There are two types of people in this world: Those who love SAFe and those who do not. What makes the difference? SAFe is designed to successfully implement Agile in companies that are much too large to lose all basis of structure completely. Implementing this type of radical change across thousands of employees can present its challenges.
1. Using SAFe as a one-size-fits-all solution
SAFe is designed to provide a template, but too many organizations use this as a one-size-fits-all approach instead of adjusting the template to fit their business. SAFe is supposed to be customized to fit each organization and to be successful it must be combined with context, environment, and flexibility.
2. Forgetting the Agile Manifesto
If you attempt to implement SAFe without the overarching methodology of the Agile Manifesto, you’re losing the battle before you begin. SAFe does value processes and tools more than the Agile Manifesto, but that is only for convenience purposes, not intended to conflict with the values and principles of Agile. It is designed to be used in conjunction with and consistently alongside Agile principles.
3. Using a Top-Down Approach
There is always a danger when SAFe is interpreted as a top-down solution to support traditional management thinking. When implemented correctly, SAFe is designed to force changes that rival traditional thinking, and start the Agile journey. True agility starts from bottom up, within smaller teams, all practicing true Agile. The structure provided through SAFe is not meant to maintain the traditional top-down approach, but only to act as a guideline for implementing “true” Agile through the work of smaller groups.
4. Limiting SAFe to Technical Product Development
For most organizations, using SAFe for Technical Product Development is the easy part. But there is more to it than that. The number of people involved in each project and process is much greater than IT. The true benefits lie with implementation from end-to-end across the whole organization. This is where the true benefits of SAFe are realized.
5. Taking It All On
Without understanding the advantages of every piece of SAFe, it can be easy for senior management to adopt every part of the process on their own, including team work, program work, “business epics,” “technical epics,” and a host of other requirements. All those extra pieces can add complexity to the organization, which runs counter to the original goals of agile adoption.
6. Team Comparison
Lastly, the purpose of teams in SAFe is to create independent and flexible working units, each adopting the Agile framework how it works best within the team. However, when metrics, planning, productivity, and delivery is compared between teams, it can create unnecessary conflict, a loss of control, and prevents teams from really owning their processes and progress.
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