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. Anway, 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 one-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?