Making Scrum SAFe®

January 24, 2014 — Posted by Al Shalloway

There are several flavors of Scrum – from Classic Scrum to Scrumban. The differences are not just with what practices are followed, but by the mindset underneath them.  I will mention some mindset shifts of SAFe Scrum that are different from Classic Scrum:

  • SAFe is based on Lean-Thinking
  • Management is considered to be just as committed to getting results as the teams are
  • Scrum teams must be cross-functional, self-organizing teams, but must work within the context of the bigger picture created by the program (what’s being delivered across the teams doing the work)
  • Although software development has both complex and chaotic aspects to it, there are both rules of development that one must be aware of (Lean Product Development flow) as well as patterns of success and challenge that one can take advantage of
  • ‘Respecting people’ means more than trusting them. It means acknowledging the tribal nature of people and how they respond to change

My own experience is that most executives, managers and even practitioners agree with this mindset.  Within this mindset, there are several main practices that SAFe requires to be effective:

Scrum Practices Required by SAFe® not Typically Part of Classic Scrum:

  • Include management – they are essential to help make the structural changes needed to be effective at scale
  • Align sprints with the other teams in the release train – not doing this will increase thrashing and waste
  • Manage work in process – too much WIP causes delays and extra work
  • Use test-first methods – both ATDD and TDD are critical in order to be effective
  • Do continuous integration

Scrum Practices Required by SAFe® and Typically Endorsed by Classic Scrum

  • Have the definition of done include all code having automatic tests
  • Collective ownership of code – helps avoid having one person be a serious blocker

Scrum Practices Suggested to Be More Effective Not Endorsed by Classic Scrum:

  • Scrum teams must make their workflow visible – not just what’s being work on but how it is being worked on.  This enables other teams to see how to better work with each other
  • Make your workflow policies explicit – this greatly speeds up team learning
  • Pair 20-80% of the time

I would like to point out that whether you are doing SAFe or not, SAFe Scrum will make your Scrum teams more effective. 

If you are about to undertake a SAFe transition and getting your Scrum training from a non-SAFe partner, I strongly suggest you contact us or your SAFe provider.  SAFe Scrum is not always delivered by Scrum training companies that are not SAFe partners - especially those who have a different mindset than SAFe requires. 

Al Shalloway
CEO, Net Objectives
SAFe Gold Partner

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About the author | Al Shalloway

Al Shalloway is the founder and CEO of Net Objectives. With over 40 years of experience, Alan is an industry thought leader in Lean, Kanban, product portfolio management, SAFe, Scrum and agile design.


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