SAFe Snapshot: Moving Organizations Forward


Posted in: Agile Transformation, Digital, News

By: David Hiatt

BCforward’s thought leaders on the Digital Strategies and Innovation team are excited to share with our readers this series on SAFe for Leaders.  Over the next several weeks we’re going to share blogs of real-life experiences from our team of SAFe Program Consultants (SPC’s) leading up to our panel discussion of thought leaders bringing their perspectives on the SAFe journey to a virtual stage.

The value proposition for Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) warrants a full review in a workshop or session with a SAFe Program Consultant (SPC). The core competencies and values need a deep dive to fully harness the value of lean-agile at scale. That said, highlighting a few things about SAFe that are central to how and why teams succeed may be helpful.  

Let’s zoom in on a few things for a quick snapshot of meaningful ways SAFe propels organizations forward. To do so, consider the challenges large companies often face. Almost always, we find ourselves wanting to do better with orchestration, alignment, and problem-solving. SAFe addresses these things directly. Inherently, SAFe is built for these needs. Review the examples below. These are common challenges organizations grapple with. For each, consider how SAFe hits those challenges head-on.

Problems Coordinating

  • The Problem: We’ve supported agile transformation efforts, but we don’t see a cohesive and predictable way of working across our groups. The benefits of agile development are offset by disjointed coordination across teams and poorly managed integrations. We are struggling and wondering if our agile roadmap should be scrapped.
  • The Solution: SAFe Cadence and Synchronization. Straight from SAFe principles, “Cadence is a rhythmic pattern of events that provides the steady heartbeat of the development process. It makes routine everything that can be routine, so developers can focus on managing the variable part of solution development. Synchronization allows multiple solution perspectives to be understood, resolved, and integrated at the same time.” Without a common understanding of a cadence and how to integrate, coordination and orchestration efforts across agile teams will likely fail. SAFe transformation helps us organize around value, with clear ways to define teams and their iteration schedules. The Agile Release Train is established to ensure the cadence and synchronization needed. This is a fundamental part of the framework, and without it, a feeling of disorder and disarray can be pervasive.

Off-Target Improvement

  • The Problem: We have initiatives to improve efficiency. We have improved our productivity in some areas. However, we’re not moving forward as much as we should because we’re not working on the right things. Making the wrong products and features faster is not helping us.
  • The Solution: SAFe PI Objectives. A Program Increment (PI) is planned and executed to objectives that are formed and confirmed by leaders who know the real priorities. This is not an optional part of a SAFe transformation. In PI planning, teams build plans to meet the objectives. Throughout the program increment, there is ongoing alignment on prioritized work to support the objectives. The regular cadence of PI planning means that objectives are set and confirmed on a relatively near-term basis. In short, PI planning ensures teams will focus on, and deliver, the right things. 

Frustration Points

  • The Problem: There’s an undercurrent of frustration with some systemic issues in our processes but we don’t seem to impact them. We don’t even show commitment to dealing with some of them. How many times have we been told our projects were delayed or compromised because of a particular trouble spot with a partner, hand-off, or integration, and why do we continue to experience the same pain points instead of addressing them?
  • The Solution: SAFe Inspect and Adapt Problem Solving Workshops. The regular cadence of reviewing incremental development with demonstrations of our workforces and our teams to surface issues where they occur. Often these are dealt with directly and solved as soon as possible. If more systemic, they reach a regular Inspect and Adapt problem-solving session facilitated by the Release Train Engineer of the SAFe Agile Release train. Because of the transparency built into the way we develop and deliver, and the set schedule for problem-solving, facing the hard questions is mandatory. To be clear, SAFe doesn’t mean there will be no challenges. It will, however, surface issues sooner and position our teams to act. The outcome of the problem-solving workshop must be actionable items that reach the backlog. These are then addressed intentionally in the upcoming program increment.

With SAFe, the real work gets the focus. The alignment and execution model within the framework takes much of the fragmented coordination and communication out of the equation. Teams thrive with predictability in the way they work, and organizations benefit from delivery consistently. The agile journey isn’t easy, but a SAFe transformation positions organizations to move forward in meaningful ways.

Join us on Wednesday, May 26 at 2 pm EST to continue the conversation and learn more about “SAFe Transformation for Executives”. Click the button below to register!