SAFe. Vision and Strategy.
So let’s say we are a company of some hundreds of people, having a portfolio of products we are providing to a steady base of customers. The financial results seem stable and there is currently no obvious sign that the situation might go wrong. The question is, if you were part of the people with enough decision power, would you change anything?
Opposed to the situation where the company finds itself on a “burning platform” with a major crisis under development or one that just ended, where the decision to change things, or rather everything, is an easy one. In the situation I described earlier, the decision is quite hard to take and to sell. In both cases we can consider that the company finds itself at a tipping point. In the first situation, in order to understand why there is a need for a transformation, some of the questions such an organization should consider could be:
- Can we generate more growth?
- Can we maintain our competitive advantage?
- How can we become even better?
- Do we know who our future customers are?
- How will the market change?
- How do we need to adapt to future needs?
- Do we have a strategy to reach this future state?
- Do we have a vision to summarize it all?
- Are we all aligned in this direction?
- Do we know who is in charge of this transformation and how to approach it?
The first three of these questions are not specific to Agile or SAFe in particular. The short answer is that, when the Agile mindset and processes are understood and adopted completely it will generate more value, translate into better results with better quality in a shorter period of time with lower costs. This leads to more satisfied customers and shareholders while keeping the engagement and morale of the employees at a high level.
You might ask yourselves: “Wow, can this really happen in reality?”. And the answer is yes, the data coming from the real world implementations shows that this really works. For instance you can check the Collabnet VersionOne 13th Annual State of Agile Report for more details.
Best practices in adopting an Agile mindset
However there are a number of important ideas to consider in more detail:
- First of all the transformation needs to be complete meaning that the whole organization should be impacted by it and not just small pockets or thin bottom layers
- There should be a continuous investment in this transformation sponsored by the most important stakeholders and decision makers. A “guiding coalition” needs to exist
- The desired end state of the transformation should be transparent and clear for everyone in the company, stated in the vision and communicated properly
- Everyone should be empowered to engage and act in the transformation
- The approach should be pragmatic following the “Lean start-up cycle” ideas and practices, aiming initially for short term wins
- The improvements should be consolidated and new things should be learned from them in order to produce more change
- All new approaches should be anchored in the culture, practices, processes and tools at the level of the entire organization
- Continuous effort should be invested in sustaining and improving the new way of doing things
These key aspects are very well addressed and described in the SAFe implementation roadmap together with all the roles and resources a company can use to completely implement the transformation.
The rest of the questions related to the strategy and vision are answered as well. SAFe defines a specific group of people in charge of the Lean Portfolio Management functions and operations. This group first needs to identify and agree on what the strategic themes which define the context for the decision making process at the highest level of the organization are.
The framework also defines what are the processes and tools the LPM group can use to create, maintain, evolve and communicate the solution or the portfolio Vision as efficiently as possible. The Vision should be available at all the four layers of the SAFe configuration. It should not be just a nice sounding collection of terms, but rather inspiring and aspirational for the people to engage in achieving it. Equally important it should be realistic and achievable.
Interested in adopting SAFe in your organization? Check out our SAFe training portfolio.
Certified SAFe® Program Consultant (SPC4)