SAFe From a Value Stream Perspective

This section of the portal is for supporting the Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant Workshop (DAVSC), currently under development. Discussions on the pages here will take place on the Disciplined Agile LinkedIn group.

Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant Workshop

The 4 Levels of SAFe

There are four levels of the Scaled Agile Framework.  Each one builds on the next. The higher levels are to deal with the greater complexity of larger organizations.   However, it ends up either leaving essential parts of the value stream out for organizations that don’t adopt the higher levels and adds unecessary complexity for those that do. These issues will be discussed in another topic. This topic provides a way of looking at the SAFe framework from a value stream perspective.  By ‘value stream‘ we mean Lean’s definition of it, not SAFe’s repurposing of it.

From the Scaled Agile Framework big picture:

  • Essential SAFe is the most basic configuration of the framework and it provides the minimal elements necessary to be successful with SAFe.
  • Large Solution SAFe is for enterprises that are building large and complex solutions, which do not require the constructs of the portfolio level.
  • Portfolio Portfolio SAFe provides portfolio strategy and investment funding, Agile portfolio operations, and Lean governance.
  • Full SAFe represents the most comprehensive configuration. It supports building large, integrated solutions that typically require hundreds of people or more to develop and maintain.

Looking at SAFe from a Value Stream Perspective

SAFe’s big picture focuses on roles, practices and artifacts. Many have difficulty seeing the workflow SAFe is espousing. Figure 1 depicts SAFe as a value stream. It highlights the flow of work to make it easier to see how the different SAFe levels interact.

Figure 1: SAFe represented as a value stream.

Most people find it is easier to see the intentions of the roles, artifacts and practices in SAFe when it is viewed from this value stream perspective.  The value stream perspective also provides a holistic view that Essential SAFe does not.  This can often be used to improve the value stream.  This shift from levels to the value stream will be used to provide a simpler set of practices for SAFe, particularly in portfolio and product management, that are also more effective.

Instructor Notes

How SAFe’s redefinition of a value stream obscures the insights they can provide

There is a difference between the flow of work (value stream) & the people through which it flows (ARTs). SAFe obscures this distinction by referring to value streams as “long-lived” when they really mean the grouping of people who work on them.

What we want is groups of people focused on the different value streams of a product. FLEX calls these groups dedicated product groups (DPGs). For very large products a DPG may be composed of sub-teams that work on separate product enhancements.  Ideally the value streams within a DPG only interact to ensure high quality (e.g., architecture issues). Other interactions often result in constraints, delays and extra work.

When new work is undertaken in SAFe that requires multiple ARTs, it is important to recognize that this new work has its own value stream and that some people are now involved in multiple value streams. Thinking about this new stream as a combination of two separate value streams (as SAFe does) obscures the need to look at the new value stream directly in order to eliminate constraints and delays in it.

The techniques for improving value streams are related, but distinct from the techniques used to lower dependencies between them.