Strangled by SAFe?

In some cases SAFe will strangle the agility of your organisation. To ensure a “non-strangling” implementation we sought inspiration from LEGO, Arla and BEC to learn from their successes and failures with SAFe. This combined with our own experience gave the following attention points:

  • SAFe encourages “top-down” break down of Epics, Features and Enablers. We want to activate and involve teams and product owners.
  • PI Planning seeks to uncover dependencies and create joint forecasts to be updated when executing
  • WSJF (weighted shortest job first) is used for “sanity checks” and not the sole source of priority
  • DevOps responsibility (development, maintenance and product responsibility) stays with the team
  • No cross-team normalisation of story points
  • Technical upgrades are facilitated by the System Architect
  • Retrospective and feedback sessions on all levels

We started our ambitious plan for Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) earlier this summer. The initial setup was 10 teams that all develop solutions to the same customer value stream. In addition we have a range of stakeholders on different levels and the total programme consists of 150 persons.

After the first couple of months we can now demonstrate positive trends as a result of the hard work before, during and after the PI Planning event. We follow up on key performance indicators that all originate in the impediments that we try to solve:

  • We know the other teams in the program and have an overview of their products
  • We know the vision and “big why”
  • We know our dependencies and consequences of delays
  • We know the how we contribute to the customer value stream
  • We talk to relevant team, management and business owners
  • We focus on iteration planning (short term) and forecasts
  • We talk to IT and business architects
  • We know which elements of our work adds business value

The positive trends are confirmed by periodically asking teams, management, business, etc. to rate the current state on a scale from 1-5. This doesn’t automatically declare our implementation a success, however, we have not yet failed …

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