The Confidence Vote in SAFe

The Confidence Vote is a crucial element in the Program Increment (PI) Planning process within the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). It serves as a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the confidence level that Agile Release Train (ART) members have in the feasibility and successful execution of the PI objectives. The vote is typically expressed on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 representing low confidence and 5 representing high confidence.

What is the Role of the Confidence Vote in PI Planning?

The Confidence Vote plays a vital role in the PI Planning process by:

  1. Ensuring alignment: The vote helps confirm that all team members are aligned on the PI objectives and understand their roles and responsibilities in achieving them.
  2. Gauging feasibility: The Vote helps determine the feasibility of the proposed plan by providing insights into potential risks, impediments, or concerns from the team members.
  3. Facilitating collaboration: By encouraging open and honest discussions, the Vote fosters a collaborative environment where team members can work together to address concerns, mitigate risks, and refine the PI plan.
  4. Encouraging ownership and accountability: The Vote empowers ART members to take ownership of the proposed PI objectives and hold each other accountable for their successful execution.

How the Confidence Vote Promotes Transparency and Collaboration

The Vote promotes transparency and collaboration by encouraging open dialogue and feedback among team members. It creates a safe space where everyone can express their concerns, share ideas, and work together to create a more robust and achievable plan. The Confidence Vote builds trust and strengthens the team’s commitment to delivering a successful PI by focusing on collective ownership and understanding.

Is the Confidence Vote Agile?

Yes, the SAFe confidence vote is Agile. It’s a tool utilized within Agile methodologies to facilitate team alignment and consensus.

The SAFe confidence vote is an embodiment of Agile principles. This voting mechanism promotes collaboration, transparency, and adaptive planning among team members, aligning it closely with the values and principles defining Agile. When confidence scores are low, it triggers discussions and adjustments to the plan, aligning with Agile’s emphasis on flexibility and continuous improvement. Thus, the SAFe confidence vote is part of an Agile framework and embraces and reinforces the Agile philosophy.

The Confidence Vote in PI Planning

When does the Confidence Vote happen during the PI Planning Event?

The Confidence Vote occurs at the end of the Program Increment (PI) Planning Event, after drafting and finalizing the PI objectives, the final plan review, and risks discussion.

PI Planning Confidence Vote Process

The Confidence Vote signifies the closing stage of the PI Planning Event. Following the creation and refinement of PI objectives, teams express their confidence in delivering the proposed objectives. Depending on the results of the Confidence Vote, the plan may be reworked.

What is the PI Planning Confidence voting process?

Once the team has reviewed the PI objectives and engaged in open discussions, it is time to conduct the Confidence Vote. Each team member is asked to vote on a scale of 1 to 5 based on their confidence in the plan’s feasibility and success. Anonymity is critical during this process to encourage honest feedback.

The PI Planning Confidence voting process adheres to the following steps:

  1. Each team member individually assesses their confidence in the proposed PI objectives.
  2. They cast a vote using the Fist of Five technique, where one finger indicates low confidence and five fingers signal high confidence.
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    Is the PI Planning confidence vote private?

    No, the PI Planning confidence vote is not private. It involves open and transparent voting by each team member.

    In the SAFe PI Planning process, the confidence vote is a public affair. Each team member openly casts their vote, enhancing transparency and fostering open discussions about team confidence in delivering the PI objectives. The public nature of the vote ensures any concerns or reservations are openly addressed, promoting team alignment.

    Who participates in the PI Planning Confidence Vote?

    The PI Planning confidence vote involves Agile teams, Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and Release Train Engineers.

    1. Agile Teams: Each team member participates, providing their unique perspective on the plan’s feasibility.
    2. Product Owners: As crucial team members, they cast their votes based on their understanding of the business value.
    3. Scrum Masters: Their vote is often influenced by their understanding of team dynamics and the process.
    4. Release Train Engineers (RTEs): RTEs participate in the vote, offering a broader perspective on the plan’s alignment with overall program objectives.

    Who does not participate in the PI Planning Confidence vote?

    Stakeholders not directly involved in executing the PI, such as Business Owners and executives, typically do not participate in the confidence vote.

    While their input and feedback are vital during PI Planning, the following stakeholders generally do not participate in the voting process:

    1. Business Owners: While they assign business value to PI objectives, they are typically not part of the confidence vote.
    2. Executives: Their strategic inputs shape the PI Planning, but they usually do not vote.
    3. Other stakeholders: External stakeholders, or anyone not directly involved in executing the PI, are generally not part of the confidence vote, as the vote is designed to assess the confidence of the implementing teams.

    How do you interpret the results of the PI Planning confidence vote?

    The PI Planning confidence vote results are interpreted by analyzing individual scores, with a score of 4 or 5 representing high confidence.

    PI Planning Confidence Vote Fist of Five

    When interpreting the PI Planning confidence vote, each score carries its significance—a vote of 1 or 2 signals serious concerns and low confidence in meeting PI objectives. A vote of 3 is a borderline score, implying the individual believes the objectives are attainable but has some reservations. A score of 4 or 5 represents high confidence, indicating that the individual thinks the team can achieve its goals. Aggregate team scores can provide additional insight, but individual scores drive conversations about confidence and concerns.

    The five scores can be interpreted as follows:

    1. A vote of 1 indicates major concerns, little or no confidence
    2. A vote of 2 indicates significant doubts, with a low level of confidence
    3. A vote of 3 indicates some reservations
    4. A vote of 4 indicates confidence
    5. A vote of 5 means a high level of confidence

    What happens when a large number of people cast low votes?

    When many individuals cast low votes, the team revisits the PI objectives, identifying concerns and initiating a plan rework.

    Many low votes indicate a widespread lack of confidence in the PI objectives. This triggers a process where teams revisit the plan, identifying areas of concern. Leadership and teams collaboratively address these concerns, initiating necessary adjustments to the plan to elevate team confidence.

    What happens when a small number of people cast low votes?

    When few individuals cast low votes, teams discuss these concerns, identifying potential risks and solutions to improve confidence.

    Even when a small number of people cast low votes, it is crucial to acknowledge and address their concerns. These individuals often identify risks or obstacles that might not be evident to others. Through open discussions, the team can assess these concerns, consider potential solutions, and work towards improving confidence. The ultimate goal remains to ensure all team members have high confidence in the plan and its execution.

    What are the post-confidence-vote actions?

    1. Addressing concerns: If the Confidence Vote reveals concerns or issues, the team should engage in further discussions to identify the root causes and potential solutions. This may involve reevaluating objectives, adjusting timelines, or reallocating resources.
    2. Adjusting plans and objectives: Based on the team’s feedback, the facilitator should work with the team to revise the PI plan and objectives accordingly. This collaborative approach ensures the updated plan accounts for the team’s concerns and insights.
    3. Re-voting (if necessary): If significant changes are made to the PI plan, conducting a second Confidence Vote may be necessary.

    Is there a limit to the number of times the voting process can be repeated?

    There is no strict limit on repetitions of the voting process. It continues until teams reach high confidence in their objectives.

    The number of iterations of the voting process is not strictly defined. The key goal of the PI Planning event is to arrive at a set of PI objectives in which the teams have high confidence. Therefore, voting, identifying concerns, addressing these concerns, and subsequent voting can occur multiple times until teams collectively express high confidence in the finalized objectives.

    Does everyone have to agree to the voting results for the plan to be finalized?

    No, unanimous agreement is not necessary for finalizing the plan. The goal is high collective confidence.

    In the SAFe methodology, finalizing the plan doesn’t require unanimous agreement but rather a collective high confidence indicated by voting. The vote aims to gauge the team’s confidence and address any concerns, not to attain a complete agreement. Teams strive to ensure that the concerns of those who vote low are heard and addressed adequately. Ultimately, most team members must have high confidence in the plan’s feasibility and effectiveness while understanding and preparing for potential risks and challenges.

    What are the benefits of the confidence vote?

    1. Enhanced team commitment and buy-in: The Confidence Vote encourages team members to participate actively in planning and express their opinions openly. This involvement helps create a sense of ownership and accountability, leading to higher levels of commitment and buy-in from the team.
    2. Improved project predictability and success: By identifying potential risks, dependencies, and concerns early in the PI Planning process, the Confidence Vote helps the team proactively address these issues before they become critical. This proactive approach improves the predictability and success rate of the project by ensuring that the plan is more resilient and well-aligned with the team’s capabilities and resources.
    3. Better risk management and mitigation: The Confidence Vote fosters a collaborative environment where team members can work together to address risks and challenges. By openly discussing these concerns, the team can develop strategies to manage and mitigate risks, increasing the likelihood of a successful PI.
    4. Fostering a Culture of Continuous Improvement: The Confidence Vote process encourages the team to reflect on their past performance and identify areas for improvement. This iterative approach supports a continuous learning and improvement culture, where team members are encouraged to share their insights and best practices to achieve better outcomes in future PIs.
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      What are confidence vote best practices?

      1. Encouraging open and honest feedback: It is essential to create an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their concerns and ideas openly. Facilitators should emphasize the importance of honest feedback and ensure that all opinions are valued and respected.
      2. Establishing a culture of trust and psychological safetyFor the Confidence Vote to be effective, it is crucial to establish a culture of trust and psychological safety within the team. This environment encourages team members to share their concerns and ideas without fear, enabling more productive discussions and improved PI plans.
      3. Emphasizing the importance of shared responsibility: The Confidence Vote is a collective decision-making process emphasizing shared responsibility for the PI’s success. Facilitators should reinforce that everyone plays a crucial role in achieving the PI objectives. The Confidence Vote ensures the team’s commitment to the plan.

      What are the common challenges and pitfalls of the confidence vote?

      1. Resistance to Change: Introducing the Confidence Vote may initially face resistance from team members unfamiliar with this level of transparency and collaboration. To overcome this challenge, facilitators should communicate the Confidence Vote’s benefits and demonstrate its positive impact on previous projects.
      2. Misinterpretation of the Confidence Vote’s Purpose: Some team members may view it as a way to criticize or challenge the PI plan rather than as an opportunity to refine and improve it. To address this misconception, facilitators should emphasize that the Confidence Vote aims to strengthen the plan through collaboration and constructive feedback.
      3. Inadequate preparation or facilitation: The effectiveness of the Confidence Vote depends on proper preparation and facilitation. Ensure that all team members understand the PI objectives, their roles, and the importance of the Confidence Vote. Additionally, facilitators should be skilled in managing discussions and addressing concerns to ensure a productive process.

      Overcoming common challenges and pitfalls of the confidence vote

      To overcome the challenges and pitfalls associated with the Confidence Vote, it is essential to maintain open communication, provide adequate training, and foster a culture of trust and collaboration. By addressing these issues proactively, Agile Release Trains can reap the full benefits of the Confidence Vote in PI Planning.

      What is SAFe?

      The SAFe Framework is a method for scaling Agile practices across large organizations, where PI Planning is a key event for synchronizing all Agile teams on a shared mission.

      The SAFe Framework is an industry-standard methodology that scales Agile practices across large organizations. Within this framework, PI Planning is an important event in the SAFe cadence that helps to synchronize all teams within an Agile Release Train (ART) on a shared mission. It lays the foundation for ARTs to plan, commit, and execute a set of business features over the upcoming Planning Interval. Therefore, PI Planning is the heartbeat of SAFe, facilitating alignment, collaboration, and delivery predictability.

      SAFe Requirements Model Big Picture

      What is SAFe PI Planning?

      PI Planning is a timeboxed event where all teams in the Agile Release Train synchronize and plan their work for the upcoming Program Increment.

      PI Planning Process Flow

      In SAFe, Program Increment (PI) Planning is a cadence-based event that sets the rhythm for all Agile Release Train (ART) teams. It typically spans two days and involves all the teams, stakeholders, and leadership. The primary purpose of this event is to align all teams toward a common mission and vision, establish the objectives for the upcoming PI, and address any potential issues or dependencies. It fosters collaboration, transparency, and synchronization across the teams and provides a roadmap for the next increment.

      Is PI Planning Agile?

      PI Planning is decidedly Agile, emphasizing iterative development, small work increments, and adaptability during a PI, all with lean planning investment.

      PI Planning, at its core, promotes Agile ways of working by focusing on iterative development, breaking down tasks into manageable increments, and maintaining inherent flexibility to adjust priorities throughout a PI. An agile approach encourages adaptability and flexibility. PI Planning adopts the same principles. PI Planning is lightweight and is used more as a roadmap that can change based on circumstances. Furthermore, the planning process is not overdrawn or overly complex – it adheres to the lean principle of maximizing work not done, ensuring that time is used efficiently and teams can quickly get back to producing value. In this way, PI Planning does not contradict Agile principles but reinforces them, enabling teams to plan effectively while maintaining the flexibility that Agile methodologies champion.

      What are the SAFe Core Competencies?

      The SAFe Core Competencies encompass seven areas vital for achieving Business Agility. They are central to PI Planning as this event aligns teams on the business strategy and execution for the upcoming Planning Interval.

      SAFe Business AgilityThe seven SAFe Core Competencies are:

      1. Lean-Agile Leadership: Inspires adoption of Agile practices.
      2. Team and Technical Agility: Enhances team capabilities and technical skills.
      3. Agile Product Delivery: Delivers customer value through fast, integrated delivery cycles.
      4. Enterprise Solution Delivery: Manages large-scale, complex solutions.
      5. Lean Portfolio Management: Aligns strategy and execution.
      6. Organizational Agility: Enables quick, decentralized decision-making.
      7. Continuous Learning Culture: Encourages innovation and improvement.

      PI Planning is an essential event in SAFe that applies these competencies in a focused manner. During PI Planning, Lean-Agile Leadership fosters alignment on the shared mission and vision. Team and Technical Agility allows synchronized planning and dependency management across Agile teams. Agile Product Delivery ensures that teams plan to deliver customer value in the upcoming PI. Organizational Agility, Enterprise Solution Delivery, and Lean Portfolio Management provide the context and strategy for the work. Continuous Learning Culture helps teams retrospect and improve their planning processes for future PIs. Implementing these competencies during PI Planning contributes to overall Business Agility.

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        What are the SAFe Principles?

        The SAFe Principles are a set of ten fundamental principles derived from Lean and Agile methodologies that guide the implementation of SAFe.

        The SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) principles are guidelines derived from Agile practices and methods, Lean product development, and systems thinking to facilitate large-scale, complex software development projects. The ten principles that make up the SAFe framework are as follows:

        1. Take an economic view: This principle emphasizes the importance of making decisions within an economic context, considering trade-offs between risk, cost of delay, and various operational and development costs.
        2. Apply systems thinking: This principle encourages organizations to understand the interconnected nature of systems and components and prioritize optimizing the system as a whole rather than individual parts.
        3. Assume variability; preserve options: This principle highlights the importance of maintaining flexibility in design and requirements throughout the development cycle, allowing for adjustments based on empirical data to achieve optimal economic outcomes.
        4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles: This principle advocates for incremental development in short iterations, which allows for rapid customer feedback and risk mitigation.
        5. Base milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems: This principle emphasizes the need for objective, regular evaluation of the solution throughout the development lifecycle, ensuring that investments yield an adequate return.
        6. Make value flow without interruptions: This principle focuses on making value delivery as smooth and uninterrupted as possible by understanding and managing the properties of a flow-based system.
        7. Apply cadence, and synchronize with cross-domain planning: This principle states that applying a predictable rhythm to development and coordinating across various domains can help manage uncertainty in the development process.
        8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers: This principle advises against individual incentive compensation, which can foster internal competition, and instead encourages an environment of autonomy, purpose, and mutual influence.
        9. Decentralize decision-making: This principle emphasizes the benefits of decentralized decision-making for speeding up product development flow and enabling faster feedback. However, it also recognizes that some decisions require centralized, strategic decision-making.
        10. Organize around value: This principle advocates that organizations structure themselves around delivering value quickly in response to customer needs rather than adhering to outdated functional hierarchies.

        References

        • Scaled Agile Framework. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/pi-planning/
        • Leffingwell, D. (2011). Scaling Software Agility: Best Practices for Large Enterprises. Addison-Wesley Professional. Amazon
        • Anderson, D. J. (2010). Kanban: Successful Evolutionary Change for Your Technology Business. Blue Hole Press. Amazon
        • Leffingwell, D. (2011). Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise. Addison-Wesley Professional. Amazon
        • Inbar, O., & Margalit, R. (2017). The Confidence Vote: A practical method for managing commitment in Agile programs. Agile Record. http://www.agilerecord.com/the-confidence-vote-a-practical-method-for-managing-commitment-in-agile-programs/
        • Rubin, K. S. (2012). Essential Scrum: A Practical Guide to the Most Popular Agile Process. Addison-Wesley Professional. Amazon
        • Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer. McGraw-Hill Education. Amazon
        • Edmondson, A. C. (2018). The Fearless Organization: Creating Psychological Safety in the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth. Wiley. Amazon
        • Kotter, J. P. (2012). Leading Change, With a New Preface by the Author. Harvard Business Review Press. Amazon

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