Proving the value of SAFe

SAFe case studies, representing a wide range of enterprises including financial services, software, retail, telecom, healthcare, and government, offer compelling results around common pain points such as:

  • Faster time-to-market
  • Improved employee morale
  • Better quality
  • Increased productivity

Many organizations have succeeded by starting with a single Agile Release Train (ART) then leveraging those results to expand SAFe into the Program and Portfolio Levels. Once the first ART is launched, change agents often invite other leaders to participate in or witness a Program Increment (PI) Planning event to help spread the word. Seeing a PI Planning event in person visibly demonstrates the power of this different way of working. If needed, Scaled Agile, Inc. can facilitate an interaction between your leaders and another organization about to launch an ART to set up a viewing.

For Certified SAFe® 4 Program Consultants (SPCs), the SAFe Executive Workshop Toolkit provides an interactive approach to helping upper management reach the SAFe tipping point and take the next step in a SAFe implementation. The toolkit provides a flexible set of slides and exercises that demonstrates how key concepts of the Scaled Agile Framework help address common development challenges, highlights the benefits that others have achieved, and helps executives determine whether SAFe is the right choice.

The results are worth it!

True Lean leaders continually look for ways to improve the system, be more efficient, and stay ahead of the competition. The resources mentioned in the preceding paragraphs can help Lean leaders see the benefits of SAFe. Change is hard, but it can be done

if SAFe already has some internal traction, inviting leaders to learn and socialize with others in a Leading SAFe class can introduce them to SAFe and help them realize that others are facing the same challenges.

How to reach the tipping point

Changing the way of working—the ingrained habits and culture of a large development organization—is hard. Many enterprises report that implementing the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) was one of the toughest, and simultaneously most rewarding, change initiatives that they had ever experienced.

The need for fundamental change has an interesting way of affecting people that often results in resistance. When you add the forces of inertia seen in large enterprises steeped in legacy behavior, there must be an exceptionally convincing reason to make such a change. A reason so compelling that the status quo becomes simply unacceptable. A reason so inescapable that change becomes the only reasonable path to future success.

In other words, the enterprise must reach its ‘tipping point’—the point at which the overriding organizational imperative is to achieve the change, rather than resist it.

Find the need for change

We’ve observed two primary reasons that cause an organization to tip to SAFe:

A burning platform

Sometimes the need to change a product or service is obvious. The company is failing to compete, and the existing way of doing business is obviously inadequate to achieve a new solution within a survivable time frame. Jobs are at stake. This is the easier case for change. While there will always be those who are resistant, they are likely to be swamped by the wave of energy that drives mandatory change through the organization.

Proactive leadership

In the absence of a burning platform, leadership must drive change proactively by taking a stand for a better, future state. Some simply exhibit a constant paranoia about the existing state (“a constant sense of danger” in Toyota). This case may well be the harder challenge, as the people in the trenches may not see or feel the sense of urgency necessary to do the hard work that comes with change. After all, they are successful now, why should they assume they won’t continue to be successful in the future? Isn’t change risky? In this case, senior leadership must constantly impress the need for change on all, making it clear that maintaining the status quo is simply unacceptable.

Take an Economic View

Whether reactive or proactive, the primary reason to drive change in an organization is to realize the business and personal benefits that it’s intended to deliver. SAFe Principle #1 reminds us to always “Take an Economic View.” In this context, leaders should articulate the goal of the change in terms everyone can understand. Dozens of case studies show that enterprises can expect to see gains in efficiency, quality, productivity, employee satisfaction, and more.

Establish the vision for change

In any case, there must be a compelling reason for the change, and a vision to go along with it. The vision for change serves three primary purposes:

  • It clarifies the purpose and direction for the change and sets the mission for all to follow. It avoids the myriad of confusing potential details and focuses everyone on the why, not the how, of the change.
  • It starts to move people in the right direction. After all, change is hard, and pain is inevitable, especially in the early going. People’s jobs will change. The vision helps motivate people by giving them a compelling reason to make the change. Perhaps most importantly, it underlines that there is really no job security in the status quo.
  • It helps start the coordinated action necessary to assure that hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of people work together toward a new—and more personally rewarding—goal. With clarity of vision, people are empowered to take the detailed actions necessary to achieve the vision, without the constant need for management supervision or check in.

Kotter notes that establishing a “vision for change” is a primary responsibility of leadership in a change situation.

The importance of training

Our philosophy is simple: the responsibility for Lean-Agile adoption and success lies with the enterprise’s existing managers, leaders, and executives. Such a responsibility cannot be delegated to the Agile Center for Excellence (ACE), development teams, or outside consultants. To achieve Lean-Agile adoption, leaders must be trained in these new and innovative ways of thinking and operating.

SAFe® Agilists exhibit the following characteristics:

  • They are trained in Lean and Agile principles and base their day-to-day decisions on this long-term philosophy
  • They develop people, and their people develop solutions
  • They understand and teach Lean and Agile behaviors
  • They are trained in the practices and tools of continuous improvement and teach employees problem-solving and corrective action skills
  • They are hands-on in the new process, and they take personal responsibility for Lean-Agile success

One source of such training is the course Leading the Lean-Agile Enterprise with the Scaled Agile Framework® (Leading SAFe®), delivered by certified consultants or trainers in open enrollment or on-site settings.

Each course is designed to help individuals maximize the value of their role within a SAFe organization, and to help them advance throughout their career as they practice, consult, or train others in SAFe. The result is higher-quality implementations, and greater stability for the organization.