SAFe. Values and benefits

Every time you hear a discussion about the Agile delivery processes you also hear about principles and values. Part of these values can actually be seen as benefits gained when the framework implementation works, rather than something imposed from the beginning and forced from the outside.

Every time you hear a discussion about the Agile delivery processes you also hear about principles and values. Part of these values can actually be seen as benefits gained when the framework implementation works, rather than something imposed from the beginning and forced from the outside. A list of such benefits in SAFe can be:

Built-in quality

A concern supported by constant attention and investment in maintaining the sound technical foundation of the solution. Achieved with the implementation of the Continuous Delivery Pipeline. With investing real capacity into Technical Enablers. With the adoption of DevOps culture and XP practices like code quality, pair working, refactoring, TDD etc. All these are strongly highlighted and recommended in SAFe.

Lead times

Shortening the time between getting the request and delivering the implementation is deeply embedded in all the processes and practices for every SAFe layer. It is supported for example by the adoption of the built-in quality idea. By the constant prioritization of the work performed by PMs and POs. By the effort to improve continuously. By eliminating delays from the pipeline. The tools used, like the Kanban boards, the usage of agile metrics, the ceremonies, are helping a lot in achieving the best sustainable lead time for the organization.

Continuous flow

Having a working implementation of the Continuous Delivery Pipeline guarantees a predictable and constant flow of value reducing a lot of the pressure received from the customers in terms of scope and delivery dates. This flow is also constantly monitored and measured and any identified issues are being aggressively removed.

Optimum economic output

Defining and making available for everyone the framework for decision making and trying to decentralize most of the decisions, the process of continuous prioritization at all levels, from Epics to User Stories, makes sure that most of the times the economic result is the optimum one. The recommended prioritization technique is called WSJF (weighted shortest job first), which uses as its main determining factor the Cost of Delay as opposed to non-economic prioritization based on sunken costs, highest paid person, the loudest person or other irrelevant factors. A big change is the switch from traditional accounting to innovation accounting based on leading indicators which are looking into the future trying to predict the economic results of the innovations happening in the present in order to stay ahead of the competitors.

Transparency and alignment

The transparency of every relevant piece of information is completely supported in both directions, business to teams and backwards, by the mindset, practices and processes. Everything is being communicated openly, everything deserves to be challenged, and divergent opinions are encouraged for a better outcome. This ensures that first of all the direction, vision, roadmap and strategy are clear for everyone and there is no real excuse for people not to align to them.

Engagement and motivation

There are three key elements which contribute to people engagement and motivation when putting the financial factor aside:
  • Having a purpose supported by the idea of delivering value to customers and society in the end
  • Being able to become experts in their field supported by allowing emergent architecture, collaboratively designing the solution, being able to constantly innovate etc.
  • Being in control of their environment, being autonomous the team members all together define, build test and deploy. They are defining and committing to their plans, a lot of the decisions are decentralized allowing them to use the most relevant and fresh information to their best interest.

That is not to say that money is not a motivator but rather that they work in a different way than expected and should be paired with the previous three key aspects.

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Continuous improvement

This is achieved by the fact that at each level, starting from the individual team member up to the Large Solution and the Portfolio, everything follows the Deming cycle (Plan-Do-Check-Adjust). Every actionable item identified during the checking step should be prioritized in the corresponding backlog of each layer and implemented.

SAFe derives these principles and practices from Lean, Agile and System Thinking as the main bodies of knowledge, all three strongly emphasizing the same ideas of optimization, removing waste, constant learning etc. The focus on embracing and modelling the nine SAFe principles continuously drives the improvement of the overall system.

A step forward is taken by replacing Continuous improvement with Relentless improvement which means that the organization should live with a constant sense for danger driving them to anticipate the things that could go wrong in the future and act proactively rather than reactively in fixing them.

The formal ceremonies are also emphasizing and supporting a lot the idea of improvement. We can discuss for instance about the usual team Retrospective meetings but even more relevant are the Inspect&Adapt events where every single program member has the chance to contribute to the improvement of the overall train efficiency. The roles of the SM, RTE and STE (Solution Train Engineer) have a very strong component related to the improvement initiatives by using the built-in opportunities and tools.

At the level of the Portfolio, the LPM guides the entire system improvement initiatives in collaboration with a group of Agile experts called the Lean Agile Center of Excellence and the RTE and SM communities. For each layer SAFe recommends the presence of SAFe Consultants, people who will objectively help in driving a working implementation of the framework.

Related to the quality of the delivered products, the usage of metrics and tools for measuring or performing static and dynamic analysis of the implementation, will drive the efforts to keeping and improving it.

Interested in adopting SAFe in your organization? Check out our SAFe training portfolio.

Iulian Velea 
Technical Project Manager | Certified SAFe Program Consultant (SPC4)

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