Effective SAFe at the small and mid-scale with Flow
Net Objectives has been doing Agile at scale for over a decade. When SAFe first came out we became contributors and partners because we thought it would raise awareness of what was needed to do do Agile across an organization. While Essential (program-level) SAFe has been effective, we hve seen the levels above it get both more complicated and confusing with each release. Much of this has been do to SAFe’s pattern of using terms in a capricious and inconsistent manner while not attending to Flow-thinking.
This also had the effect of making SAFe’s Leading and Implementing SAFe training to be inappropriate for people from small to mid-sized companies or business units. In 2018 we therefore decided not to offer SAFe training because we feel it is overpriced and ineffective. However, we still support SAFe organizations by doing training and consulting in Lean Portfolio and Product Management, Team Agility, Acceptance Test-Driven Development and architecture at Scale.
We also have created a way to integrate our FLEX system’s Lean Portfolio and Product Management System into SAFe. This enables people who are using SAFe at the program level to expand SAFe to all areas of the value stream but without the complexity and confusion SAFe’s higher levels create.
Although we don't use SAFe's training materials, we do offer several courses for those doing SAFe. Please visit the SAFe training page for options.
If you are considering doing SAFe or are using it already and are having troubles getting the higher levels to work effectively, we’d be happy to do a free consult for you.
To learn more about our Lean Portfolio and Product Management approach you can read these chapters from Al Shalloway's upcoming book, Going Beyond Lean and Agile: Introducing FLEX – FLow for Enterprise Transformation.
There are two ways to use FLEX to both enhance and simplify SAFe. One entails focusing on replacing SAFe’s levels above the program level with FLEX’s Strategic Planning and Lean Portfolio Management and with FLEX’s Lean Product Management. Using MBIs (and when appropriate MVPs and MVRs) greatly simplifies the entire process of identifying, sizing and sequencing the work to be achieved. And it creates greater visibility on why its important which helps create greater alignment.
The second approach is introduce the concepts of flow into the program level. The method for doing that will be on put on the Net Objectives portal at a later time.
Consider the flow of FLEX shown in this figure.
The similarities between FLEX and SAFe, when represented as a value stream, is not coincidental. Since SAFe's program level is effective and FLEX's Lean Portfolio and Product Management is better than SAFe's, combining the two creates a better model than SAFe alone.Most people who are having success with SAFe are mostly using SAFe at the program level. This part of SAFe can work reasonably well although it still has longer range planning than needed. But, if you are having success with it, there is no reason to change it out. Simply overlay FLEX’s portfolio and product management methods on top of SAFe’s program level.