Essentials of the Scaled Agile Framework

Posted by Keith McMillan

August 18, 2016 | Leave a Comment

One of the troubling things to me about the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) was it’s increasing tendency towards an all-encompassing view of “the things you could do.” It had begun in my mind at least to resemble the Rational Unified Process (RUP) from years ago, even down to the interactive website nature of the SAFe website. The problem with RUP wasn’t that it was wrong or bad, it was that it was a complete toolbox, and required that you select the tools that were required to do your job. In many environments that resulted in oversized process, particularly in environments where teams were afraid of being blamed for failure, and for getting blamed for not doing something that in hindsight might have saved the otherwise doomed project.

One of the brilliant things that Scrum did was to keep the process minimal. Rather than try to create a tool for every type of need that might arise, Scrum instead takes the approach of specifying a minimal set of practices, and does not dabble in what else may be required. This extends to militantly refusing to extend Scrum with additional ceremonies. “We know your project will need more than this to be successful, but we don’t know what else it needs, so we will leave you to determine that on your own.”

With this context, you might apprehend why I was so happy to see SAFe put forward a minimal set of practices that are needed to use SAFe, which they are calling “Essential SAFe.” It’s very encouraging to me that there’s a renewed focus on what’s minimally required to “be SAFe,” and it can’t help but clear up confusion on the part of new adoptees when they try to make heads or tails of what’s really needed, and what they can let go of (at least for now).

Time will tell if people attempting to use SAFe will fall into the same trap of “using every tool in the box” in order to avoid real or perceived risk of failure, but Essential SAFe is a useful tool in keeping your eye on the minimal set of practices and roles required to implement the process.

In closing, to paraphrase Sgt. Esterhaus, “Hey! Let’s be SAFe out there…”


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