Why I like Scrum but don't ignore SAFe...

Last post 06:47 am November 12, 2017
by chenny h
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06:47 am November 12, 2017

I was responding to a question by MJ in another forum, and the response has turned into an informal article. I do want to listen to others about what they think and hence created a new thread

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While I truly admire the lightweight Scrum, I won't ignore SAFe just because it comes from RUP gang (aka not the sigantories of Agile Manifesto).

As someone who helps different teams that apply Scrum only and some apply SAFe, I wanted to say something from the ground:

1. What is not good about SAFe?

 - Money mindedness is definitely there. SAFe implementation starts with 'Training for All.' Only SPCs / SPCT can train others. For SPC, you need to spend min of $3000. And then you have to pay $800+ / annum (yes, that is correct!) for renewal. 'Training for All' requires each one applying for SA / SP / SSM with their own 'money' and 'annual renewal requirements.

- It scales to a normal portfolio of a company. But If the company is more complex, for example- many company wide cross functional initiatives / not so much product oriented, SAFe gets clumsy. I have seen DAD working well there.

- Variety of roles that can be misused by the hierarchy management. It is not possible in Scrum because Scrum has clearly defined rules around required roles. SAFe DOES NOT MAKE IT CLEAR ANYWHERE what are mandatory rules.Though not intended that way, I have seen existing managers insert customized roles in each layer. Same customization goes for the artifacts too.

2. What is good about SAFe?

- SAFe heavily leverages good principles from Lean (mostly from 'principles of product development flow'). For example, FLOW is a big concept that is not explicit in Scrum.

- SAFe is able to correlate to existing enterprise way of working and help the transformation team to identify the sweet spots to start the SAFe transformation. Along the way, SAFe touches upon typical functions of enterprises such as Finance, HR, Legacl, etc. in an effort to guide them. Scrum is still resonating as a 'from scratch' garage teams. No serious guidelines have evolved in Scrum circles about applying that to existing enterprises.

3. Innovation and Planning iteration

Contrary to many explanations in this thread, IP iteration is a break away from 'doing the work' to 'finding ways to improve the way of working - a larger 'action-oriented' retrospective.' Though originally intended as 'Hardening' iteration - it was also named that way HIP iteration - IP iteration is welcome window for the team to try hackathons, innovations to bring in automations, tools, improvements that are 'paid'. 

One of my teams takes this time to create technical prototypes to communicate about their business ideas (in most cases, they know the problems better), present them to product VP and get them funded for next planning cycle. It addresses two of the problems that I see with Scrum:

 - A tangible activity by design to bring up the team's bottom up intelligence

 - The possibility of Scrum Teams ending up creating only incremental improvements (IP iteration has better chance of disruptive innovation)

4. BOTTOM LINE is

- we can't ignore SAFe. It has some good things. As Scrum community we should be open to explore before shutting it down. 

- However, I strongly hate the money making attitude of SAFe group and their consultants. When you talk to some of the SAFe consultants, it sounds like they are in a 'cult.' 

5. Here is a way to learn SAFe without paying for expensive training

- A super quality short book on SAFe is Get SAFe Now (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M1GI80M). This is pretty neat alternative to the training most of which are slides to death.

- After the book, you can explore the content in the scaled agile framework website.

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Chenny