Constructively (rather than Destructively) Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
Brad Barton, Mark Ferraro, and I recently published Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) — after repeatedly witnessing the ongoing “excessive suffering” of many people and organizations confronting the challenge of achieving greater Agility at scale, particularly with the SAFe (among other approaches). And while there is a more-general Dual-Track Value Co-Creation metaphor or pattern — which includes Strategy, Discovery, Delivery, and Infrastructure — for achieving scalability (and Agility at Scale), this book focuses on the SAFe (again, among other approaches).
While Scaled Agile, the organization behind the SAFe, readily acknowledges that the “SAFe does not implement itself and indeed makes no attempt to describe the significant organizational change management, cultural impacts, implementation strategies, and training and services provisioning that are typically required for successful implementation” and only offers brief “recommendations for implementation,” far too many practitioners are seemingly overlooking this acknowledgement and are using the “recommendations” as the way to “implement” the SAFe, which can be very “destructive”!
Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) offers an approach — with roots in decades of practice across many industry domains — for adopting, scaling, and sustaining Agility using the SAFe along with other approaches in Waterfall, Agile, and “mixed” enterprises.
Furthermore the “pure” or non-SAFe approach is known as Conscious Agility, and this brief book could have been easily named Conscious Agility for the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)!
Additionally, the image of a maze on the cover of the book really emphasizes that the SAFe can be a bit of a “maze” to navigate and a bit of a “maze” to adopt and sustain — “with all due respect” — as one can get lost in a “maze” or hit a dead-end!!!
The intent of this brief book is not to answer all the possible questions or provide all the possible guidance, but to address some questions as well as establish the context (via the change journey) for addressing other questions and leveraging other guidance in a more “healthy” or “constructive” and less “toxic” or “destructive” manner. If you have specific questions you’d like us to address, don’t hesitate to reach us via LinkedIn or About.Me.
Not only does Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) offer a means for adopting, scaling, and sustaining Agility with the SAFe, but it also offers the ability to integrate aspects from any approach (from those already mentioned among others) together while explicitly recognizing and appreciating the nuances of the context in which adopting, scaling, and sustaining is to occur.
Most attempts to achieve greater Agility fail because of being exclusive to one approach, ignoring contextual nuances, or fundamentally overlooking the “human element” throughout the change journey.
Our approach’s uniqueness in being agnostic and embracing an all-inclusive viewpoint while integrating relevant perspectives yet keeping the “human element” paramount makes it only that much more essential for successfully adopting, scaling, and sustaining Agility.
Again, there is no need to “excessively suffer” — there is a more “healthy” or “constructive” and less “toxic” or “destructive” change journey possible!
After having received many queries inviting my thoughts on the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) . . . (read more)
I love Robin Williams! Not merely for what he did as an artist (actor, comedian, etc.), but for the quintessential truth he endlessly echoed in everything he did — We are Alive! He fully embraced the mystery called life through caring, being aware, expressing appreciation (for the bad, the good, the happy, the sad, etc.), being so intuitive and improvising in every situation, …, so free!
Reminded of David Foster Wallace…
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.
And as Robin Williams struggled with his own daemons — as much as we each struggle with our own daemons — he and his whole life were cathartic to/for others…
You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.
Thank You dear Soul for reminding us each of our own little “spark”!
What will your verse be?
Seize the day!
Real lose… love somethign more than you love yourself!
When did you know? … I don’t regret…
His wife, Susan Schneider…
This morning, I lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken. On behalf of Robin’s family, we are asking for privacy during our time of profound grief. As he is remembered, it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin’s death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.
The White House…
Robin Williams was an airman, a doctor, a genie, a nanny, a president, a professor, a bangarang Peter Pan, and everything in between. But he was one of a kind. He arrived in our lives as an alien – but he ended up touching every element of the human spirit. He made us laugh. He made us cry. He gave his immeasurable talent freely and generously to those who needed it most – from our troops stationed abroad to the marginalized on our own streets. The Obama family offers our condolences to Robin’s family, his friends, and everyone who found their voice and their verse thanks to Robin Williams.
Throughout our individual journeys, we encounter many people whose contributions readily go unnoticed. I’ve had the privilege of working with Peter Simon whose Ownership Pyramid is definitely worth exploring. Herein are a few questions that Peter addressed…
What is the Ownership Pyramid?
The Ownership Pyramid is the result of an attempt to address a bigger socio-economic problem that has become apparent over the past 10 to 15 years. Whether it’s big government or big business, the end result has always been a stripping of an individual’s ability to own. As we enter a new age of politics and economics, the importance and understanding of ownership has been lost and needs to be restored. The Ownership Pyramid is a framework to guide people in understanding how to achieve and maintain ownership, without abusing its power.
What is the purpose of the Ownership Pyramid?
The Ownership Pyramid stemmed from my experiences in technology Project Management, where I experienced and was actually trained to collaborate with multiple application users and developers to gather requirements, but speak to each group separately, while trying to communicate a clear picture of what each group needed.
Looking back, project managers should have been called magicians, because after taking pieces of information from each group without anyone actually speaking directly to each other, it was expected that 6 months later, a product working to perfection was to magically appear. The only real magic performed was making project budgets disappear and changing project status colors from green to red. Presto! After pulling a rabbit out the hat during one too many stakeholder meetings, I felt it was time for a change in how the whole process works.
I wasn’t aware of Agile development or Agility at the time, but when I was first introduced to the Agile values, principles, practices, and frameworks, I embraced them and never looked back. Agility involves many paradigm shifts from the traditional model, but the one that stood out for me was the concept of the Product Owner (in Scrum, or Customer in Extreme Programming).
As a Libertarian, it hit me hard, and I became somewhat obsessed with the concept of ownership in general. Over time and through personal experiences, I realized how little ownership actually exists in society. Did the level of ownership change over time? How can ownership be measured within a society?
These were difficult questions to answer, but I thought that a fundamental framework could be valuable to guide a person in understanding ownership, maintaining ownership, and assessing whether ownership has been achieved or even existed. And that’s when the Ownership Pyramid concept was born. The Ownership Pyramid allows an individual to take steps to achieve greater ownership, assess their level of ownership, and practice actual ownership; with the widespread purpose of promoting and realizing humanities strengths through the process of achieving ownership.
What are the guiding organizing principles (how are the concepts organized)?
The Ownership Pyramid is structured to provide the steps for achieving ownership. Each building block of the pyramid is in an input/output relationship; meaning that the inputs in a particular level result in the outputs in the subsequent higher level. I tried to keep the structure as simple as possible, yet streamline it into a story with a continuous purpose and goal, the process doesn’t end when you reach Self-Assessment, rather it is only beginning.
The base of the pyramid is crucial, I place great importance on Respect and Forgiveness. Without these inputs, the entire pyramid eventually collapses as ownership is lost. To begin, understanding of the human spirit, nature, and potential is critical in progressing towards achieving ownership. Next is setting a course and absorbing enough information to begin formulating processes to produce the desired output. Finally the resulting product is created and continuously perfected using self-assessment techniques. The Self-Assessment is the final and most important step; if one can be strong enough to assess themselves as a human being they are able to discern value from cost and lead in a direction that is best for them and others impacted by their process, product and actions.
The Ownership Pyramid can be thought of as a base process that can spawn processes within processes, all seeking the same resulting goal. For example, the pyramid can be used to solve a problem, then used to create the concept for a product, then be used to develop the product — all while fostering ownership.
There’s an intersection point in the pyramid as well. Where the People come together, so do each of their pyramids. When each of the people effectively utilizes the pyramid, a masterful team emerges; at times we are fortunate enough to witness this achievement in sports, business, and relationships.
How do you use the Ownership Pyramid (in practice)?
The Ownership Pyramid can be used in a variety of industries. My expertise is in product delivery, specifically software applications. Because these types of delivery processes are highly dependent on the level of ownership within a team, I use the Ownership Pyramid as a means to assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and each individual’s sense of ownership relating to the overall goals of the team. For example, if the team members lack respect for each other, there are most certainly larger obstacles waiting around the corner.
Why “Ownership” not “Leadership” (especially when there is some much being talked about and done around leadership today)?
I’m really glad you asked this question. I personally believe that today’s concept of leadership is a dangerous mindset to promote. The idea that there are born leaders has been repeated to us for so many years now, its almost embedded in our DNA that their are those among us that will lead and all others must follow. When people are expecting a leader to be named, it can lead to a lack of commitment from the “followers” and a sense of hopelessness in having control over one’s destiny.
In too many circumstances, today’s definition of Leadership negates the concept of ownership; you don’t have to look far to see where ownerless leaders have taken over industries and governments. A leader lacking ownership can be identified when witnessing people using leadership as a control grab for their own benefit, at the expense of the group as a whole; when a corporate or government policy causes harm to the masses, and no one is held responsible.
Many of the today’s concepts regarding leadership reside under the pyramid. A leader lacking ownership is an enforcer, the leader achieving ownership is a coach, a promoter, a mentor. I do believe we are all leaders in our own way, and the Ownership Pyramid thrives on this underlying concept. Some lead quietly, while others are able to reign in a crowd through public speaking. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, so its important as leaders to recognize that we are human, and because of that we all have human potential. I believe the characteristics of a leader will evolve from someone who dictates and enforces to someone who looks to help all people realize fulfillment and leadership through ownership.
This can be applied to a parent and child relationship, to a teacher and student relationship. Again, where the People intersect, if ownership has been achieved by all members of the team, then everyone on the team is a leader of their respective role and responsibility. And they in turn can coach others in their respective fields to understand and practice the steps to attain ownership.
Another way to conceptualize the ownership-leadership relationship, is by perceiving the pyramid as an engine, with one of the many outputs being Leadership; unfortunately today, the engine behind leadership is missing in today’s leadership concept.
An important tangent to leadership is Identity. Identity, like leadership, is also an output of the pyramid, and in many instances is missing from today’s leader. Foundational steps (respect and forgiveness) lead to direction, focus, effort, knowledge which involve responsibilities being combined among People and their roles; culminating to reach Identity. Each step in the pyramid, along with iterations through the pyramid, ultimately leads one closer to understanding their Identity; and at the intersection among People, one’s identity becomes clearly visible. Combining a sense of Identity with Leadership ultimately results in a true understanding of Ownership, and that will allow for Self-Assessment to be incorporated into one’s daily process, enabling that person to maximize their agility and human potential. Committing to practicing the principles of the Ownership Pyramid is the beginning of a journey, a journey worth taking.
Reminded of Piet Hein’s The Road to Wisdom?
The road to wisdom? — Well, it’s plain and simple to express: Err and err and err again but less and less and less.
In 2009, we encountered “Agility Schmagility,” (Julian Keith Loren @jkloren) which inspired clarifying our approach to agility (Agility Distilled). Now, in 2014, we again encounter “Agile Schmagile,” (Tweet this!) (Nassim N. Taleb @nntaleb per Elinor Slomba @artsint via a tweet) which likewise inspires clarifying our approach to agility and even more-so antifragility (Conscious Agility with @brad_barton and @mark4ro — and Anti-fragility Distilled coming soon!) — Antifragile / Antifragility is a post-agile / post-agility concpet. The road goes on and we may contribute . . . http://twitter.com/artsint/status/464010573584162817
As many organizations continue to confront the challenges of achieving greater agility (Agility Model and Manifesto for Agility) at scale in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, various options have emerged (and are gaining recognition), including:
- Scott Ambler’s Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD)
- Craig Larman’s and Bass Vodde’s Large Scale Scrum (LeSS)
- Dean Leffingwell’s Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) (SAFe 3.0)
- Ken Schwaber’s Agility Path
- Jeff Sutherland’s ScrumPLoP (“Scrum at Scale”)
While each of these approaches advances a particular world view, they don’t particularly provide a means for adopting, scaling, and sustaining agility.
Conscious Agility — which emerges from Conscious Capitalism, Business Agility, and Antifragility with experience fully rooted in decades of practice across many industry domains — is a design-thinking approach for business ecosystems that integrates awareness with intuition, orientation, and improvisation so that individuals and collectives may benefit from uncertainty, disorder, and the unknown.
Conscious Agility intentionally uses the concept of a fresh Canvas, a description of reality that reflects how stakeholder work together (are being and doing) within an ecosystem. Each Conscious Agility initiative begins with a fresh canvas which:
- First gains shape, perspective, and breadth (for example, as a sketch);
- Then contrast and depth (for example, shading the sketch); and
- Finally detail and focus (for example, texturing the shaded sketch).
And within a Conscious Agility initiative, the contents of these approaches (SAFe, DAD, LeSS, etc.) may be appropriately used to evolve the canvas.
See Conscious Agility: A Brief Introduction for more information.
Conscious Agility for . . .
Alternatively, Conscious Agility could be used more explicitly while focusing on one of these approaches (SAFe, DAD, LeSS, etc.) — Conscious Agility for SAFe (CA-SAFe) or Conscious Agility for DAD (CA-DAD) or Conscious Agility for Lethe approaches (SS (CA-LeSS) — while offering a proven options for adopting, scaling, and sustaining agility.
For example, SAFe clearly acknowledges that “SAFe does note implement itself and indeed makes no attempt to describe the significant organizational change management, cultural impacts, implementation strategies, and training and services provisioning that are typically required for successful implementation” but offers brief “recommendations for implementation,” Conscious Agility or Conscious Agility for SAFe (CA-SAFe) would fill this void and guide an implementation team in exploring the various elements from the Team, Program, and Portfolio levels that might be implemented as well as consider the significant organizational change management, cultural impacts, implementation strategies, etc. required for successful implementation.
Keeping the “Human Element” Paramount
Additionally, not only does Conscious Agility offer a means for adopting, scaling, and sustaining agility, but it also offers the ability to
- Integrate aspects from any of the above approaches (among others) together
- Explicitly recognize and appreciate the nuances of the context in which adopting, scaling, and sustaining is to occur.
And Conscious Agility’s uniqueness in being agnostic and embracing an all-inclusive viewpoint, integrating relevant perspectives yet keeping the “human element” paramount, makes it only that much more essential for successfully adopting, scaling, and sustaining agility.