SAFe is a marathon, not a sprint, and it can sometimes be fairly challenging, so who better to provide some tips than Dean Leffingwell, the creator of the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®).

Here are seven tips I learned from the recent AgileLIVE Webinar on “Scaling Agile Faster, Easier, Smarter with SAFe and VersionOne.”

In addition, there were more questions than we had time to answer during the live event. I’ve attached the Q&A here.

7 Tips We Learned about SAFe from Dean Leffingwell

1) We need a new approach, one that harnesses the power of lean and agile and applies to the needs of those building complex applications and systems.

The Agile Manifesto was developed for small teams, but it also applies really well to organizations that have scaled horizontally rather than vertically. There is an entire body of work on lean now, with dozens of books written by Don Reinertsen, Michael Kennedy, Alan Ward and others that are great books, but they’re mostly ethereal principles, not practice-based. When I think about SAFe, I think about codifying the things we’ve learned and turning those principles into practices.

2) This cannot be a bottoms-up movement that falls on the deaf ears of leaders and managers.

Management owns the system and is responsible for changing it. Lean and SAFe are leadership approaches. That’s an important statement about where the responsibility lies.

3) One of our bedrocks is the house of Lean. The house of Lean transcends the team. It’s a value system that’s very broad and has value at the top. It has pillars and it has leadership.

The SAFe Value System is drawn as a house for a reason. Value is most easily stated as achieving the sustainably shortest lead time with best quality and value to people and society. How do you make that work? One of the pillars is ”respect for people and culture.” We must understand that a change to an enterprise is a change to culture and a change to people.

4) Product development flow is a key part of what we described, as well as how to avoid the stop, start, stop, start, milestone, stop, post-milestone, start activity to deliver value continually.

Innovation: we have a brand new body of work from the lean startup community furthering relentless improvement, or the Kaizen mindset. Kaizen is a change word; it’s a word designed to get people’s attention and make them ask, “You say you are continuously improving, but are you relentless in that improvement? Tell me one problem you’re working on right now and tell me what tools you’re using to solve the problem.”

5) At the enterprise-level we’re literally scaling agile across the enterprise. We need leadership. It’s not optional.

The foundation of agile development is agile teams. We’re scaling agile, so we can’t treat the leaders as impediments or just pretend as though we taught the software development teams to speak Chinese and we didn’t bother to teach the leaders. That’s not going to scale.

6) If you’re talking about enterprise-level problems, you must apply systems thinking.

Optimizing a part does not optimize the whole. Only when you optimize the whole do you get the optimum result. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles. That’s the PDCA loop of Walter Shewhart and W. Edwards Deming; that’s what an iteration is.

7) We want the measures to be meaningful.

SAFe is focused on milestones that are based on objective evaluation of working systems. Measurements that help visualize, limit WIP, reduce batch size and manage queue lengths are the basic tenets of flow. A long queue of work means you’re slow and a long queue of committed work means that you’re predictably slow. Shorten the queue and you’re going to get faster. You don’t have to just cut code faster to get results faster; you just need to manage the queue.

Conclusion

I hope you found these tips as beneficial. As I said in the beginning, SAFe is a marathon, not a sprint. If you find yourself in a bind, don’t stress; someone has probably encountered a similar challenge and can provide a few helpful tips.

Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

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Join the Discussion

    • Ashley

      Excellent post, I especially love #6 “If you’re talking about enterprise-level problems, you must apply systems thinking.”

      Thanks for sharing!

      -Ashley

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