Book Review – Adopting and Sustaining the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

Adopting and Sustaining The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
Adopting and Sustaining The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

I’ve recently had the pleasure of working with 2 of the 3 authors (Si & Mark) and must say it has been a truly amazing experience.

Agile (in the broad sense) has been a growing collection of knowledge, especially since 2001 when the Agile Manifesto was created. Prior to, and especially since then, a lot of great knowledge and experience has been contributed. At the same time, there has also been a lot of confusion within and outside of the community. Various frameworks have been created and supported by consultants and practitioners with mixed success (including SAFe). Often times the success/failure is not with a specific framework itself, but instead a direct result of the implementation. There are cases of organizational adoption of SAFe with great success, and others where it has been a failure and disregarded. If the framework is the same in both cases, then what is the difference? Implementation.

As mentioned above in the book description, “However, the SAFe readily acknowledges that ‘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’.” This is the heart of this book.

Often times when an agile adoption fails, it does so because an organization is trying to simply transition from their current set of processes and tools to a new set, without addressing the underlying dysfunctions. Time and time again I’ve seen organizations that try to adopt Scrum, for example, and initially see success with a pilot team, but long term it fails and they regress. Why does this happen? A few of the reasons are because the organization doesn’t see the challenges that they face, they don’t address the organizational culture and they often don’t co-create the solution that will work for them. To address these items, we must go much deeper than attending few day training class or simply implementing a framework, we must understanding the underlying elements of dysfunction, address them and work together with an organization to co-create a solution. This approach is rooted in collaboration, facilitation and guidance, addressing dysfunction and bringing in the appropriate elements that are available within and outside of the agile community.

If you simply want to learn SAFe and lay it on top of an organization without addressing the “hard” items such as culture and long term sustainability, this book is not for you. It will not tell you how to run a PSI Planning session, for example. For that, read some of Dean’s books, check out the publicly available SAFe framework and attend the SPC certification class. But if you have an understanding of SAFe and want to go deeper to learn a pragmatic approach for implementing and adopting SAFe in an organization, then I recommend you spend a few dollars and a few hours to read (and re-read) this book.


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