Why do You Need SAFe?

Why do You Need SAFe?

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe) was recently named the most widely used method for Scaling Agile from a team level to a Program and then Enterprise level, making the value of holding a SAFe Certification greater now more than ever before. With over 70% of the US Fortune 100 companies and government agencies like the DOD using SAFe; the demand for SAFe certified professionals is growing at an exponential rate. Many employers are seeking professional candidates who bring credentials that demonstrate their ability to work within a SAFe environment, as displayed and verified through a SAFe Certification.

Since there are no prerequisites or experience to take any of the courses and get certified, you can experiment with different areas this fast-growing Project Management framework and decide what career track suits your skills, experience, and interests!

Debra Hildebrand, Founder, and CEO of LurnAgile, a boutique Scaled Agile coaching and training firm, will walk you through the evolution of SAFe and how it can boost your career – even if you have been working in traditional project management up to this point.


10 Agile Transformation Obstacles Organizations Face

10 Agile Transformation Obstacles Organizations Face

As organizations aim to do more with less and better serve customers, an Agile Transformation may be in order. 

What is the largest obstacle an organization faces when starting or going through an Agile Transformation?

To help you prepare for an Agile Transformation, we asked agile experts and business leaders about the challenges they’ve faced. 

Here are ten obstacles organizations face in an Agile Transformation. 

  • Complexity in culture
  • Unlearning traditional ways of thinking
  • People
  • Employee buy-in
  • Unraveling the non-differences
  • Mid-level management not being brought in
  • Shifting control from leaders to teams
  • Expanding from the team level to the organizational level
  • Misalignment of a belief system on all levels
  • Role Changes


Complexity in culture

The largest obstacle to an organization is culture. Culture drives behavior and decisions within

an organization and is paramount to successful transformation. Culture is also the last thing to change and is complex. It is complex in numerous ways, but it starts with what type of culture you want in your organization. Do you want a family atmosphere focused on doing things together like Google? Do you want an adhocracy where innovation is paramount, and employees take chances? Maybe your organization wants a complete culture that is results-driven and competitive? Lastly, do you need a process and procedures for everything? Most organizations need some type of hybrid culture which is another reason culture is the biggest obstacle.

Raymond Mattes, Best Agile Consulting

Unlearning traditional ways of thinking

The biggest hurdle an organization faces in Agile transformation is the ‘Mindset or culture change.’ Organization leadership or executives are usually veterans of an industry or business line. They would have worked in that industry or business line for years or decades. However, the new type of problems in today’s digital era needs newer thinking and way of working. Thus these executives’ ability to unlearn their traditional ways of thinking is the biggest difficulty. 

Agile, as you may know, is a way of working where it is only successful if you follow some simple principles such as empowering the teams to take decisions instead of controlling, aligning to the outcomes rather than following the processes blindly, purpose-driven instead of financial-focused. Thus inside-out approach, from Culture -> Structure / Processes – Enablers/Tools, is the winning approach. Leadership’s understanding and drive can make-or-break the Agile transformation.

Saurabh Aphale, EY

People

In a word, people. Stakeholders must understand the transformation and how we are going to deliver differently, but better. Teams need to be trained on how to execute this new process and change their mindset. Leaders must also go through a shift in mindset. Anytime you attempt to change someone’s mindset, it’s a difficult journey.

Michael Thompson, LurnAgile

Employee buy-in

Simply put, it’s the buy-in from the employees that Agile will work. We have all heard the saying, ‘it’s easy to do Agile, but it’s hard to be Agile’ and it’s true. We can’t start to go through a transformation without the buy-in from the employees, where they are empowered to make decisions and have ownership of their products. Leaders are employees too, and they have to buy-in, as they navigate their employees through the ‘waters’ of Agile, in changing mindset and empowerment. Listen to your employees as you go through an Agile Transformation, they hold the keys to being Agile.

Dawn Wright, John Deere

Unraveling the non-differences

Organizations tend to believe that they’re very different and that their problems are unique. Therefore, they tend to think of complicated solutions. Although each organization is unique, the problems they face with a transformation are not that unique. Therefore instead of reinventing the wheel and coming up with complex solutions, they should look around them and see what has worked for other organizations and tailor it to fit their needs and organizational culture.

Lyvie Racine, Global Enterprise Agile Coach

Mid-level management not being brought in

The largest obstacle an organization faces when undertaking an agile transformation is mid-level management not being brought in. This is crucial, as their roles radically change in an agile environment. They must understand that their new criteria is for being successful and be advocates for the transformation.

Megan Hicks, MegAgility

Shifting control from leaders to teams

When agile adoption is not a strategic priority, organizations default to command and control leadership practices. Individuals and teams are not trusted to make decisions, clogging up the to-do list, stunting innovation, and impeding progress.

Marti Konstant, Workplace Futurist

Expanding from the team level to the organizational level

Organizations need to have strong executive leadership for agile transformations to be successful. Many organizations think Agile is simply a team level project management methodology. Agile is more about cultural change than it is about process change. Agile is a way of working. Without strong executive leadership to influence the change in culture, agile transformations will eventually lose traction and fail, or the transformation will forever remain at the team level and never expand to the organizational level.

Orlando Ramirez, Agile Coach

Misalignment of a belief system on all levels

The largest obstacle of an agile transformation is the misalignment of a belief system on all levels – up, down, and out. Leadership can communicate the mission, vision, and direction of the agile transformation but if the C-suite, V-suite, D-suite, and M-suite do not align the transformation will die on the vine. A common belief in lean-agile principles is critical because an agile transformation is a long and hard journey that changes the operational model, funding, and culture. Leaders of all levels have to be on board with and agree on the values and goals they want to achieve throughout the transformation. It’s on leadership to continually cultivate the belief system to all of the suites down to the teams.

Adrienne Rinaldi, PinnacleTek

Role changes

Employees have their roles change when an organization undergoes an agile transformation. Not all employees like or embrace change, especially when it impacts a daily routine. Organizations can prepare by knowing that there will be detractors, embracers, and employees who will be indifferent. It’s important that all employees understand why their role is changing, how it is changing, and that there is still an opportunity for them to add value to the organization. 

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

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What Is Business Agility? 12 Agile Experts Share Their Definition

What Is Business Agility? 12 Agile Experts Share Their Definition

You may have heard of the term “business agility” being used in a book, on a Zoom, or from a leader within your organization. 

What is Business Agility?

We asked twelve agile experts to share their definition of business agility. From strategy pivots to empowering employees, these diverse perspectives may help provide a solid definition of just what business agility really is. 

Here are twelve definitions of business agility. 

  • The unique ability to adapt to change
  • An organization’s culture of minimizing problems
  • Competitive advantage
  • Fluidity and flexibility
  • Strategy pivots
  • Attentiveness to trends and market changes
  • Removing sources of disruption and delay
  • Adapting to evolving customer demands
  • Detecting and responding to new data points
  • Everyone is involved in delivering solutions
  • Empowering employees to solve complex problems fast
  • Evolution to product-market fit

The unique ability to adapt to change

In essence, it is the emergent qualities, capacity, or unique ability of an organization to sense, respond, react, and adapt to change. This is done in such a way that they are able to do so and retain or enhance their competitive advantage without compromising quality, integrity, or losing momentum.

Tori Palmer, LurnAgile

An organization’s culture of minimizing problems

There is a myriad of definitions of what business agility is. My facile definition is: Business

agility is an organization’s culture of minimizing the impact of problems. Problems, in this case, can be internal or external and range from disruptors in the marketplace bringing in a new product, to application uptime and infrastructure. I boil it down to culture because in an agile culture the organization will make the necessary investments in tools, training, processes, hiring, etc., to ensure that the agile culture is achieved and sustained.

Raymond Mattes, Best Agile Consulting

Competitive advantage

Business Agility means the business is set to deliver better quality products, faster than the competition. This is done by creating an agile ecosystem where people, products, and customers are aligned using techniques that drive transparency, communication, and collaboration.

Megan Hicks, MegAgility

Fluidity and flexibility

Business agility means fluidity and flexibility, with staff and teams able to move seamlessly between roles for the benefit of maximum customer satisfaction. What’s more, resources must be made available wherever they are most needed at any one time. Business agility can be a tricky proposition to get on board with. 

Mark Christensen, People & Partnerships

Strategy pivots

Business Agility represents the ability of a company to pivot its strategy. While the vision or goal needs to be static, how we get there needs to be flexible. It also represents how we as a company must be able to pivot our products to fit our customers’ needs

Michael Thompson, LurnAgile

Attentiveness to trends and market changes

Business agility is a team or organization that pays attention to trends and market changes, responds and adapts to these changes, and takes action to pursue opportunities rather than stagnate in the face of uncertainty. 

Marti Konstant, Workplace Futurist and Author of “Activate Your Agile Career”

Removing sources of disruption and delay

Agility just means flexibility, so “business agility” is flexibility in service to the shifting needs of the business. This sounds great but it is so challenging! Management is keyed into all the new opportunities and the fluctuating market so they want frequent changes. Meanwhile, the downstream developers need time to finish the current work. To maximize business agility, you need to look at all parts of the process. Analyzing and profiling incoming work requests helps to organize and sequence the work. Removing sources of disruption and delay will improve the flow of work, clearing the decks to take on new work sooner.

Janice Linden-Reed, Salesforce

Adapting to evolving customer demands

Business agility is the ability of an organization to adapt to changing customer demands as well as to changes within its industry, supply chain, and core competencies. Business agility is achieved by a) streamlining information flows throughout an organization; b) encouraging leadership at all levels of an organization, and c) embracing continuous improvement across all business processes.

Orlando Ramirez, Agile Coach

Detecting and responding to new data points

Business Agility is defined by an organization’s ability to detect and respond to new data points in a timely and positive manner. An organization with a high degree of business agility can detect an event such as a pandemic and reprioritize its efforts in enough time to minimize risk as well as create a competitive advantage. For example, an agile company in the entertainment business would understand the implications of the pandemic and immediately seek to acquire a digital asset that would allow them to transfer their events into virtual space. Business agility is accomplished by instrumenting your organization with high-fidelity feedback loops at the micro and macro levels. What do your customers want? What does the market want? And then creating a culture and systems to respond to information as soon as possible.

Lukas Ruebbelke, Briebug

Everyone is involved in delivering solutions

The term agility is often referred to with software teams. Business agility is not just software related, it’s the organization as a whole. What does that mean? For an organization to develop business agility that means that everyone involved in delivering solutions— and I mean everyone — including business and technology leaders, development, IT operations, marketing, finance, legal, support, compliance, security, human resources, and even customers — must all use agile practices to allow their organization to respond rapidly to changes in the internal and external environment without losing momentum or vision. Key aspects essential to long-term business agility are adaptability, flexibility, and perseverance of relentless improvement.

Adrienne Rinaldi, PinnacleTek

Empowering employees to solve complex problems fast

Adapting. Pivot. Fast. Continuous. People. All words that come to mind when thinking about Business Agility. For me, business agility is adapting to technology, listening to the customers, and empowering our employees and leaders to make the decisions to meet the demands of the market. It’s also embracing a culture of innovation to solve complex problems, fast.

Dawn Wright, John Deere

Evolution to product-market fit

Finding a product-market fit is the key to building a good business. It’s also really hard to do, which is why a term like business agility even exists. Business agility is a continuous evolution towards finding product-market fit, which is a match between your value proposition and customer segments. No business nails product-market fit on their first go, which is why the most successful startups are ones who aren’t afraid of adopting an agile approach. 

Brett Farmiloe, Markitors

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When Scaled Agile (SAFe) says “Advanced”, They are Not Kidding!

When Scaled Agile (SAFe) says “Advanced”, They are Not Kidding!

To prepare myself to give the SAFe Advanced Scrum Master training classes, it took a good amount of prep time prior to class, much more than any other course I have taught.  To prepare myself as a trainer I used the Scaled Agile offered materials.  They offer us a great array of tools for delivering the training (both in-person and remote) such as videos, prepared courseware, PI Planning tooling workbooks and more.  After putting myself in the shoes of the learner, I realized some additional materials (links with more details on some of the topics as well as a couple videos) would be useful to really help the content sink in.  

I tracked down the information I felt that I would need and added them to my course delivery plan.  Combining these new materials with the materials Scaled Agile provides would provide the students the right foundation to take the learning back to the real world and apply it to their current roles

As for the course itself, if you’re wondering if you should take it, do you fit into one of these roles?

  • Existing Scrum Master
  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM, PSM I, PSM II, and so forth)
  • Team leader, project manager, or Agile Team facilitator in a SAFe or enterprise Agile context
  • Engineering or development manager who are responsible for Agile execution and coaching teams, including teams of teams
  • Agile coach
  • Agile Program Manager
  • Prospective RTE (Release Train Engineer)

If you do, great!  If not, feel free to reach out to me (michael@lurnagile.com) and I can certainly help you track down the learning that would fit you the best.

The course itself is advanced to say the least.  It’s a 2 day course (8 hours per day) and is packed with content.  On day 1, it’s mostly a review of the SAFe framework.  Day 2 has a lot of XP / Lean / Kanban content that is new to many learners such as : Cumulative Flow Diagrams, PI burn-down charts, and Pair Work .  The learning objectives show just how advanced this course is

  • Apply SAFe principles to facilitation, enablement, and coaching in a multi-team environment
  • Build a high-performing team and foster relentless improvement at scale
  • Address Agile and Scrum anti-patterns
  • Support the adoption of engineering practices, DevOps, and Agile architecture
  • Learn to apply Kanban eXtreme Programming (XP) frameworks to optimize flow and improve the team’s work
  • Facilitate program planning, execution, and delivery of end-to-end systems value
  • Support learning through participation in Communities of Practice and innovation cycles

So glad you asked!  Beyond the time with a certified instructor to guide them through the learning and entertain you (such as yours truly), students also will receive the following:

  • Shared experiences with your peers
  • Digital workbook with links to all videos and copies of all of the slides presented
  • A study guide for the exam
  • A practice test that is scored, but not recorded anywhere.  So you can take it as many times as you like!
  • One-year membership to the SAFe Community Platform
  • Once you pass the exam (NOT IF, let’s be positive!), you’ll receive a SAFe digital badge you can share on social media
  • Up to 15 PDUs to renew PMI certifications
  • Up to 15 SEUs to renew Scrum Alliance certifications

The exam is online, and time boxed to 2 hours.  The test consists of 60 questions, which gives you an average of 2 minutes per question.  The passing score is 44 out of 60 (73%) so it’s achievable.  However, don’t let the 73% fool you.  The exam is challenging, but it’s fair.  You need to pay attention during the course, actively participate in the activities, and digest (not just read) the course materials.  

As you can see this is definitely much more than you will find in the SAFe Scrum Master (SSM), Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Scrum.org Professional Scrum Master (PSM I) or any other Scrum Master course.  The extra knowledge and the classroom experience will greatly grow your skill set as Scrum Master, especially if part of a Scaled Agile enterprise.