Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Clearing up some simple SAFe misgivings

In this post, I will address a few misgivings that have been expressed towards SAFe.
As each of them is independent, this post is more of a patchwork collection than a coherent stream.

SAFe has a Hardening sprint

Point taken, "Hardening Sprints" are a bad idea. They stem from Waterfall thinking.
Hardening Sprints imply that the teams' Definition of Done doesn't really mean "Done" - and Hardening as a separate activity encourages shoving technical debt under the rug.

The designers of SAFe acknowledge that. SAFe4 has removed the concept of a "Hardening Sprint" and replaced it with "Release Any Time", i.e., a clear shift towards Continuous Delivery.

SAFe is "Agile flavor" for traditional managers

Many people have the concept that "Agile" is something that teams do, while existing management structures, philosophies and practices remain untouched.

Far from it! While SAFe acknowledges that existing traditional organizations have lines of management that can not simply be abolished overnight, there are massive differences:
  1. Setting: Teams do not work like in a traditional setting. The work of teams and managers no longer corresponds to traditional management.
  2. Responsibility: Teams are self-managed and autonomous. The responsibility of teams and managers shifts.
  3. Structure: Teams belong to the ART and work for the ART. They no longer belong to a line and work for projects. Gone are the days of capacity management, reporting and controlling.
  4. Leadership: SAFe emphasizes Servant leadership and proposes a leadership model that is incompatible with Command and Control.
  5. Mindset: SAFe acknowledges the Lean-Agile principles, which require everyone to rethink how they work.
Traditional managers need to un-learn their old role and learn a new role. While SAFe provides enough leeway for a transition, those who do embrace agility will become organizational impediments sooner or later.

SAFe is evil

Ha, that's a good one! Please, define "good" and "evil"?
SAFe is a Public Domain framework and all knowledge of SAFe is provided free-of-charge on the official website. Of course, scaledagile is a for-profit-company and is trying to earn money.
In that, scaledagile applies marketing and sales techniques with the purpose of inviting you to give SAFe a try.

As with any sale, it may be that your product does not fully match your expectations when you failed to inform yourself about the product before you unpacked it. And likewise, it may be that the product may be mishandled by those who fail to follow the instructions.

It's your own fault when you chose to be uninformed, as sufficient information is clearly available - including unpaid(!) neutral case studies from those who tried SAFe.
And it's also your own fault when you fail to get competent help during a SAFe transformation: There are enough competent experts out there.

How does that make SAFe evil?

SAFe isn't innovative

Tough shot.

Yes, to be honest, there are no innovative ideas in SAFe. On the contrary, SAFe observes what agile companies do in order to solve their own problems - then provides the most reliable concepts bundled into a framework.
Those concepts have already been tried, proven and validated on many occasions before they are accepted into the SAFe canon.

You can not buy "Innovation" and you can not have it forced on you. "Innovative" is something you need to be.
SAFe is a framework. A framework can help you with that - if you choose to use it for that purpose.

So, yes - SAFe isn't innovative. And it won't make you innovative either - unless you choose to be.

SAFe only collects things that we already have at our disposal

And that is also it's greatest strength. You're not going to find weird things in SAFe that haven't been tried and proven.
Dean Leffingwell quotes Bruce Lee, "Use only that which works - and take it from wherever you find it."

The notion that "We already have that at our disposal" is a good way of being non-helpful.
I have to think of that old dating joke: "Can I have your number?" - "It's in the telephone book." - "And your name?" - "Right next to it!"

It's good that the information is already there, especially since it means you have enough neutral third parties who will validate the concepts. yet, in the presence of near-infinite information, important things may be hidden in plain sight. SAFe makes them visible and tangible.

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