The Why, What and How of SAFe

Part 2 of 3 - The What? of SAFe

Scaled Agile CEO, SAFe Founder and Chief Methodologist Dean Leffingwell tells us that SAFe "is a freely revealed online knowledge base of proven, integrated success patterns for implementing Lean-Agile development at enterprise scale". Whilst SAFe is targeted at software and systems engineering initiatives it can (and is) applicable to non IT centric change initiatives.

SAFe is a big “enterprise” level framework. The reason why it’s a big framework is that it applies a systems thinking/view to address issues and provide solutions for any company including larger enterprises. SAFe covers practices from team (think 4-9 person Agile teams) to program and portfolio levels of organizations. SAFe houses a number of principles, practices and techniques and promotes certain behaviors all proven to drive success in a lean and nimble manner whilst simultaneously building enterprise agility and “adaptive capacity”. Essentially, SAFe enables both a performance and learning cycle.

For a succinct video summarizing SAFe in 5 minutes, please see here. We’ll cover the full gambit of SAFe in various articles on this site and, of course, we get into full details via our series of 2-Day accredited training courses and preparing/launching "Trains" in real-world enterprises, but here, we focus on the Must Have aspects of what SAFe is.

In terms of fundamentals or Must Have aspects of SAFe, two are clear.

1. Clear lines of content authority and decision making

Looking at the big picture, the left side points to content authority and decentralized (effective, timely, empowered) decision making. Yes, it remains essential to have key people performing the right roles that have appropriate and clear decision authority within a proven decision making framework! Of course, we fully recognize that many enterprises don't have this fully mastered. Leveraging the proven models in SAFe would fast-track any desire to better define RACI's or other Role Accountability Matrix (RAM) models and decision making frameworks.

Remember, SAFe assumes variability and seeks to preserve options so its role and decision making paradigm accommodates the various situational contexts affecting organizations at various stages of both the solution delivery and company level evolutionary lifecycles. SAFe's clear lines of content authority and decision making enables things to move more quickly, as decisions can be made by the right (qualified) people at the right time (early).

SAFe enables an integrated web of empowered decisions makers throughout the enterprise from those charged with strategy, portfolio selection and management and financial governance, through release, program, technical authorities and team delivery centric roles. And due to its iterative and cyclical nature (plan, do, check, adjust), all essential roles within your company get to practice frequently this model/decision criteria so it quickly become a) effective and b) baked-in to the management operating rhythm and the organizational culture.

2. Cadence & Synchronization

The second fundamental element of SAFe is the lean concept of Cadence and Synchronization. SAFe is based on an operating rhythm to ensure that assets, resources etc. are progressing incrementally. It uses cadence to make things that can be routine, routine such as planning, inspection, integration points. This frees up the intellectual capacity of key delivery/change personnel for truly unique challenges and opportunities. SAFe uses synchronization (from daily stand ups, to 2 weekly iteration review and ten week program increment level activities) to bring everything (and everyone) together, get partner and customer feedback (fast and frequent) and inspect, adapt and relentlessly improve both the process and resultant outcomes – ultimately measured in terms of business value realized.

Applying these two aspects alone to your enterprise could drive fundamental improvements in productivity, time to market, quality and the engagement of your personnel and could prove a great foundation for leveraging other relevant aspects of SAFe in your business.

Want to find out more about SAFe and how it and the proven results it delivers can be adopted quickly to drive a predictable delivery/change capability for you and your organization? Experience it in person with our pragmatic 2-Day Leading SAFe course.

Want to understand more about the Why and How of SAFe? Take a look at the other two posts from this series here

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