Predicting a Train with Scaled Agile Frameworks (SAFe)

predicting-a-train-with-scaled-agile-frameworks-safe
  • Author : Rich Townsend
  • Date : 27 Jan 2021

The British Train network is reliable at getting everyone to talk about how unreliable it is. Trains are delayed, they have the wrong number of carriages, that seat you booked doesn’t have the ticket displayed and no seat bookings are being honoured today, best of all you only find all of this out when the train pulls into the station and you board it.

Many of these inherent issues match up with project delivery and management, at the start of a project you build a GANTT chart and identify milestones for delivery, then a well run project may hit these milestones and produces an outcome, however the world has moved on and the outcome no longer has a business need, as for a poorly run project well this is derailed long before the first milestone.

How about working in a different way and not running projects but running an Agile Release Train (ART) that is focused on the continuous delivery of value. If there are no projects how do you know if its performing? How do you know the ART is being derailed? What value is the ART producing?

Here at Novia we have adopted Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe):

  • It starts with a Program Increment (PI) Planning event where the decisions are made by the teams as to what is deliverable over the PI (next 10 weeks)
  • This is then put into a set objective which the business owners assign a business value to
  • Every 2 weeks the teams then demo working software to show how progress is being made towards these objectives
  • When the business agrees an objective is complete it can release this new feature and assigns the value it has delivered
  • The teams are then measured on their predictability of delivering the value assigned to these objectives during this 10 week period

These regular demonstrations, focus on value delivery through working software, and empowering the teams to build a plan instead of working to a pre-defined project plan which nobody doing the work has signed up to. No arbitrary milestones that don’t measure business outcomes but whether all the requirements are done, followed by all the build, followed by test and then only at the end of the project is it checked.

Delivery with a degree of certainty has been the Achilles Heel for Agile programmes and the biggest benefit we have found in adopting SAFe is the all hands planning event. It requires total immersion and is intense but the outcome is a shared understanding of the goal and a commitment to deliver that is based on realistic capacity estimates.  Since adoption our business colleagues have experience making commitment and keeping them and that is a far cry from the “hit and hope” approach we had prior to the adoption of SAFe. Taking time out to plan together with empowered individuals along two weekly solution demonstrations and commitments tracking is the key to ensuring predictability becomes a capability that can be mastered.

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