Rakesh Singh sharing SAFe Implementation Challenges – Discuss Agile

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Rakesh Singh sharing SAFe Implementation Challenges


Organizations with a long history of shipping software products transitioning from current waterfall-like world to comprehensive agile development methodology was like wondering into big forest without a map or a guide. The term waterfall-like is used to highlight that in absence of a well defined process framework, they first adapted their teams to work in sprints, so only the implementation phase, or coding phase was agile-like and rest continued as it was before. The outcome was difficulty in scaling up and no significant business benefit.

Since last two years, arrival of SAFe on the scene was a great motivation as one comprehensive process framework that suited large software product development teams to move to complete agile methodology. But still the challenge was managing the transition, particularly decision on which process to stop and the ones to change.  Against this background, the idea of Lean Agile Maturity Assessment was evolved to empower the team to become a truly self managed team and help management to find a transition roadmap that was more predictable. Using one of the SAFe Essential asset, team agility assessment questionnaire, teams were engaged in a coaching conversation lasting two hours and then administering the questionnaire. The idea of coaching conversations was to let two external experts help all team members relate the concept of lean agile world to their day-to-day engineering practices. This made team be more aware of their pain points and also align with the goals set by their managers.

Once the survey questionnaire was administered, the experts also had a better understaning of the situation the team was in and provide them with additional insight or address their blind spots. Often the team manager found some useful insights from this exercise. Once all the analysis inputs were in, team had a half-day workshop to review the goal, current gaps and come out with action plan that they believe will help them the most. The fact that they were allowed to choose their action items was a motivating fact in itself. Finally the workshop ended with prioritized improvement actions and owners for the action from within the team. The key takeaways from assessment methodology were :

  • This was an enabler and not a finger pointing tool and this made all the difference towards acceptance.
  • Team decided their improvement actions which ensured good practices were not discontinued.
  • SAFe questionnaire was useful in presenting a broad picture and identify high level gaps.
  • Managers had to articulate their expectation more precisely so team could understand and align their actions.
  • This tool was also seen to be a start point for a coach to initiate the engagement, the result being an improvement backlog.

The success of this method comes from the fact that it was extended to DevOps assessment later and simplicity of approach was biggest strength.

By Rakesh Singh

Founder Circularlogic and SAFe Program Consultant (4.6)

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