My opinion on the scaled agile frameworks and SAFe, and related facts

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My opinion on scaled agile frameworks, and specifically on SAFe. And an alternative to scaled frameworks.

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Why we must have this conversation

A blooming industry of services helping consultancy firms fake Agile expertise

Leading experts’ opinion

SAFe: a collection of comments from leading experts

Recent updates

Jeff Gothelf coauthor of Lean UX has recently pointed out that the integration of Lean UX in SAFe is flawed in a way that cannot be fixed. This adds up to Scrum practitioners commenting on how the SAFe Scrum version is fundamentally incongruent with Scrum. This cast a shadow on how SAFe integrates other practices and techniques and for those looking at SAFe to learn about Agile and its techniques that means that what SAFe teaches is wrong and would set them on the wrong path.

ThoughtWorks has also recently updated the advice to avoid SAFe based on 6 more years of observations of clients suffering detrimental effects on SAFe.

These new elements added to the previous comments collected move the needle
– from SAFe being useful only in very few and limited contexts and circumstances
– to SAFe being plain wrong beyond repair

Empirical evidence (aka facts)

 – How large successful companies achieve agility at scale
The results of companies migrating to heavy-weight scaled frameworks and off-the-shelf platforms


Agile simplicity Vs not-reinventing the wheel

What about the other scaled frameworks

Among the scaled frameworks, SAFe is the most popular and at the same time the most detrimental and flawed.
But all scaled frameworks have their own problems, the alternatives are better than any scaled framework.

If you ask, the less bad are for example
– LeSS (which has a strong focus on the principles but still it is too much Scrum centric and prescribe structures that instead should emerge from the interactions and the experimentation)
– Scrum @ Scale (that is lightweight compared to other scaled frameworks but it also is too Scrum centric and too simplistic with collaboration practices such as Scrum of Scrum that in many contexts is an anti-pattern and the alternative again should emerge from the interactions and the experimentation)

Disciplined Agile is a valuable body of knowledge in presenting many alternative practices, and in suggesting ways to choose among them based on the maturity of the team and based on the team’s context.
But as a framework is too heavy and over-complicated, the prescriptive process and timing to make the selection of the practices is unfit for purpose, and it is simplistic in assuming that the right practice will be one from those listed and not an adaptation or mix-and-match of other existing practices or a completely novel practice.

And then we have the made-up 1-size-fits-all shoes or recipes from the large consultancy companies that show the lack of the most basic understanding of Agile. Some copying the Spotify not-a-model (as if it was a mode), others copying SAFe, others just introducing an Agile terminology to describe well-known pre-Agile practices, and so on.
Please note, none of those consultancy firms has experience using Agile to run their own consultancy firm, they are the first not to believe in what they are selling …

Viable alternatives

Agile at scale generative principles
Agile practices & patterns for the whole Organisation

You may also be interested into these community created guides
– Executive summary for everyone considering investing in Agile: https://bit.ly/AgileInvestingExecutiveSummary
– Information for decision-makers considering the SAFe framework: https://bit.ly/SAFe4DecisionMakers
– Information for decision-makers considering large consultancy firms’ Agile offering: https://bit.ly/agileOffering4DecisionMakers

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