Fail SAFe

Last week I went to a presentation about Scaled Agile Framework – SAFe. I’ve read a bit about it before, but this was a more broad introduction to the topic.

It’s going to be a success.

When I talk about why scrum succeeded in crossing the chasms from developer world to business world, the main reason I see is that it dropped the developer jargon and talked in business language. SAFe goes the extra mile, and totally talking the business language.

But it’s done what scrum never done: it offer ALL the answers.

SAFe is detailed. Very detailed. It got details on all the needed roles, all processes, how to role it out, all specified and quantified. It got all the information up front, before you even ask. You can get all the information in the site.

Answers are good, seems everyone’s looking for them these days. And SAFe not only has them, it makes sense too. All the pieces fit together, it’s a combination of tried and true rules and processes.

You know why? Because we live in a complex world, where we don’t know all the answers. And we’re ready to pay anyone who can help us.

SAFe is the first methodological framework to tie all team, project and program information into a whole organization solution. And being first is going to probably why it will stick around for the next few years.

There’s just one thing.

Snake Oil Alert

The presentation was in the context of the Lean-Kanban group, you’d expect the audience to be a pretty agile group. Most of the questions were “How do we do X in SAFe”. While these were honest questions, I couldn’t help notice this weird thing: The agile crowd focused on “processes and tools”. Isn’t the whole point of agile dealing with an ever changing reality, where prescribed recipes don’t work? 13 years after the agile manifesto, 20 years of practice, you’d guess people actually get the picture, at least this bunch.

And nobody wonders how in a this very short time of actual agile practice we now have all the answers. And that the complexity of life can now be reduced to a couple of ceremonies.

Reality is winning. We’re confounded and continue to look for answers.

The more desperate we are for answers, we’ll gladly believe the truth is out there. And that a few consultants have that knowledge and are happy to download it to us, and give us certificates that prove that we now know.

Most people still believe in the silver bullet. It’s a safe bet (pun intended) that SAFe looks the part.

In a few years, in the post-SAFe era, when people start questioning the holes left in the process, there’ll be another solution. Which we’ll gladly by into.

Agile is not declining. We’re simply riding a sine wave.

2 comments on “Fail SAFe”

  1. Scott Reply

    As with any “methodological Framework” the knowing comes in the doing not the training. I have been “doing SAFe” for nearly 5 years and have seen countless successes of actual, fully aligned and continuously evolving and committed teams, programs and enterprise portfolios delivering higher quality and faster than before. It woke up “stuck” organizations and ended many longtime silos & towers. SAFe, provides answers but not new ones–as you say, it brought it to everyone all at once and in business language. No tricks or consultant slight of hand. Just a codified set of existing success patterns. Perfect for all scenarios? Of course not, what is? Scrum? Kanban? Why two ways, why not just one? I’m not a fan of only SAFe–any conversation that gets you ahead of your competitors and improves employee satisfaction is a good move forward. I just happened to have seen a lot of good & self-sustaining forward progress. Don’t expect a silver bullet–SAFe says right up front that it’s not that. Just in case this sounds like I’m defending SAFe; I’m not–I’m promoting it. Cheers.

  2. karthikashree Reply

    Finding the time and actual effort to create a superb article like this is great thing. I’ll learn many new stuff right here! Good luck for the next post buddy..

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