SAFe or UnSAFe ?

To be SAFe or UnSAFe ?


I would like to start with a simple metaphor of growing apples. Apples grow well in North and other cold regions, as the soil is sustainable to nurture the growth of apples at scale.  No matter how hard one tries to grow apples by trying to simulate the soil in other regions, the apples may grow for short while, but it is not sustainable in the long run, the benefits would be temporary.


Similarly, there are lot of factors that enable SAFe adoption at Scale. There are few factors in the organization ecosystem if not pruned properly; the organizations cannot sustain the SAFe adoption. The key is to understand where SAFe can be used and where it is not worth spending the time and effort.


It is SAFe when It is UnSAFe when
Organizations have lean agile patterns Organizations have anti agile patterns
Frequent and regular heartbeats across the organization that enables co-ordination and navigation beyond software development. Teams and Business units work in silos and prefer more isolation and have throw-over-the-wall kind of behaviours
Synchronization and alignment across cross functions and departments including Sales, Marketing, HR, Accounting, Shared Services etc. No synchronization and alignment across various cross functions and departments.
Have strong product management competencies across various levels The product management competency is somewhat shaky.
Suits for large product development organizations that are part of a big product portfolio. Small independent products being developed by couple of teams.
Governance in terms of visibility and budgeting may be needed right from portfolio level to team level. Governance across the levels is questionable.
Nature of work should be software product development or enhancements. Nature of work include customer support or maintenance where in work inflow and outflow cannot be really controlled
Executive Management must be willing to make structural changes to accommodate SAFe roles (for example: Enterprise architecture is a first class citizen in SAFe) No executive commitment
Executive Management must be willing to invest in infrastructure that supports rapid software development like continuous integration, automation, continuous deployment There is no major investment planned for rapid software development


Examples of Lean Agile patterns are Self-Managing and organizing teams, decentralized decision making, continuous flow of value to customer, agile estimating and planning, light weight business cases, quality conscious, minimizing waste, executive management buy-in and support.

Examples of anti-agile patterns are command and control, centralized decision making, work break down structures, cross functional silos, big upfront project funding, centralized annual planning, PMBOK process assets, waterfall milestones

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