, Product Strategy and Development and Project Management. She has successfully coached delivery teams at varying maturity levels to be high performing Agile teams. She has designed and delivered training to support Agile transformation for all levels of an organization. Valerie also has extensive experience scaling Agile and coaching at the management and executive levels to enable organizations to realize the full benefits of Agile. Valerie is passionate about people and creating environments for them to be successful. Valerie is Scaled Agile Framework Program Consultant (SPC), Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP) Certified Scrum Master (CSM) certifications.

3 thoughts on “A SAFe Dialogue

  1. Pingback: A SAFe Dialogue | I can explain it to you, but ...

  2. Hi Valerie, Great piece on SAFe, especially given some of the heated debate (ok, flame wars) that have been going around lately. SAFEe is a good option for scaling up for the enterprise (also interested in Enterprise Scrum too) and you’re right that Dean (inter alia) is not anti-agile, not trying to hamstring us with process over people … the way I see it, a little ‘ceremony’ often helps to get people over the line, and the ceremonies for development teams are not necessarily the ones that will work with C-suite executives. My only request is to keep them small and light-touch. I think SAFe does that OK.

  3. Thanks, David. I think SAFe is a good option as well with the caveat of paying attention to the culture as well. Unfortunately, the big picture doesn’t address that aspect of agile adoption and scaling but, really, how could it? I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

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