What I really think about SAFe

I keep repeating myself – more so since the announcements of the latest edition of SAFe – so let me put it here for the record. It’s based on previous comments on Twitter, LinkedIn, and elsewhere; nothing I haven’t said before, but not all in one place.

My concerns (I do have them) are entirely around implementation, but SAFe is by no means unique in that regard. It’s one on a long list of things for which how you approach it matters way, way more than the thing itself.

See SAFe as 1) a curriculum 2) a demonstration of how things can fit together: fine, whatever, if that floats your boat. That much should be clear from chapter 4 (the scaling chapter) of Right to Left. Some aspects I praise, the principles most of all, and I suggest ways to start from there.

See SAFe as a realisation of patterns such as iterated self-organisation around goals, you’re on pretty good foundations. Credit where credit is due, I found in my researches for the book that SAFe makes this more explicit than any of its rivals, at least when it comes to descriptions easily accessible to outsiders (and I didn’t stop there).

See SAFe as a solution to be implemented: you are courting disaster. Implementing something as big as this with any kind of determination leads almost inevitably to imposition, and that’s the way to destroy collaboration, self-organisation, problem-solving, and innovation. Why would you do that?

This problem is not specific to SAFe, and it’s the driver behind engagement models such as Agendashift (mine), OpenSpace Agility (Mezick et al); moreover it’s a big enough problem that we actively cooperate, not compete.

The sad truth is that mainstream Agile acts like the last two decades of organisation development never existed. If the impact weren’t so serious, it would be laughable. It’s certainly embarrassing, shameful even. SAFe must take its share of responsibility for that, but it is by no means alone.

There. I said it. Arguing about the relative merits of the framework becomes a way of dancing around that most crucial point. So don’t ask me to endorse or condemn it; I just won’t. But don’t think I don’t care…


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One thought on “What I really think about SAFe

  1. Hi Mike
    I was a sceptic as well but it has a lot to do with the attitude of leadership towards the roll-out rather than the framework itself.
    Have you seen SAFe5 announcement though. Many reasons to have a go have been addressed in one way or another. I love the fact that they called out Leadership, business agility and learning organisation.
    V5 is not an increment. It is a major step. We’ll see how they follow through with elements that are not quite as binary as process, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. I may go on an SPC next year actually!
    I might also run a session on the topic in January in the form of a debate with various speakers.
    See you soon
    p

    From: Agendashift
    Reply to: Agendashift
    Date: Wednesday, 9 October 2019 at 11:27
    To: Philippe Guenet
    Subject: [New post] What I really think about SAFe

    Mike Burrows posted: “I keep repeating myself – more so since the announcements of the latest edition of SAFe – so let me put it here for the record. It’s based on previous comments on Twitter, LinkedIn, and elsewhere; nothing I haven’t said before, but not all in one place. “

    Like

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