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The problem with scaled Agile and SAFe

In 2001 a bunch of well to do software developers got together at a Ski lodge to discuss a better way to develop software. The outcome is the Agile Manifesto, a constitution for a new way to build software. What followed was the Agile movement.

At the heart of the Agile movement is the idea that individuals and interactions are more important than processes and tools. Well, traditional program and portfolio management wanted in on the action. Fast forward to 2013 and along came SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework). SAFe is a descendent from RUP (Rational Unified Process). 

 

The idea is to take Agile, designed for teams, and scale it at the program and portfolio levels. Organizations are eating up the idea and flocking to SAFe training like sheep. 

Here’s the problem, remember that whole interactions and individuals being more important than process and tools thing? Well, in SAFe you are now introducing more processes and hierarchy. This goes against the core principles of Agile. Also, SAFe makes the software development process more complicated. 

Developers just want to sit with the customer, write code, and get feedback. Pretty simple right? Below is a picture of the SAFe process from ScaledAgileFramework.com. Could we make things more complicated? It looks like a map they’d give you to navigate DisneyLand.

 

 

 In my experience working on Agile projects, it’s hard enough to get teams to adopt an Agile mindset. It’s not the process or tools, it’s the collaboration, openness and way of thinking they struggle with. This is particularly true if they’re used to waterfall. 

Look, for companies that have high performing Agile teams (your Facebooks, Spotifys, etc) I’m sure there is value in SAFe. For most organizations, I suggest they put aside SAFe and instead focus on developing an Agile mindset within teams.

 

About the Author: Mike MacIsaac is the owner and principal consultant forMacIsaac Consulting. Mike provides leadership as an IT Project and Program Manager as well as an Agile Scrum Master. You can follow Mike on Twitter@MikeMacIsaac or subscribe to Mike's blog.

 

 

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