Scaling agility is currently on the horizon for many organizations, and global enterprises are slowly recognizing its immense potential and benefits. Aspiring to achieve these benefits is a strategic move for forward-thinking enterprises. However, changing existing operating models entails a risk and must be properly prepared and moderated. This article provides recommendations on how to succeed in scaling agility with the SAFe framework.
“SAFe” to Say – It Is Not an Easy Undertaking!
The Scaled Agile Framework, short: SAFe, is a framework to implement scaled agility, and currently the world´s leading framework for business agility. With multiple SAFe extension stages it allows scaling agility across teams, business units or even the entire company. SAFe introduces new roles, responsibilities, ways of collaboration, competencies and values which constitute a substantial change for most companies.
Anyone who has not gathered at least a medium amount of knowledge in an agile context can quickly become overwhelmed by the recommended changes. This can be especially the case if companies are under time pressure and do not allow for proper preparation and implementation of the transformation. In these cases, SAFe is doomed to fail right from the start.
However, if done right, organizations will quickly reap the benefits from the change. That is why we explain how to get SAFe right from the start, sharing from years of experience.
With the Right Approach, It Is Sure to Work!
We condensed our experience from real-live transformations into seven tips to lead your SAFe transformation a success:
1. Follow the SAFe implementation roadmap
The basis of all SAFe transformations is the official SAFe implementation roadmap, the path to success. It is built on years of experience and has continuously been refined based on feedback of its applicants. The implementation roadmap entails milestones and clear criteria for every step of the way, which are contributing to the overall goal. While it is tempting to adapt the roadmap for a custom approach, it can be risky to stray from the SAFe roadmap as experience shows that every single step is important for the successful rollout of SAFe. SAFe Practice Consultants will help you to stay on track.
2. Establish a LACE Team as THE transformation driving force
An internal Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) is an indispensable part of the transformation. Its members are change agents, SAFe Practice Consultants, and selected functional experts, who provide expertise in agile topics and are driven by an intrinsic motivation to make SAFe a success.
The responsibility of the LACE Team is to facilitate the transformation and to implement the SAFe lean-agile approach effectively. They are guided by a comprehensive transformation backlog, provide coaching to leadership roles, and foster a lean-agile learning culture. Thus, the LACE team combines the roles of transformation engine and central hub for SAFe expertise.
3. Ensure early team design and role nomination
With change might come stress for employees or even resistance, especially if the transformation process lacks in transparency and clarity. Achieve psychological safety through an early definition of a future team design. This is done via a series of value stream identification workshops. Supported by the LACE team, c the results and ensure role nomination / recruitment in a timely manner. Drive fast onboarding, active participation, and involvement of the role owners along the remaining transformation roadmap to achieve high commitment by key stakeholders.
4. Put strong focus on communication & enablement
SAFe transformations can be quite complex and overwhelming for employees. Communication and enablement are key to counteract this. When planning related change activities, you should include management roles, internal and external customers next the obvious target groups like the agile teams or agile release train roles. All stakeholders require proper information of the “as-is” and their role in the “to-be”. Regular sounding boards, communities or Q&A sessions are just three simple examples that help ensure communication flow.
5. Focus on processes to pave the way for day-to-day collaboration
While the SAFe framework provides role descriptions, principles, and recurring practices to consider in daily SAFe execution, it does not supply explicit processes. For example, SAFe does not provide a clear process on how to streamline the processes from initial customer demand to execution. To be more specific: the “who is responsible” is clear, but there is no guidance on the “how to” of exploring, analyzing, defining, and implementing products and services on a day-to-day basis.
Same applies to budgeting processes or the involvement of external service providers, to name just a few. Bridging these gaps requires SAFe expertise to define the company specific processes.
6. Conduct dry run and pre-PI planning prior to the first PI planning event
There are two meetings not considered in SAFe that we still highly recommend. For optimal preparation of key roles for the first PI planning event, schedule a dry run to focus on the PI planning agenda, methods and tools that are used during the event. Onboard the key roles and ensure that they act as change agent and knowledgeable persons in course of the PI planning event. Furthermore, ensure that there is sufficient and mature input for the PI planning. Schedule a pre-PI planning event with Business Owners, Product Management, System Architect and Product Owners to align on relevant business and enabler features. Detail the features and ensure that they are prioritized according to WSJF and meet the Definition of Ready.
7. Provide platforms for best possible collaboration right from the start.
Establishing effective collaboration within an Agile Release Train (ART) requires a combination of practices, the right culture and supporting tools. Established tools include:
- JIRA—to capture and track SAFe artifacts like epics, features, and user stories,
- MIRO alongside Microsoft Teams—facilitates virtual collaboration, and sparks creativity for design thinking and brainstorming,
- Agile Hive — tool example to manage dependencies
- PULSESHIFT—the perfect transformation analytics solution to track your agile success based on relevant metrics.
Proactively assessing the necessary tools, checking licenses and handling provisioning, ensures that teams are well-equipped for seamless collaboration.
SAFe undeniably brings substantial benefits to organizations. It is crucial though to acknowledge that its successful implementation requires meticulous preparations. The challenges can be legion, from understanding the diverse information and training needs of various stakeholders, to navigating the complexities of agile transformations.
At CAMELOT, we understand that every organization’s journey is unique. The provided insights can help to prepare the first steps of your agile transformation.
If you have any questions or need further guidance, feel free to reach out. Together, we pave the way for your organization’s agile success.