SAFe is a very practical approach to applying Agile in mid- to large-scale organizations. This is in large part because SAFe implements a number of practices derived from Lean, and that have proven effective in these larger organizations. This article describes how SAFe implements several of these practices.
SAFe is popular because it fills a need
SAFe has erupted on the software development scene not due to fabulous marketing as its detractors have claimed, but rather due to the fact that it addresses a need most practitioners in large organizations have intuitively felt and most in the Agile community has denied. The patience of those wanting to become more Agile has well worn thin. Being told they are “butters,” “shallow,” or “just not doing it right” has just added insult to injury.
SAFe is a manifestation of the Lean-Agile Framework. Understanding the relationship between these two helps understand why SAFe works and how to adapt it to your needs.
One framework, many practices
One challenge many organizations have with implementing SAFe is that while it is a framework, it has many practices embedded in it. It is often not easy to tell when the framework ends and the practices begin. The reason this is important to do is so you can make changes to the practices of SAFe as needed while not undermining the framework inadvertently.
Be clear that in reality, the Scaled Agile Framework and the Net Objectives Lean-Agile Framework were developed independently of each other. SAFe did not build itself on the LAF. One of the reasons that Net Objectives has become a gold partner with SAI regarding SAFe and has SPCs and SPCT’s is that we recognized how SAFe was consistent with the LAF and was therefore following the laws of Lean Thinking and the practices of Lean-Management and Lean-Culture. This meant that SAFe was not an arbitrary collection of practices that its inventor found useful, but was based on the reality of the laws of software development.
Common traits of Agile at Scale as found in SAFe
Note: As you are reading the following, you should also be looking at the Scaled Agile Framework big picture.
Let’s take each item in the set of principles discussed in the article What traits are common in Agile at mid-scale and above? and see how it is implemented in SAFe.
Take a realistic approach and recognize where you are. This includes addressing your ability to accept change, current state of technical debt, degree automated testing and degree of continuous integration. The fact that you should not need to take time to just run tests during the development cycle does not mean that one should preclude doing so if one can’t get everything integrated at the end of a sprint. SAFe is pragmatic here. Recognize that a transition is required from poor testing and/or integration practices to good ones. But the fact that one is making the transition does not mean it happens instantly.
A number of traits are common between organizations that have become successful at applying Agile to the mid- and larger-scales. SAFe follows these traits, as will any successful adoption of SAFe.