Shivram Venkat sharing SAFe Implementation Challenges – Discuss Agile

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Shivram Venkat sharing SAFe Implementation Challenges

It was an excellent gathering and a right platform to share the information on agile. In the meetup on  “Implementation of SAFe”,  I shared few points related to how the organization  where I was working,  did the transformation from traditional waterfall  methodology  to doing agile and then moved on to being agile and how organization created the readiness platform to move to the SAFe implementation.

Generally for any transformation, we do the current assessment where we stand, come up with goals of the transformation and the detailed roadmap on how to reach our goal. We started the transformation  to agile about 12 years back,  we did not spent  much time on assessment as we were starting from zero.   That was the time, we were working only on traditional methodology for project execution.  Transformation to agile culture was a big challenge as  cultural adaption needed at team level, at management level and at organization level. Major worry was,. How do we start?  We started  it with agile training. Practicing agile process was not a great deal, since organization had lots of managers  who were experts in CMM processes and managing projects by command & control techniques.  Managers could enforce the team to follow agile practices. Team strictly followed the agile ceremonies like  Daily standup, Planning Meetings, Retrospective, sprint demo.  We were into doing agile but not being agile.

Moving from Doing agile to Being agile: Team adapted to doing agile very fast just within couple of weeks because of agile training. The bad part was team learnt only about the agile practices but  not about the values and principles from the training.   This led to lots of anti-patterns like  blame game, conflicts, senior engineers/architects wanted to maintain the  higher status compare to their juniors,  No collaboration, No sharing…  However coaching/mentoring  played key role in building the team and agile culture in the organization.  Good part is management allowed good amount of time for attitude adjustment,  kept the team stable,  initiated hackathons,  center of excellence,  research-innovation drives  which promoted  sharing, enhanced technology skills, innovating thinking in carrying out day today activities and thereby creating the agile culture.

To break and move away from hierarchical organization structure to agility enterprise,  organization focused on building community culture which cut across all silos and power of position across the organization.  We initiated the weekly  stand up meetings to talk about key achievements at team/program level in the previous week and any impediments to be resolved, followed by sharing the information about the key  outcome of business meetings,  if any persons had interaction with partners or customers.  This created the alignment of delivery team with business and gradual involvement of delivery team in business discussions.  Similar weekly standup meeting were conducted at program and portfolio level to discuss on business, budgets, roadmaps, release status.  All these activities helped the organization to understand and  reinforce the business vision, product vision, transformation progress, adaption to the agility culture. Similarly  to align development team  to understand big picture from technology and architecture perspective,  architects and senior development team members used to meet on weekly basis to discuss the technical approaches/solutions  much ahead of  implementation of related features in sprints.

Moving to doing agile culture took two sprints (each sprint of two weeks duration), however moving to Being Agile culture took long time(couple of years)  and it is a continuous process. Organization building is like cultivating plant  by feeding water, manure and weeding out at regular intervals,  otherwise  unwanted weeds/organization anti patterns grows like a cancer.

By Shivaram Venkat

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