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What is SAFe Team and Technical Agility?

Team and Technical Agility refers to the ability of development teams to adapt rapidly to changing customer needs, business goals, or technology while maintaining a high standard of work and technical excellence.

Originating from the Agile Manifesto (Kent Beck, Mike Beedle, Arie van Bennekum, et al., 2001), Team and Technical Agility focuses on self-organizing, cross-functional teams collaborating and communicating continuously to deliver high-quality solutions. It emphasizes adaptability and continuous improvement in processes and technical skills to enable faster response to customer needs and market changes.

This means SAFe Teams follow iterative development, continuous integration and testing, refactoring, pair programming, and maintaining a simple design. Martin Fowler, a well-known figure in the Agile community, notably supports these practices in his works.

Why is Team and Technical Agility important?

“Team and Technical Agility” is essential to respond to market changes rapidly, deliver value faster, improve product quality, and foster innovation.

As markets and technologies evolve rapidly, organizations must be able to adapt and innovate to stay competitive. This is where Team and Technical Agility come into play. Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, creators of Scrum, emphasized the importance of this agility in their work.

With SAFe Teams, organizations deliver value incrementally and receive feedback faster. This iterative approach allows quick adjustments to market changes and customer needs, enhancing product quality and reducing risks associated with long development cycles. Additionally, by maintaining technical excellence, SAFe Teams ensure the sustainability of development, ease of future changes, and innovation.

What is the purpose of the SAFe Team and Technical Agility?

The purpose of SAFe Team and Technical Agility is to form high-performing SAFe Teams that deliver value continuously and effectively respond to change, fostering a culture of technical excellence and innovation.

SAFe Team and Technical Agility aim to create SAFe Teams that operate effectively within the larger SAFe framework. These teams have the skills, tools, and mindset to deliver value continuously, with frequent iterations and increments. They embrace change, using feedback to adapt their products and practices in a rapidly shifting environment. Additionally, a focus on technical excellence ensures high-quality output and fosters a culture of continuous learning and innovation. Dean Leffingwell, the co-founder of the SAFe framework, emphasizes this critical competency in his writings, linking it to an organization’s ability to compete and succeed in today’s dynamic business environment.

What are the objectives of the SAFe Team and Technical Agility?

The objectives of SAFe Team and Technical Agility are to foster an Agile mindset, promote cross-functional collaboration, ensure consistent value delivery, enhance product quality, and build a culture of continuous improvement.

There are five specific objectives of Team and Technical Agility in the SAFe context, as highlighted by experts like Richard Knaster and Inbar Oren, and they are:

  1. Foster an Agile Mindset: Encourage teams to adopt Agile values and principles, creating a culture that welcomes change, values feedback, and prioritizes customer satisfaction.
  2. Promote Cross-functional Collaboration: SAFe Teams are comprised of members with various skills, encouraging collaboration, shared ownership, and collective problem-solving.
  3. Ensure Consistent Value Delivery: By working in short iterations, SAFe Teams deliver value consistently and respond rapidly to feedback or changes in the market.
  4. Enhance Product Quality: A focus on technical excellence, coupled with practices like continuous integration, testing, and refactoring, helps ensure a high-quality standard.
  5. Build a Culture of Continuous Improvement: Regular reflection and adaptation foster a culture of continuous improvement, where teams learn from their experiences and innovate their practices.

What are SAFe Teams?

SAFe Teams are cross-functional groups of 5-11 individuals who apply Agile principles and practices to deliver valuable, high-quality product increments regularly.

Cross-functional SAFe TeamSAFe Teams, as described by Agile pioneers like Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, are self-organizing, cross-functional groups that work together to deliver a product increment in a short iteration, or “Sprint.” These teams typically include all the roles necessary to deliver the product increment: developers, testers, designers, and any other required specialists.

SAFe Teams embrace the values and principles of Agile, including customer collaboration, responding to change, and continuous improvement. They work closely with the product owner, who helps prioritize work based on customer value, and a scrum master, who facilitates the Agile process.

In the SAFe context, SAFe Teams form the essential building blocks of Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Solution Trains, which are larger structures that coordinate the efforts of multiple SAFe Teams.

Why are SAFe Teams important?

SAFe Teams are important as they enable continuous value delivery, adaptability to change, increased quality, faster time-to-market, and improved customer satisfaction.

SAFe Teams are critical to the success of Agile and Lean practices for five specific reasons, as highlighted by thought leaders like Ken Schwaber, Jeff Sutherland, and Dean Leffingwell:

  1. Continuous Value Delivery: Through iterative development and a focus on prioritizing customer value, SAFe Teams consistently deliver increments of a product, providing value to customers regularly.
  2. Adaptability to Change: SAFe Teams embrace change, whether it comes from customer feedback, shifts in the market, or internal adjustments. This adaptability enables organizations to stay competitive in dynamic environments.
  3. Increased Quality: Through practices such as pair programming, test-driven development, and continuous integration, SAFe Teams focus on ensuring the quality of their deliverables.
  4. Faster Time-to-Market: By delivering increments of a product regularly, SAFe Teams realize a faster time-to-market compared to traditional project teams.
  5. Improved Customer Satisfaction: With their focus on customer collaboration and value, SAFe Teams tend to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction.

What are the business benefits of SAFe Teams?

SAFe Teams provide five business benefits: quicker return on investment, improved product quality, higher customer satisfaction, increased employee engagement, and better risk management.

The five benefits of SAFe Teams, as highlighted by Agile practitioners such as Mike Cohn and Roman Pichler, are as follows:

  1. Quicker Return on Investment (ROI): SAFe Teams’ iterative approach allows businesses to release increments of a product regularly, thus realizing benefits sooner.
  2. Improved Product Quality: SAFe Teams significantly focus on quality assurance and continuous improvement, often resulting in high-quality products.
  3. Higher Customer Satisfaction: SAFe Teams focus on customer collaboration and value, frequently incorporating feedback, leading to products that better meet customer needs and, thus, higher customer satisfaction.
  4. Increased Employee Engagement: SAFe Teams tend to be more engaged and motivated as they have more ownership and decision-making authority, which leads to higher productivity.
  5. Better Risk Management: Regular feedback cycles, transparency, and the ability to change direction quickly reduce the risk of project failure or deviation from market needs.

What is the relationship between SAFe Teams and Organizational Agility?

SAFe Teams, with their adaptability and iterative approach, form the foundation of Organizational Agility, which involves the ability of an entire organization to respond rapidly to changes.

Organizational Agility refers to the capacity of an entire organization, not just its development teams, to rapidly adapt and respond to changes in the market environment, customer behavior, or internal needs. It is a significant goal of SAFe and is considered a core competency of the framework.

SAFe Teams play a crucial role in achieving Organizational Agility. As the fundamental units of value delivery, they form the groundwork for scaling Agile practices across the organization. Their ability to deliver value iteratively, welcome changes, and continuously improve sets the stage for the rest of the organization.

SAFe Teams contribute to Organizational Agility in 3 key ways, as discussed by Dean Leffingwell and other SAFe thought leaders, and they are:

  1. Adaptability: SAFe Teams’ embrace of change allows organizations to pivot swiftly in response to shifts in the market or customer needs.
  2. Continuous Delivery: The iterative delivery of value by SAFe Teams keeps the organization aligned with the current market demands and customer expectations.
  3. Transparency: Regular feedback loops and demonstrations of working software keep stakeholders informed and aligned, enabling faster, more informed decision-making.

Who are members of SAFe Teams?

SAFe Teams typically include a Product Owner, Scrum Master, and Development Team members, who collectively have all the skills necessary to deliver increments of a product.

SAFe Team Membership

An Agile Team usually consists of three roles, each with its own responsibilities, as defined in Scrum and other Agile methodologies:

  1. Product Owner: The Product Owner represents the customer’s interests and prioritizes the product backlog. They define the product’s vision and work closely with the team and stakeholders to ensure value delivery.
  2. Scrum Master: The Scrum Master acts as a servant leader and coach for the team. They facilitate the Agile process, remove obstacles that hinder the team’s progress, and work to improve team dynamics and performance.
  3. Development Team: The Development Team includes professionals who carry out the work of delivering the product increment. This typically includes roles such as software developers, testers, and UX designers. Development Teams in SAFe are cross-functional and have all the skills necessary to design, build, and test a usable increment within a single iteration.

It’s important to note that while these roles are defined in Scrum, they vary in other Agile methodologies. Nevertheless, the essential idea remains the same: a small, cross-functional team that works collaboratively to deliver product increments regularly.

In SAFe, SAFe Teams operate as part of Agile Release Trains (ARTs), which are teams of SAFe Teams aligned to a common mission via a single program backlog. These teams work together to deliver larger, more complex solutions that serve the enterprise’s strategic goals.

What is the role of a Product Owner in a SAFe Team?

In SAFe, the Product Owner is responsible for defining and prioritizing the Team Backlog to streamline the execution of program priorities while maintaining the conceptual and technical integrity of the features for the team.

Features are Broken down into User StoriesIn the SAFe framework, the role of the Product Owner is a blend of traditional product owner and business analyst roles. In addition to traditional duties like backlog management and story definition, they interface with Program Management and other stakeholders.

In SAFe, a Product Owner has 4 key responsibilities, and they are:

  1. Managing the Team Backlog: The Product Owner is the content authority for the Team Backlog. They maintain and prioritize this backlog according to the needs of the system, the Program Increment (PI) objectives, and stakeholder feedback.
  2. Breaking down Features: The Product Owner assists in breaking down Features into user stories for implementation by the Agile team.
  3. Iteration Execution: They are responsible for accepting stories and including the stories in the product increment.
  4. Understanding Enablers: They must understand and support enabler work to drive technical agility. This includes understanding the scope and the impact of upcoming enablers and collaborating with System Architects to assist with decision-making and sequencing of technology infrastructures.

What is the role of a Scrum Master in a SAFe Team?

The Scrum Master in a SAFe environment serves the Agile Team and the organization by ensuring team adherence to Agile principles and practices, facilitating team ceremonies, removing impediments, and supporting the team’s improvement efforts.

In SAFe, the Scrum Master role extends beyond traditional facilitation and team guidance responsibilities. The SAFe Scrum Master is also a servant leader, a coach, and an Agile champion within the organization.

The SAFe Scrum Master has four key responsibilities, and they are:

  1. Facilitation: The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating team events, including planning, daily stand-ups, reviews, and retrospectives, for ensuring they are constructive and stay within time boundaries.
  2. Agile Coaching: They coach the Agile team and the organization on adopting and applying SAFe principles and practices effectively.
  3. Removing Impediments: They address and help remove internal and external blockers that slow down team progress.
  4. Promoting DevOps Culture: As an integral part of technical agility, Scrum Masters work to promote a DevOps culture, which emphasizes a shift-left mentality and practices such as continuous integration, continuous delivery, and automated testing.

What is the role of the developer in a SAFe Team?

A developer in a SAFe team is tasked with building high-quality, functional software components within an iteration. They collaborate with other team members to understand requirements, implement solutions, provide feedback, and contribute to continuous improvement.

In a SAFe environment, the term ‘Developer’ includes all the roles involved in defining, building, testing, and deploying an increment of value within an iteration. These roles aer engineers, programmers, testers, and content developers.

Developers on SAFe teams have four key responsibilities, and they are:

  1. Building and Testing: Developers write code, build components, conduct unit tests, and ensure that the software operates as intended. They are responsible for creating and maintaining a potentially releasable Increment each Iteration.
  2. Collaboration: They work closely with Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and other team members to understand the requirements, provide estimates, discuss solutions, and share feedback.
  3. Agile Practices: Developers are expected to adopt Agile practices, such as test-driven development (TDD), pair programming, and continuous integration, contributing to the team’s technical agility.
  4. Continuous Improvement: They actively participate in team retrospectives, where they collaborate on ways to improve team productivity, product quality, and system-level performance.

The role of a developer in a SAFe team is not just about writing code. It involves active participation in all phases of the product development lifecycle, continuous learning, and contributing to the team’s Agile and technical practices (Beck et al., 2001; Martin, 2008).

What is the role of the Quality Specialist in a SAFe Team?

A Quality Specialist in a SAFe team ensures the implementation of quality standards throughout the development process.

The role of a Quality Specialist in a SAFe team is two-fold:

  1. Promoting and monitoring quality standards in the development process
  2. Fostering a culture of continuous improvement within the team (Crispin & Gregory, 2009).

They focus on implementing the defined quality practices into the development process through six practices as follows:

  1. Conducting regular code reviews
  2. Implementing automated testing
  3. Establishing best practices in design and coding
  4. Encouraging team members to prioritize quality in their tasks (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010)
  5. Defining the acceptance criteria for user stories 
  6. Ensuring user story acceptance criteria are met before a story is considered ‘done’

Quality Specialists also play a role in nurturing a culture of continuous improvement within the team. They encourage the team to reflect on their processes and performance, often facilitating retrospectives and suggesting areas for improvement. Focusing on learning and growth, Quality Specialists help teams increase their efficiency and effectiveness over time (Beck & Andres, 2004).

What is the role of an Architect in a SAFe team?

An Architect in a SAFe team designs system structures and ensures alignment between technology and business strategies.

  1. In a SAFe team, the Architect’s role is primarily to design the system’s architecture and ensure alignment between the technical design and business strategy (Fairbanks, 2010).
  2. The Architect is responsible for guiding the team in creating a system design that is scalable, secure, and reliable while also meeting the business’s strategic needs (Leffingwell, 2007).
  3. They are decision-makers in technology selection, system design principles, and integration approaches. They ensure these decisions align with the enterprise architecture and business objectives.
  4. The Architect also collaborates with other team members, especially developers, to ensure the system architecture is correctly implemented in the software development process.
  5. They are involved in code reviews and the mentoring of team members to promote best practices in software architecture (Martin, 2018).
  6. The Architect has a role in risk management, identifying scalability, security, data integrity, and system integration risks and devising strategies to mitigate them (Anderson, 2010).

What is the role of a tech lead in a SAFe team?

A tech lead in a SAFe team guides technical decision-making, mentors team members, and ensures the technical quality of the product.

  1. A tech lead in a SAFe team is a critical figure who guides the technical decision-making process and mentors team members.
  2. They are accountable for the technical quality of the product being developed. This role is often filled by a senior developer or a software architect (Leffingwell, 2007).
  3. The tech lead is instrumental in the design and execution of the technical aspects of the product.
  4. They lead the team to make important decisions regarding technologies, architectural patterns, coding standards, and testing strategies (Martin, 2008).
  5. Mentoring is also a key aspect of this role. The tech lead shares their technical expertise with other team members, fostering a collaborative learning environment and helping to uplift the overall technical competence of the team (Hunt & Thomas, 2000).
  6. The tech lead is accountable for the technical quality of the product. They work closely with the Quality Specialist and other team members to ensure the developed product meets agreed-upon quality standards and expectations (Beck, 2000).

Do SAFe Teams have managers?

Yes, but their role is more of a facilitator or servant-leader than a traditional manager.

SAFe Teams have managers, but their role differs significantly from traditional managers. Agile managers serve as facilitators or servant-leaders, focusing on creating an enabling environment for the team rather than directly controlling their work (Appelo, 2010).

Agile managers are responsible for three things, and they are:

  1. Removing obstacles that hinder the team’s progress
  2. Providing resources
  3. Facilitating communication between the team and external stakeholders (Cohn, 2010).

They don’t dictate what tasks each team member works on or how they perform them. Instead, they trust the team’s expertise and encourage self-organization and autonomy (Sutherland & Schwaber, 2017).

In some cases, SAFe Teams also have a Scrum Master or Product Owner who helps guide the process and maintain the product backlog. However, these roles are distinct from a traditional manager role (Pichler, 2010).

What is the ideal size for an Agile team?

The ideal size for an Agile team is typically between 5 and 9 members.

The ideal size for an Agile team typically ranges from 5 to 9 members. This size is optimal because it allows for effective communication and collaboration while remaining manageable and efficient (Grenning, 2002).

Teams smaller than this lack the diversity of skills and perspectives needed for complex projects. On the other hand, teams larger than this struggle with coordination and communication, potentially leading to inefficiency and conflict (Highsmith, 2002).

The ideal team size depends on three factors, and they are:

  1. The project’s complexity
  2. The team members’ skills and experience
  3. The organization’s culture and structure

In some cases, it makes sense to have slightly larger or smaller teams (Cockburn, 2006)

What to do when an Agile team gets too big?

When an Agile team becomes too large, it’s advised to split it into two or more smaller, self-organizing teams. This maintains effective communication and collaboration while retaining team agility.

SAFe, in line with other Agile methodologies, recommends keeping teams small, ideally between 5 to 11 people (Beck et al., 2001). This ensures effective collaboration and swift decision-making.

When a team grows beyond this size, communication paths multiply, leading to decreased efficiency and longer decision-making time. This situation is often referred to as “communication overhead.” The remedy for an oversized team is to split it into two or smaller, cross-functional, self-organizing teams, each with its own Scrum Master and Product Owner while maintaining shared goals and synchronization.

In SAFe, these teams operate as part of an Agile Release Train (ART). They regularly align through events such as the Program Increment (PI) planning, where all teams on the ART synchronize their objectives and plans for the next increment (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

Is QA a separate function from the Agile team?

No. In SAFe, it’s not recommended to separate Quality Assurance (QA) from the Agile team. QA is integrated into the team to promote a whole-team approach to quality.

Quality Assurance is a shared responsibility in Agile and especially in SAFe. Rather than being a separate function, it is integrated within the Agile team to promote a whole-team approach to quality (Crispin & Gregory, 2009).

This approach to quality fosters a culture of collective responsibility where every team member, not just those with ‘QA’ in their job title, is invested in delivering high-quality, tested, and reliable solutions. By integrating QA into the Agile team, teams effectively ‘build quality in,’ one of the core principles of Lean-Agile development. It supports continuous integration, test-driven development, and other practices that enhance product quality and reduces waste (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2007).

Is DevOps part of the Agile team?

Yes. In SAFe, DevOps is incorporated into the Agile team. It supports the alignment of development and operations to facilitate continuous delivery and rapid response to change.

In the context of SAFe, DevOps isn’t merely a separate team or a role, but it is a mindset, a culture, and a set of technical practices providing communication, integration, automation, and close cooperation among all the people needed to plan, develop, test, deploy, release, and maintain a Solution (Kim et al., 2016).

It involves practices like continuous integration, continuous delivery, and release on demand. These practices are best embedded directly within the SAFe Teams, as they facilitate a faster flow of work from development to operations to the customer. This helps reduce the lead time, improve the deployment frequency, and ensure more reliable releases, thus making SAFe Teams more responsive to business needs (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2017).

Does the Agile team do Operational Support?

Ideally, yes. In Agile environments, teams often take responsibility for supporting their product.

SAFe Teams owning the operational support for their products aligns with end-to-end ownership and helps teams gain firsthand knowledge of how their products perform in a live environment. It encourages teams to build more robust, supportable solutions and fosters a strong sense of responsibility and accountability.

Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, the co-creators of Scrum, both emphasize the importance of teams taking ownership of their work, which naturally extends to supporting their products in operation. However, this practical implementation depends on the organizational context and the nature of the operational support required.

What are SAFe teams’ responsibilities?

SAFe teams hold five core responsibilities: connecting with the customer, planning the work, delivering value, getting feedback, and relentless improvement.

  1. Connecting with the Customer: SAFe Teams strive to understand their customers’ needs deeply. This understanding informs the product development process, leading to solutions that better meet the customers’ specific requirements (Cohn, 2010). The team builds empathy for the customers, which fuels collaboration with Product Management during product design and solution experiments.
  2. Planning the Work involves managing the Team Backlog, contributing to PI Planning, and playing a crucial role in refining the backlog. These activities are instrumental in keeping the team aligned with its goals and prioritizing tasks effectively (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2017). The planning process also allows the team to link their work to items in the ART Backlog.
  3. Delivering Value: SAFe Teams are designed to be cross-functional, embodying all the necessary skills and resources to create products that delight their customers (Leffingwell et al., 2018). They maintain alignment with the Agile Release Train (ART) and establish Continuous Delivery Pipelines to integrate, test, deploy, and release changes frequently.
  4. Getting Feedback: SAFe Teams actively seek feedback from their customers to evaluate the value of the products and technology (Fowler & Highsmith, 2001). They find and create pathways for feedback, ensuring they stay close to their customers and continuously validate their decisions with other teams and architects.
  5. Relentless Improvement: SAFe Teams track various metrics, including flow, competency, and outcome, to gauge their performance and influence business agility. They use these measurements to power retrospectives, set new performance targets, and implement improvements (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).

The Agile Manifesto serves as the guiding principle for SAFe Teams, extending its values beyond software teams to all SAFe Teams across technology and business sectors (Beck et al., 2001). SAFe Teams are multidisciplinary, crossing traditional organizational boundaries and possessing all the people and skills required to deliver value across functional domains.

Within these teams, two key roles exist: the Product Owner, who ensures the Team Backlog aligns with customer needs, and the Scrum Master/Team Coach, a servant leader who fosters a conducive environment for the Agile process and enables the team’s fast flow (Jeffries, 2001; Rubin, 2012).

Connecting with the customer

What does it mean for SAFe Teams to connect with the customer?

Connecting with the customer means SAFe Teams seek frequent feedback, understand their needs, and ensure the product adds value to them.

In Agile, “customer” typically refers to the individual or group who will use or benefit from the developed product. The Agile Manifesto emphasizes the importance of customer collaboration over contract negotiation (Beck et al., 2001). Thus, connecting with the customer three activities and they are:

  1. Understanding Customer Needs: SAFe Teams empathize with customer problems and requirements (Patton, 2014).
  2. Seeking Feedback: Regular customer feedback helps teams align the product with user needs and expectations (Kniberg and Skarin, 2010).
  3. Delivering Value: Teams work to ensure their product or service delivers value and satisfies the customer (Reinertsen, 2009).

Why is it important for SAFe Teams to connect with the customer?

Customer connection is important for SAFe Teams as it ensures the product’s relevance, promotes user satisfaction, and accelerates learning and improvement.

The rationale behind this importance is deeply rooted in Agile principles. A key principle is satisfying the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software (Beck et al., 2001). There are three reasons why connecting with your customer is important as follows:

  1. Product Relevance: By understanding customer needs, teams ensure that the product remains relevant and useful (Cohn, 2004).
  2. User Satisfaction: Regular interactions with customers lead to a better understanding of their expectations, resulting in increased user satisfaction (Schwaber and Sutherland, 2017).
  3. Learning and Improvement: Frequent customer feedback provides valuable insights that facilitate learning and continuous improvement (Poppendieck and Poppendieck, 2003).

How do SAFe Teams connect with the customer?

Connecting with the customer is achieved through regular communication, empathy, collaborative discovery, and iterative feedback cycles.

Different Agile methodologies provide different techniques for customer collaboration, but the common denominator is maintaining close contact. The Agile principle of customer collaboration suggests four ways to connect, and they are:

  1. Regular Communication: Regular meetings, interviews, and discussions help teams understand customer needs (Adkins, 2010).
  2. Empathy: Understanding the customer’s perspective by empathizing with their needs, concerns, and desires using empathy mapping (Pichler, 2010).
  3. Collaborative Discovery: Techniques like User Story Mapping or Design Thinking workshops help uncover customer needs collaboratively (Patton, 2014; Brown, 2009).
  4. Iterative Feedback Cycles: Regularly delivering increments of the product to the customer and seeking feedback. This feedback loop allows for continuous improvement (Anderson, 2010).

These methods connect closely with the customer, ensuring product development stays aligned with the customer’s needs and expectations.

Planning the work

What does it mean for SAFe Teams to plan team-level work?

Planning team-level work for SAFe Teams means breaking down large tasks into manageable increments, prioritizing them, and determining a timeline for their completion.


User Stories Prioritized in the Team BacklogIn Agile, team-level planning involves taking the features, user stories, or requirements prioritized in the program backlog and breaking them down into tasks the team works on during a specific iteration (also known as a sprint). Various Agile practices and methodologies guide this process. Still, the goal is the same: to ensure that work is effectively distributed across the team and that the team has a clear understanding of what needs to be done, by whom, and by when (Anderson, 2010). Four aspects of planning at the team level are as follows:

  1. Task Identification: The team breaks down user stories into tasks, each representing a piece of work necessary to implement the story (Cohn, 2005).
  2. Task Prioritization: Tasks are prioritized based on their alignment with business objectives, customer needs, and dependencies with other tasks (Rubin, 2012).
  3. Time Estimation: The team estimates the time required to complete each task, often using techniques such as story points or ideal hours (Cohn, 2005).
  4. Sprint Planning: The team decides which tasks to work on in the next sprint based on their priority and the team’s capacity (Schwaber and Sutherland, 2017)

Why is it important for SAFe Teams to plan team-level work?

Team-level planning in Agile helps maintain focus, manage workload, increase predictability, and enhance collaboration and shared understanding.

The importance of team-level planning is attributed to four factors that improve the effectiveness and efficiency of SAFe Teams, and they are:

  1. Workload Management: Planning helps distribute the workload evenly among team members, thus preventing burnout and ensuring a sustainable development pace (Beck et al., 2001).
  2. Predictability: When teams plan their work, they give stakeholders a reliable forecast of what they will deliver and when (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  3. Focus: A clear plan provides focus, helps team members understand their tasks, and ensures everyone is working towards the same goal (Kern et al., 2001).
  4. Collaboration and Shared Understanding: Through planning activities, teams gain a shared understanding of the work and its value. This leads to better collaboration and higher-quality outcomes (Larsen and Derby, 2006).

How do the SAFe Teams plan work?

SAFe Teams plan to work through sprint planning, “backlog refinement,” and estimation techniques like story points or t-shirt sizes.

The specifics are based on the chosen Agile methodology followed; six common practices are: 

  1. Sprint Planning: At the start of each sprint, the team meets to decide what work they will commit to during that period. This involves reviewing the backlog, discussing capabilities, and making commitments (Schwaber and Sutherland, 2017).
  2. Backlog Refinement: Also known as backlog grooming, this ongoing process involves reviewing, detailing, and ordering the product backlog items based on their priority, value, and risk (Pichler, 2010).
  3. Estimation: Teams estimate the effort required for each story using techniques such as story points, ideal hours, or t-shirt sizes. Planning Poker is used for collaborative estimation (Cohn, 2005).
  4. Task Breakdown: Teams break stories into tasks, providing more granularity and clarity on the work to be done (Anderson, 2010).
  5. Velocity Tracking: Teams track the work completed in each sprint (velocity) to help predict future performance and inform planning (Schwaber and Sutherland, 2017).
  6. Daily Stand-ups: Daily meetings allow for micro-planning adjustments based on the team’s progress and any new information (Highsmith and Cockburn, 2001).

Delivering Value

What does it mean for SAFe Teams to deliver value?

For SAFe Teams, delivering value means creating and providing solutions or features that meet the customer’s needs, align with business goals, and are3 released frequently and predictably.

Value delivery in the context of SAFe is about developing high-quality, customer-centric solutions incrementally and iteratively. Teams work in short iterations or Sprints, at the end of which a potentially releasable product Increment is delivered. The process hinges on effective collaboration, customer engagement, technical excellence, and adherence to Agile principles and practices (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important for SAFe Teams to deliver value?

Delivering value is vital for SAFe Teams because it drives customer satisfaction, competitive advantage, and business growth and fosters a culture of continuous improvement.

The delivery of value is the essence of any business. In the SAFe context, it gains further significance due to 4 key reasons as follows:

  1. Customer Satisfaction: Consistent value delivery leads to higher customer satisfaction, enhancing customer retention and loyalty (Anderson, 2010).
  2. Competitive Advantage: By frequently delivering valuable features, organizations respond to market changes swiftly, staying ahead of competitors (Highsmith and Cockburn, 2001).
  3. Business Growth: Delivering value directly contributes to business growth by driving revenue and profitability (Reinertsen, 2009).
  4. Continuous Improvement: Regular delivery enables teams to gather feedback and make improvements, fostering a culture of learning and continuous improvement (Kim et al., 2018).

How do SAFe Teams deliver value?

SAFe Teams deliver value through practices such as backlog prioritization, iterative development, continuous integration, continuous delivery, and regular customer feedback.

SAFe teams employ 5 Agile practices and principles to ensure consistent value delivery, and they are:

  1. Backlog Prioritization: Teams prioritize work based on its value to the customer and business, focusing on high-value items first (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  2. Iterative Development: Teams work in short iterations or sprints, delivering a potentially releasable increment of the product at the end of each iteration (Schwaber and Sutherland, 2017).
  3. Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery: Teams integrate work frequently and keep the system in a state where it is in a releasable state at any time, increasing the speed and frequency of deliveries (Humble and Farley, 2010).
  4. Customer Engagement: Teams actively engage customers and stakeholders throughout the development process, ensuring that the delivered product meets their needs and expectations (Pichler, 2010).
  5. Inspect and Adapt: Teams regularly reflect on their performance, gather feedback, and make necessary adjustments to improve their value delivery capabilities (Kotter, 2012).

Getting Feedback

What does it mean for SAFe Teams to get feedback?

For SAFe Teams, getting feedback involves regularly interacting with customers and stakeholders to understand the value and efficacy of the products and technologies they’ve delivered.

In the Scaled Agile Framework, feedback is a crucial element that supports continuous improvement and effective decision-making. SAFe teams strive to minimize the gap between them and their customers, actively seeking feedback at various stages of the delivery pipeline. They also validate their implementation decisions with other teams and architects, ensuring the solution aligns with overall objectives and standards (Anderson, 2010).

Why is it important for SAFe Teams to get feedback?

Feedback is important for SAFe Teams because it helps to ensure that the product or service being delivered aligns with customer needs, aids in continuous improvement, and facilitates effective decision-making.

Feedback plays a pivotal role in Agile and Scaled Agile Frameworks in 3 ways, as follows:

  1. Aligns Product with Customer Needs: Regular feedback ensures that the product or service delivered aligns with the needs and expectations of the customer (Cohn, 2004).
  2. Facilitates Continuous Improvement: Feedback helps teams to learn from their experiences and identify areas for improvement, fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement (Kim et al., 2018).
  3. Aids in Decision Making: Feedback provides valuable insights that facilitate effective decision-making regarding product features, design, processes, etc. (Reinertsen, 2009).

How do SAFe Teams get feedback?

SAFe Teams get feedback through customer interactions, iterative development and delivery, review meetings, surveys, and retrospectives.

There are five ways in which SAFe teams seek and collect feedback as follows:

  1. Customer Interactions: Teams frequently interact with customers to understand their needs and feedback about the product (Pichler, 2010).
  2. Iterative Development and Delivery: By delivering increments of the product regularly, teams obtain early and frequent feedback (Schwaber and Sutherland, 2017).
  3. Review Meetings: Teams hold review meetings with stakeholders to demonstrate the product increment and gather feedback (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  4. Surveys: Teams collect feedback from a broader customer base (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  5. Retrospectives: Teams hold retrospectives to reflect on their processes and performance, gathering internal feedback for improvement (Derby and Larsen, 2006).

Improving Relentlessly

What does it mean to improve relentlessly?

For SAFe Teams, relentless improvement means constantly assessing their performance metrics, learning from their experiences, and implementing changes to enhance their processes and output.

Relentless improvement is one of the core values of the SAFe. This means that SAFe Teams continually strive to enhance their competence, and they use various measurements to gauge their performance and help fuel their retrospective sessions. They set new performance targets and constantly work on implementing improvements, all contributing to overall business agility (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important to improve relentlessly?

Relentless improvement is crucial for SAFe Teams as it fosters continuous learning, enhances product quality, accelerates delivery, and promotes business agility.

Relentless improvement is a key driver of success for SAFe Teams for four reasons, and they are:

  1. Fosters Continuous Learning: Regularly assessing and learning from past experiences encourages a culture of continuous learning (Poppendieck and Poppendieck, 2007).
  2. Enhances Product Quality: Improvements in processes and practices often lead to better product quality (Rubin, 2012).
  3. Accelerates Delivery: Teams that continuously improve and optimize their workflow, accelerating delivery times (Kim et al., 2018).
  4. Promotes Business Agility: By adapting and improving, teams respond more effectively to changes and market dynamics, which is the essence of business agility (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

How do SAFe Teams improve relentlessly?

SAFe Teams continuously improve by tracking performance metrics, conducting retrospectives, setting new performance targets, and implementing improvements based on the insights gained.

Four activities typically facilitate relentless improvement in SAFe Teams, and they are:

  1. Tracking Performance Metrics: SAFe Teams use flow, competency, and outcome metrics to gauge their performance and understand their strengths and weaknesses (Anderson, 2010).
  2. Conducting Retrospectives: Teams hold regular retrospective sessions to reflect on their performance and identify areas for improvement (Derby and Larsen, 2006).
  3. Setting New Performance Targets: Based on their retrospectives and performance metrics, teams set new targets to drive their performance improvement efforts (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  4. Implementing Improvements: Teams implement process and practice changes based on the insights gained from their retrospectives and performance metrics (Kniberg and Skarin, 2010).

SAFe Teams of Teams (Agile Release Trains)

SAFe Teams of Teams - Agile Release TrainsWhat are SAFe Teams of Teams (ARTs?)

Agile Release Trains (ARTs) are long-lived teams of SAFe Teams, which, along with other stakeholders, collaboratively deliver value in an organization in a regular, predictable manner.

Agile Release Trains (ARTs) represent a core construct in the SAFe. They are essentially a “team of teams,” usually of 50-125 individuals. These individuals form multiple cross-functional teams working together to deliver value within an organization’s larger value stream. ARTs operate on a set schedule known as a Program Increment (PI), typically 8-12 weeks long, during which they deliver incrementally developed, potentially shippable solutions or subsystems (Leffingwell et al., 2017).

Why are SAFe ARTs Important?

ARTs provide a mechanism to scale agile practices to large organizations, enabling them to deliver complex, large-scale projects with more predictability and efficiency.

ARTs are crucial in scaling agile development by allowing large organizations to apply agile principles across multiple teams. They align these teams towards a shared vision and mission, ensuring all stakeholders synchronize towards a common goal. This alignment facilitates cross-team communication and collaboration, essential when managing complex, large-scale projects. By organizing work into predictable, time-boxed Program Increments, ARTs enhance the organization’s ability to plan and manage development efforts, providing more reliability in delivering value (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).

What are the business benefits of SAFe ARTs?

SAFe ARTs enhance organizational agility, improve product quality, accelerate time-to-market, and increase employee engagement.

  1. Enhanced Organizational Agility: By breaking down silos and fostering cross-functional collaboration, ARTs make organizations more responsive to changes in the business environment (Highsmith & Cockburn, 2001).
  2. Improved Product Quality: The iterative development approach employed within ARTs, combined with continuous integration practices, leads to improved product quality by enabling rapid feedback and early detection of issues (Anderson, 2010).
  3. Accelerated Time-to-Market: By aligning multiple teams to a common mission and schedule, ARTs streamline the product development process, thereby reducing time-to-market (Kim, Humble, Debois & Willis, 2016).
  4. Increased Employee Engagement: ARTs foster a shared responsibility and ownership culture, leading to higher employee engagement and satisfaction (Mellor et al., 2002).

What is the relationship between SAFe ARTs and Organizational Agility?

Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in the SAFe framework promote Organizational Agility by aligning multiple SAFe Teams around a common goal and facilitating cross-functional collaboration and synchronized delivery.

ARTs are a critical contributor to Organizational Agility within SAFe, enabling companies to flexibly and responsively adapt to changing business environments. By working within a common timeframe (the Program Increment), ARTs foster coordination and alignment among diverse teams, allowing the organization to move as a cohesive unit towards shared objectives. This alignment is further enhanced by the common vision and roadmap, which guide all activities within the ART. The continuous feedback loops and improvement mechanisms intrinsic to ARTs promote a culture of ongoing learning and adaptability, a core tenet of Organizational Agility (Jez Humble et al., 2016).

What is the difference between traditional organizational structures and SAFe ARTs?

Traditional organizational structures tend to be hierarchical and siloed. At the same time, SAFe Agile Release Trains (ARTs) are value-oriented, cross-functional, and collaborative structures that work on delivering value in a synchronized manner.

Traditional organizations typically operate hierarchically, top-down, with siloed departments that often work in isolation. Decision-making is usually centralized, and teams lack clear, shared objectives. In contrast, SAFe ARTs represent a shift from these traditional structures. ARTs are organized around value streams, focusing on delivering customer value. They consist of cross-functional, self-organizing SAFe Teams that collaborate and coordinate their efforts to achieve common goals. Decision-making in ARTs is more decentralized, promoting agility and responsiveness (Anderson, 2010).

Who are the key members and stakeholder groups in SAFe ARTs?

SAFe ART Members

Key members in SAFe ARTs are as follows.

  1. The Release Train Engineer (RTE) acts as the chief scrum master for the train, guiding its process and execution.
  2. Product Management is responsible for defining and prioritizing the Program Backlog to provide the most value to the business.
  3. System Architect/Engineering is responsible for defining a system, fostering the architectural vision and integrity, and enabling technical excellence across the train.
  4. SAFe Teams are cross-functional groups that develop and deliver value by creating system increments (Leffingwell et al., 2017).

Business Owners and Customers typically represent stakeholder groups. 

  1. Business Owners make the key economic decisions for the train and are intimately involved in the governance of its operation.
  2. Customers are the ultimate recipients of the value produced by the ART and are internal or external to the organization (Anderson, 2010).

What is the role of the Release Train Engineer in the SAFe ART?

The Release Train Engineer (RTE) in a SAFe ART serves as a chief Scrum Master, overseeing the coordination of the ART, facilitating communication and problem-solving, and helping to manage risks and dependencies.

As the servant leader of the Agile Release Train (ART), the RTE helps ensure the train stays on track by facilitating the major events and processes that occur, including the Program Increment (PI) planning sessions, “inspect and adapt” workshops, and system demos. The RTE also aids in aligning teams to the common mission and vision, facilitates cross-team communication and collaboration, escalates and resolves impediments, and helps manage risks and dependencies. The RTE assists in fostering a continuous improvement mindset within the ART, encouraging innovation and the relentless improvement of processes and practices.

What is the role of Product Management in SAFe ARTs?

Product Management in a SAFe ART is responsible for defining and prioritizing the Program Backlog to deliver maximum value to the business.

Product Management plays a crucial role within the ART by defining, prioritizing, and ensuring the readiness of the Program Backlog – the list of features to be developed in upcoming Program Increments (PIs). This role requires close collaboration with stakeholders, architects, and SAFe Teams to define features and enablers, understand their value, and sequence them in line with business goals and architectural runway. As part of this, they lead the preparation for PI planning and actively participate in the event, working closely with SAFe Teams to help them understand the context and intent of features and capabilities.

What is the role of the System Architect in the SAFe ART?

The System Architect in a SAFe ART defines the overall system design, fosters architectural integrity, and enables technical excellence across teams.

Within an Agile Release Train, the System Architect plays a crucial role in defining the architectural vision and ensuring it’s followed through in developing and delivering solutions. They collaborate closely with the SAFe Teams, Product Management, and other stakeholders to create an architectural runway that supports the implementation of upcoming features while maintaining system integrity. The System Architect also promotes technical excellence by advocating for good practices such as Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and automated testing.

What is the role of the SAFe Teams in the SAFe ART?

SAFe Teams in a SAFe ART are responsible for delivering valuable, quality solutions incrementally and frequently within an agreed timebox.

SAFe Teams, comprising cross-functional members, are the primary building blocks of any Agile Release Train (ART). Their main responsibility is to deliver value incrementally and frequently by building quality, user-centric solutions. Teams work within the constraints of an agreed timebox, usually a two-week sprint, and aim to deliver working, tested, and potentially shippable solutions at the end of each sprint. They collaborate closely with Product Management, System Architects, and other teams within the ART to ensure alignment with the overall mission and vision.

What is the role of the Business Owners in SAFe ARTs?

Business Owners in a SAFe ART play a key role in decision-making, aligning the ART with business goals, and maximizing the value delivered.

Business Owners are key stakeholders intimately involved in the ART’s activities. They make vital decisions about what value the ART delivers, help define priorities, and provide guidance on the economic framework in which the ART operates. Their regular involvement ensures the ART remains aligned with business goals and objectives. Business Owners also participate in key events such as Program Increment (PI) planning, “inspect and adapt” workshops, and system demos. They provide the necessary business context to guide the development of solutions and provide critical feedback during the process.

What is the role of the Customers in “SAFe ARTs”?

Customers in a SAFe ART provide essential feedback, define needs, and validate the solutions’ value.

Whether internal or external, customers play a critical role in shaping the solutions delivered by an Agile Release Train. They provide feedback on the solutions produced and help validate whether the delivered solutions meet their needs and provide value. They also participate in defining user stories and acceptance criteria and are often involved in reviewing and providing feedback during system demos. The active participation of customers helps ensure that the solutions delivered align with their needs and expectations, leading to higher customer satisfaction and increased value delivery.

What are SAFe ARTs responsibilities?

Connecting with the customer

What does it mean for SAFe ARTs to connect with the customer?

Connecting with the customer in SAFe ARTs means understanding customer needs, empathizing with them, and designing solutions that deliver value to the customer.

In the context of SAFe, connecting with the customer involves understanding their needs and empathizing with their circumstances. It involves customer-centric thinking where Agile Release Trains (ARTs) continuously focus on customer needs and seek innovative solutions to fulfill those needs. It employs Design Thinking principles to understand customers’ problems and design desirable, feasible, and sustainable solutions. Customer Centricity, empathy, and Design Thinking are critical elements that enable ARTs to discover new product capabilities that deliver substantial value to the customers.

Why is it important for SAFe ARTs to connect with the customer?

SAFe ARTs must connect with customers to ensure they deliver value, improve customer satisfaction, and foster business success.

The primary goal of any Agile Release Train (ART) is to deliver value to the customer. Connecting with the customer is vital to understand their needs, desires, and problems they are trying to solve. By maintaining a close connection and empathy with customers, ARTs ensure that their solutions align with customer expectations and provide real value. This alignment increases customer satisfaction and drives business success, as solutions that meet customer needs are more likely to be successful in the market.

How do you connect with the customer?

Connecting with the customer involves customer centricity, applying Design Thinking, creating user personas, mapping customer journeys, and validating value hypotheses with lightweight prototypes.

Connecting with the customer in a SAFe Agile Release Train context involves three practices, and they are:

  1. Adopting a customer-centric mindset, focusing on customer needs and opportunities to benefit the customer.
  2. Using Design Thinking is a recurrent process of understanding the problem and designing the right solution. This involves creating user personas to understand different customer types better, mapping customer journeys to understand their experiences, and analyzing benefits to ensure the solutions bring value to the customer.
  3. Lightweight prototypes help quickly validate customer value hypotheses, ensuring the ART develops the right solutions to meet customer needs.

Planning the work

What does it mean for SAFe ARTs to plan team-level work?

In SAFe, Agile Release Trains (ARTs) planning team-level work means decomposing features into user stories or enablers at the team level during Program Increment (PI) planning. It involves understanding capacity, estimating effort, and negotiating workload to ensure the team’s backlog aligns with the ART’s objectives.

Within the SAFe, Agile Release Trains (ARTs) represents a virtual organization (usually 50-125 people) that plans, commits, develops, and delivers together. ARTs fundamentally operate on a Program Increment (PI) timeline, typically 8-12 weeks long. In ARTs, planning team-level work is critical to PI planning and execution.

The team-level planning process starts with understanding the bigger picture — the ART’s objectives for the upcoming PI, which are based on the strategic themes and portfolio-level epics and are broken down into features. During PI planning, these features are further decomposed into user stories and enablers at the team level. These smaller, implementable chunks of work then populate the team’s backlog.

This decomposition process is accompanied by understanding the team’s capacity for the upcoming PI, estimating the effort required for each user story or enabler, and negotiating the workload with Product Management and other stakeholders to ensure that what ends up in the team’s backlog is feasible and aligns with the ART’s overall objectives. This practice is fundamental to decentralized decision-making within SAFe, where those closest to work (i.e., the teams) plan their work while aligning with the ART’s vision and objectives (Leffingwell et al., 2018).

Why is it important for SAFe ARTs to plan team-level work?

Team-level work planning in SAFe ARTs is crucial to ensure alignment with the ART’s vision and objectives, provide transparency, optimize flow and value delivery, foster commitment, and enable inspection and adaptation.

Planning team-level work within Agile Release Trains (ARTs) is essential for five reasons, and they are:

  1. It ensures alignment between the team’s work and the ART’s vision and objectives, promoting a cohesive and concerted effort toward value delivery. By decomposing features into user stories and enablers, teams translate the ART’s vision into tangible tasks they implement and deliver.
  2. Provides transparency and clarity. By creating a detailed backlog of user stories and enablers, everyone involved – including other teams, Product Management, Business Owners, and stakeholders – gets a clear picture of what each team is working on, thereby reducing ambiguity and misunderstandings.
  3. Optimizes flow and value delivery. By understanding their capacity, estimating effort, and negotiating their workload, teams manage their work in process, reducing overburden and maximizing throughput. This improved flow results in more predictable and efficient value delivery (Reinertsen, 2009).
  4. Foster commitment. During PI planning, teams actively define their work for the next PI, fostering a sense of ownership and commitment to delivering on their promises. This aligns with the SAFe principle of ‘Build-in integrity,’ which emphasizes the importance of personal and team accountability in achieving quality outcomes (Leffingwell et al., 2018).
  5. Enables inspection and adaptation. By planning their work, teams set a baseline against which they inspect their progress and adapt their plans as needed during the PI. This supports the Agile and Lean principles of continual learning and improvement, facilitating the team’s evolution towards higher performance and value delivery (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).

How do SAFe ARTs plan work?

SAFe ARTs plan their work through a structured process during Program Increment (PI) Planning. This includes preparation, the main planning event, and a follow-up. Key activities involve aligning ART priorities with portfolio strategy, preparing for PI Planning, and conducting the PI Planning event, culminating in agreed-upon PI Objectives for each team.

The process of ARTs planning their work in the SAFe framework is a structured, 3-step process that primarily occurs during Program Increment (PI) Planning as follows:

  1. Align ART priorities with portfolio strategy: Every ART operates within a portfolio context and needs to align with the overall portfolio strategy. Strategic Themes guide ARTs towards common goals. ART representatives regularly engage with portfolio stakeholders and include them in portfolio interactions to maintain alignment. Epic Owners often serve as an important link between portfolio strategy and ART execution (Leffingwell et al., 2018).
  2. Prepare for PI Planning: Stakeholders and teams prepare carefully for PI Planning. Product Management and Business Owners develop a vision and agree on priorities for the next PI. Teams consider their remaining work, attainable capacity, and any emerging effort. This includes an inventory of their remaining work, attainable capacity, and any new work that emerges locally (Knaster & Leffingwell, 2017).
  3. Plan the PI: PI planning is the main event where alignment is generated within the ART. Teams create and agree on PI Objectives that will guide them throughout the PI execution. Business Owners share business and customer context with teams and learn how current technology and delivery capabilities create optimal business value (Knaster & Leffingwell, 2017).

Post-PI planning activities include refining the team backlogs, finalizing plans and dependencies across teams and ARTs, and executing the plan throughout the PI. Regular sync-ups such as Scrum of Scrums, ART sync, and the Inspect and Adapt workshop help the ART monitor progress, manage dependencies, and adapt the plan as needed (Leffingwell et al., 2018). These activities help SAFe ARTs effectively plan their work, promote alignment, and deliver maximum value.

Delivering Value

What does it mean for SAFe ARTs to deliver value?

For SAFe Agile Release Trains (ARTs), delivering value means creating and delivering usable, tested increments of a product or solution that meets a customer’s needs and expectations.

In the context of the SAFe, delivering value is the tangible output created by Agile Release Trains (ARTs), which are cross-functional teams that work synchronously to develop and deliver product increments. As SAFe understands, value refers to any features or services that benefit the customer or contribute positively to achieving an organization’s business goals (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Value delivery involves a cadence of activities to ensure the train stays on track. It starts with developing solution features, including integrating and frequently testing to uncover and address technology and implementation issues early. This process is accomplished in short increments, enabling quick learning and adjustments based on feedback and challenges. Regular synchronization points allow necessary adjustments and alignment with the product increment (PI) objectives.

An important aspect of value delivery by ARTs is the establishment of a Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP) and release governance processes. The CDP facilitates ongoing exploration, integration of work, and continuous deployment, while release governance aligns releases with strategic objectives, validates increments, ensures compliance, and maintains assets needed for release. Releasing frequently and continually optimizing the process is key to reducing time-to-market and managing technical debt effectively (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important for SAFe ARTs to deliver value?

SAFe ARTs deliver value to realize business objectives, meet customer needs, ensure product quality, manage risks effectively, and maintain a sustainable pace of work.

The importance of value delivery by Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in SAFe lies in achieving five interconnected goals as follows:

  1. Realizing business objectives. Organizations achieve their strategic goals by delivering incremental value, meeting market demands, and staying competitive (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  2. Customer satisfaction. When ARTs deliver increments that meet or exceed customer expectations, they build customer trust and loyalty. By delivering in small increments and seeking feedback, ARTs understand customer needs and incorporate that feedback into future increments.
  3. The practice of frequent integration and testing associated with value delivery ensures the quality of the product. By uncovering issues early in the development process, teams mitigate risks and prevent costly or complex fixes (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).
  4. Risk management. Regular releases and constant synchronization help identify and mitigate technical debt and other potential disruptions before they cause damage.
  5. Cadence and synchronization in delivering value help establish a sustainable pace of work, leading to better productivity and worker satisfaction (Anderson, 2010).

How do SAFe ARTs deliver value?

SAFe ARTs deliver value by following a cadence of key activities, frequently integrating and testing, developing in short increments, regularly synchronizing, establishing a Continuous Delivery Pipeline, and implementing a release governance process.

Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in SAFe deliver value through a systematic and iterative process that combines five practices and principles, and they are:

  1. Frequent Integration and Testing: ARTs continually integrate and test the product throughout the development cycle. This practice uncovers issues early and provides an opportunity for timely correction, ensuring the product is always in a potentially releasable state (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  2. Short Increments of Value: ARTs develop and deliver the product increment (PI) as a series of short increments. Each increment represents a small batch of integrated, tested, and demonstrable value. This approach facilitates feedback and learning, allowing for potential course corrections for the rest of the PI (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).
  3. Regular Synchronization and Adjustments: Regular synchronization points, such as ART Sync meetings, increase visibility into progress towards the PI objectives. They provide opportunities for adjustments and realignment, ensuring the work stays on track and aligned with strategic goals (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).
  4. Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP): ARTs establish a CDP to explore, integrate, deploy, and release value continuously. A CDP facilitates a steady flow of value, reduces delays, and increases the ability to release value independently (Humble & Farley, 2010).
  5. Release Governance Process: A release governance process helps plan and execute releases, aligns releases with strategic objectives, validates releasable increments, ensures compliance with standards and regulations, assesses customer impact, and manages supporting assets for release. This systematic approach to governance helps ensure that each release meets organizational expectations and customer needs (Anderson, 2010).

Getting Feedback

What does it mean for SAFe ARTs to get feedback?

SAFe Agile Release Trains (ARTs) seeking feedback denotes their commitment to continuous improvement by validating their work against customer needs and business objectives. It involves a comprehensive loop of integration, testing, and real-world usage evaluation to ensure their outputs meet intended goals.

In the SAFe, Agile Release Trains (ARTs) represent a long-lived team of SAFe Teams, which continuously delivers increments of value in a value stream [Leffingwell et al., 2021]. A key aspect of their functioning involves obtaining feedback, essential to their commitment to relentless improvement.

Getting feedback entails evaluating the outcomes of their work against the needs of customers and the business’s strategic objectives. This process typically includes receiving technical feedback from integration and testing processes, running technical spikes, and gathering product value feedback directly from customers and business stakeholders. By doing so, the ART learns quickly and adapt its strategies and efforts based on this valuable insight. It’s a dynamic and ongoing process that ensures the solutions the ART delivers are continually honed to provide maximum value [Anderson & Fowler, 2021].

Why is it important for SAFe ARTs to get feedback?

Feedback is integral to SAFe ARTs as it validates their work, drives learning, fuels adaptation, and prevents costly missteps. It connects the ARTs with their customers, ensuring their work aligns with customer needs and business objectives.

Feedback is an indispensable component of Agile methodologies, and in the context of SAFe, it serves multiple vital functions for Agile Release Trains (ARTs). Feedback serves four specific purposes, and they are:

  1. Validates the work of ARTs ensuring alignment with customer needs and business objectives, thereby preventing the creation of unneeded or unused products or features [Cohn & Derby, 2023].
  2. Rapid learning within ARTs enables them to swiftly adapt their practices and solutions, resulting in continuous improvement and increased velocity [Highsmith & Hunt, 2022].
  3. Risk mitigation by consistently confirming alignment of work with customer and business needs, ARTs avoid making costly and time-consuming mistakes [Schwaber & Sutherland, 2021].
  4. Customer-centricity through regular engagement with customers and active solicitation of their input increases the likelihood of creating solutions that resonate with users and meet market needs [Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2023].

How do SAFe ARTs get feedback?

SAFe ARTs get feedback through regular customer interactions, measuring business outcomes and usage, performing A/B testing, and conducting comprehensive User Experience (UX) tests.

In SAFe, Agile Release Trains (ARTs) have multiple approaches to gathering feedback, ensuring that they continuously improve and deliver value. Here’s how they do it:

  1. Customer Interaction: Regularly involving customers in the development process is paramount. This happens during the preparation for PI (Program Increment) planning, the PI planning itself, and system demos. Direct customer input gives ARTs valuable insights into what customers need or find useful [Fowler & Grenning, 2022].
  2. Measuring Business Outcomes and Usage: SAFe ARTs measure if the solutions they deliver help achieve the desired business outcomes. They do this by tracking customers’ solutions usage, revealing issues and opportunities that have not been apparent during development. By linking solutions to business outcomes, ARTs understand the impact and value of their work [Beedle & van Bennekum, 2022].
  3. A/B Testing: A/B testing involves creating two or more options of a feature or functionality and then validating them with users. By doing this, ARTs gather direct feedback on which alternative is more effective or preferred by the users, allowing them to make informed decisions about the direction of their development efforts [Kniberg & Pichler, 2023].
  4. User Experience Testing: User Experience (UX) is a critical factor in the success of a solution. To ensure a productive UX, ARTs need an explicit UX design and testing strategy. This involves formulating hypotheses and building Minimum Marketable Features (MMFs) that are evaluated by observing the user in action, surveying them, or using analytics to understand their behavior [Adkins & Appelo, 2022]. The feedback gathered from UX testing helps the ART to understand how their solutions are used in real-world contexts and to make improvements accordingly.

Together, These strategies enable ARTs to get comprehensive feedback that drives their continuous improvement, adaptation, and, ultimately, the delivery of maximum value [Leffingwell et al., 2021].

Improving Relentlessly

What is the definition of Relentless Improvement?

Improving relentlessly in the context of SAFe refers to the continuous pursuit of better productivity and value delivery by Agile Release Trains (ARTs). It involves measuring and assessing various aspects of ART operations, identifying areas for improvement, and taking consistent action to enhance competency, flow, and outcomes.

Improving relentlessly means that ARTs within the SAFe strive for ongoing advancement and optimization. It entails a proactive approach to enhancing productivity, quality, and customer value. There are four aspects of improving relentlessly in SAFe as follows:

  1. Measuring competency, flow, and outcomes: ARTs regularly evaluate their competency levels in relevant areas to ensure continuous skill development and growth. They also measure and monitor the “flow of work” through the ART, identifying bottlenecks. ARTs leverage Value Stream Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the outcomes that drive desired customer and business benefits.
  2. Inspect & Adapt at regular intervals: At the end of each Program Increment (PI), ARTs conduct an Inspect & Adapt (I&A) event. During this event, the ART reflects on the previous PI, identifies problems, and takes corrective action. It is an opportunity to address challenges and identify systemic improvement opportunities to enhance future performance.
  3. Making small improvements on the fly: ARTs actively seek and address small, tactical improvement opportunities without waiting for the next I&A event. They achieve quick wins and maintain a continuous improvement mindset by addressing these minor improvements promptly.
  4. Leveraging the Innovation & Planning Iteration (IP Iteration): The IP Iteration, a dedicated timebox within SAFe, allows the ART to allocate uninterrupted time for innovation and learning. The ART advances its solution, technical infrastructure, and various processes during this iteration. It provides a structured opportunity for reflection, exploration, and implementation improvements.

Why is relentless improvement important?

Relentless improvement is vital in SAFe because it enhances productivity, quality, and customer value. Agile Release Trains (ARTs) adapt to changing market demands, uncover improvement opportunities, and deliver better results over time by continuously assessing competencies, improving flow, and focusing on outcomes.

Relentless improvement is essential within SAFe for six reasons, and they are:

  1. Adaptation to changing market demands: Markets are dynamic and ever-evolving. By improving relentlessly, ARTs stay adaptable and responsive to changing customer needs, technology advancements, and competitive landscapes. Continuous improvement enables ARTs to adjust their practices and processes to meet evolving market demands effectively.
  2. Uncovering improvement opportunities: Relentlessly seeking improvements allows ARTs to identify areas to enhance their competencies, flow, and outcomes. By consistently measuring and assessing their performance, they uncover and address inefficiencies, bottlenecks, and other issues that hinder value delivery.
  3. Enhanced productivity and quality: By embracing a continuous improvement mindset, ARTs increase their productivity and quality levels over time. They streamline processes, remove waste, and optimize their work through small, iterative enhancements. This leads to improved efficiency, reduced rework, and higher-quality outcomes.
  4. Delivering better customer value: The ultimate goal of SAFe is to deliver value to customers. By improving relentlessly and consistently, ARTs enhance their ability to deliver value to customers. By improving competency, flow, and outcomes, they understand customer needs, optimize delivery processes, and deliver solutions that meet or exceed customer expectations.
  5. Continuous learning and growth: Relentless improvement fosters a culture of continuous learning and growth within ARTs. It encourages individuals and teams to seek feedback, experiment with new approaches, and learn from successes and failures. This learning mindset leads to personal and professional development, driving the overall improvement of the ART.
  6. Competitive advantage: In today’s fast-paced business environment, organizations need a competitive edge. “Relentless improvement” allows ARTs to stay ahead of the competition by continuously enhancing their practices, embracing innovation, and responding quickly to market changes. It positions organizations to adapt and thrive in a highly competitive landscape.

How do SAFe ARTs implement relentless improvement?

SAFe ARTs improve relentlessly through a combination of structured practices and continuous learning. They measure competency, flow, and outcomes, conduct regular Inspect & Adapt events, address small improvements in real-time, and leverage the dedicated Innovation & Planning Iteration (IP Iteration) to focus on innovation and learning.

SAFe ARTs employ four approaches to improve relentlessly, and they are:

  1. Measuring competency, flow, and outcomes: ARTs regularly assess their competency levels in relevant areas to identify gaps and promote continuous learning and growth. They measure the flow of work through the ART, looking for bottlenecks and opportunities to optimize flow. They also use Value Stream KPIs to measure outcomes and ensure alignment with desired customer and business benefits.
  2. Inspect & Adapt at regular intervals: At the end of each Program Increment (PI), ARTs conduct an Inspect & Adapt (I&A) event. During this event, the ART reflects on the previous PI, identifying problems and areas for improvement. Through a structured retrospective, they identify systemic improvement opportunities to enhance future performance. The I&A event serves as a critical feedback loop and a catalyst for continuous improvement.
  3. Making small improvements on the fly: ARTs actively seek and address small, tactical improvement opportunities as they arise. Instead of waiting for the next I&A event, they address these improvements promptly. They achieve quick wins and maintain a continuous improvement mindset throughout their day-to-day operations.
  4. Leveraging the Innovation & Planning Iteration (IP Iteration): The IP Iteration, a dedicated timebox within SAFe, allows ARTs to allocate uninterrupted time for innovation, learning, and improvement. They focus on advancing their solution, technical infrastructure, and processes during this iteration. It provides a structured opportunity for experimentation, exploration, and implementation of large-scale improvements.

In addition to these practices, SAFe ARTs foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement. They encourage individuals and teams to seek feedback, embrace a growth mindset, and promote experimentation. By encouraging a learning culture, ARTs create an environment where everyone is actively engaged in improving their practices, processes, and outcomes.

Exploring Built-in Quality

What is built-in quality?

Built-in quality is a set of practices that ensure all outputs of SAFe Teams meet appropriate quality standards throughout creating customer value.

In SAFe, built-in quality refers to a fundamental practice where the quality of the work is ensured during every step of the product development process rather than having quality control stages at the end (Leffingwell et al., 2018). This approach involves integrating quality practices into the daily work of cross-functional teams across both business and technology domains. Such practices encompass various work products, including software, hardware designs, marketing materials, contracts, etc.

Underpinning the concept of built-in quality is the belief that products built on solid, standard-compliant foundations are more adaptable and easier to change. The proactive approach of “building in” quality from the onset helps mitigate the risk of defects, wrong assumptions, and other issues that derails large-scale solutions (Knaster & Leffingwell, 2017).

Why is built-in quality important?

Built-in quality is important as it directly affects the speed at which teams deliver their solutions, ensuring higher customer satisfaction, improved delivery predictability, better system performance, and an enhanced ability to innovate.

Built-in quality is critical for any organization striving for business agility – the capability to adapt quickly to market changes (Leffingwell et al., 2018). It assures that the work products driving business value meet the required standards, allowing quicker delivery of solutions.

In a fast-paced business environment, mistakes are costly. The concept of built-in quality ensures that teams don’t spend excessive time fixing errors or revising work due to a lack of quality in the initial stages. By building quality into every step of the process, issues are identified and resolved as they arise rather than being found later in the process when they are more difficult and costly to fix (Anderson, 2010).

Built-in quality is key to maintaining customer trust and satisfaction by consistently delivering high-quality products. This enhances the company’s reputation and leads to better system performance and a stronger ability to innovate, scale, and meet compliance requirements (Fowler & Highsmith, 2001).

What are the benefits of built-in quality?

The benefits of built-in quality include higher customer satisfaction, improved velocity and delivery predictability, better system performance, and an increased capacity to innovate, scale, and meet compliance requirements.

Value Stream map showing ReworkImplementing built-in quality practices in an organization provides six benefits, and they are:

  1. Higher Customer Satisfaction: By consistently delivering high-quality products, organizations enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty (Cohn, 2010).
  2. Improved Velocity and Delivery Predictability: When quality is integrated into every step of the process, there’s less rework and waste, which means faster delivery and improved predictability (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2017).
  3. Better System Performance: High-quality outputs improve system stability and performance, reducing the risk of system failure (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).
  4. Improved Innovation, Scalability, and Compliance: Built-in quality supports an organization’s ability to innovate and scale by facilitating a stable, high-quality foundation upon which new features and products are developed (Leffingwell et al., 2018). Built-in quality meets compliance requirements by consistently meeting the highest quality standards (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).
  5. Shifting Left of Learning Curve: Implementing built-in quality allows teams to accelerate problem discovery and resolution by shifting learning to the left of the project timeline. This approach promotes quicker learning processes, fosters improved collaboration, automates workflows, and facilitates more frequent delivery and faster customer feedback (Anderson, 2010).
  6. Enhanced Business Agility: With built-in quality, organizations respond more effectively to market changes. High-quality work products enable teams to deliver solutions faster and achieve better business agility (Leffingwell et al., 2018).

What is the role of quality in agile organizations?

Quality in agile organizations is an integral part of every stage of product development.

In agile organizations, quality isn’t a separate and reserved stage for the end of the development process. Instead, it’s baked into every part of product creation, from ideation to deployment. This emphasis on quality aims to decrease defects and waste, thus increasing the value delivered to customers.

According to Kent Beck and Ron Jeffries, quality in Agile organizations is about delivering value continuously and effectively and doing so requires that teams consistently apply quality principles (Beck & Jeffries, 2001). For instance, it means producing clean, efficient, and maintainable code. It also means ensuring that the product solves the customer’s problem effectively and enhances their experience.

Built-in quality, as defined by Dean Leffingwell and the SAFe framework, implies that quality controls are present at every stage of development, preventing defects from propagating through the system. This approach reduces time wasted on rework and promotes faster delivery of customer value (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

What is the relationship between quality and agility?

Quality and agility are intrinsically linked; maintaining high quality enables greater agility by minimizing rework and promoting faster value delivery.

In the context of Agile, quality is not separate from agility; they are inextricably connected. High quality allows for greater agility by reducing the need for rework, minimizing waste, and thus accelerating the delivery of value to customers (Beck & Jeffries, 2001).

The principles and practices of Agile emphasize a relentless focus on quality. Teams continually integrate and test their work to identify and address issues early rather than letting them propagate and become more difficult (and costly) to fix later. This approach, often called “shift left,” promotes quick feedback loops and continuous improvement (Anderson, 2010).

The SAFe introduces the concept of ‘Built-In Quality,’ stating that quality is integrated throughout the entire product development life cycle, not added at the end. Integrating quality assurance practices throughout the process makes teams more agile and adaptable and pivots quickly in response to changing requirements or conditions (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

How is built-in quality different?

Built-in quality differs in its emphasis on embedding quality checks and standards at each step of the product development process rather than as a separate, subsequent stage.

Built-in Quality is a key principle of the SAFe. Unlike traditional methods, where quality assurance often comes after the product development phase, SAFe emphasizes that quality must be incorporated into every step of the product development process.

This built-in quality approach reduces waste and ensures that errors are caught and rectified early, minimizing the need for extensive rework and thus promoting a faster, more efficient delivery of customer value (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

In SAFe, built-in quality is enforced through key practices such as Agile testing, continuous integration, behavior-driven development, test-driven development, and refactoring. These practices help create a culture where every team member is responsible for quality (Cohn, 2009).

According to Poppendieck and Poppendieck, building quality into the process is also a fundamental principle of Lean thinking. By doing so, you not only reduce the likelihood of producing a defective product but also decrease the overall cycle time, allowing for a more agile and responsive system (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).

What are some of the benefits of built-in quality?

Built-in quality enhances customer satisfaction, improves delivery predictability, increases system performance, and fosters the ability to innovate and scale.

Built-in quality offers four specific benefits, and they are:

  1. Customer satisfaction. A product or service consistently meeting or exceeding expectations invariably boosts customer trust and satisfaction. In the Scaled Agile Framework, built-in quality reduces the frequency of defects and enhances the user experience (Leffingwell et al., 2021).
  2. Delivery predictability. When teams integrate quality practices into their daily work, they are able to accurately estimate the time and effort required for tasks, thus increasing delivery predictability (Beck & Jeffries, 2001).
  3. Better system performance. With practices like continuous integration, automated testing, and peer reviews, the system is constantly validated and refined, leading to more robust, high-performing products (Cohn, 2009).
  4. Improves an organization’s ability to innovate, scale, and meet compliance requirements. It allows for more efficient scaling of processes and teams, as a solid quality foundation facilitates seamless integration and expansion (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).

How does built-in quality contribute to Business Agility?

Built-in quality enhances Business Agility by promoting faster and more reliable value delivery, minimizing rework, and supporting rapid adaptation to change.

Built-in quality enables organizations to respond more effectively and quickly to changes in the marketplace. By embedding quality assurance at each step of the development process, the SAFe ensures that work outputs meet appropriate quality standards, enabling faster and more reliable value delivery (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

Also, built-in quality minimizes rework by catching defects early. This ‘shift left’ approach reduces the time and effort spent on finding and fixing defects later in the process, thus freeing up resources to deliver value more quickly (Anderson, 2010).

Built-in quality supports rapid adaptation to change. High-quality, well-designed products are more adaptable, making it easier for organizations to pivot in response to changing customer needs, market conditions, or technological advances (Beck & Jeffries, 2001).

What is SAFe Principle 6, and how does it relate to built-in quality?

SAFe principle 6 emphasizes the importance of the uninterrupted flow of value, supported by built-in quality.

SAFe Principle 6 states: “Visualize and limit work in progress, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths” (Leffingwell et al., 2021). This principle emphasizes the importance of a continuous and uninterrupted flow of value, achieved by managing work in progress, reducing batch sizes, and controlling queue lengths.

Built-in quality directly supports this principle by preventing defects that disrupt the “flow of work.”  By catching issues early and ensuring that each piece of work meets quality standards before it progresses, built-in quality maintains the smooth flow of value delivery (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

Built-in quality supports reducing batch sizes, a practice that facilitates faster feedback and better responsiveness to change. Organizations are more confident in their value by ensuring that each small batch of work meets quality standards. They rapidly adapt to feedback or changes (Anderson, 2010).

It’s worth noting that Principle 6 is also supported by practices like limiting work in progress, visual management, and queue management, which all contribute to creating a smoother, faster flow of value (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).

What are SAFe Quality Domains?

The SAFe identifies five distinct Quality Domains: Business Functions, Software Applications, IT Systems, Hardware, and Cyber-physical Systems. Each domain employs different Built-in Quality practices tailored to its specific environment and context.

Built-in Quality is a fundamental principle of SAFe, and each domain adheres to the idea that quality is built into the product rather than inspected in. The intricacies of the respective environment and context inform the quality practices used in each domain. Let’s delve into each of them:

  1. Business Functions: These are non-IT disciplines like marketing, sales, HR, finance, and supply chain management. Quality impacts the day-to-day operations and specialized efforts. For instance, launching a new marketing campaign or developing new HR policies come with certain quality expectations that must be met.
  2. Software Applications: Software is pivotal in achieving business agility and competitiveness in today’s digital era. But this potential is unlocked with predictable quality in delivering solutions. Therefore, practices ensuring the quality of software applications are critical.
  3. IT Systems: The infrastructure that underpins enterprise solutions in today’s complex business landscape. The more sophisticated the solutions, the higher the quality standards required of the IT systems that support them.
  4. Hardware: This refers to physical devices like integrated circuits, cables, monitors, and other computer components. It encompasses mechanical tools, gears, motors, and other physical mechanisms. Given the high cost of changes in hardware systems, a unique approach to quality is required in this domain.
  5. Cyber-physical Systems: These are intricate systems where software algorithms control physical components. Examples include robots, aircraft, and automobiles. These complex systems often involve electrical, mechanical, optical, and other subsystems. Due to their complexity and the potentially catastrophic impacts of failure, these systems necessitate high-quality standards (Scaled Agile, 2023).

Each domain has unique requirements and complexities, but they all share a common focus on delivering value to customers through high-quality products and services. The practices to ensure Built-in Quality will vary, but the objective remains to achieve a high standard of excellence in every domain.

What are the SAFe Quality Practices?

What are SAFe’s Basic Agile Quality Practices?

The SAFe Basic Agile Quality Practices are five strategies to ensure quality standards in any domain. They comprise “Shift Learning Left,” “Pairing and Peer Review,” “Collective Ownership and T-shaped skills,” “Artifact Standards and Definition of Done,” and “Workflow Automation” (Scaled Agile Framework, n.d.).:

To ensure the delivery of high-quality work, SAFe promotes a series of Agile quality practices applicable across domains. These practices encompass five areas:

  1. Shift Learning Left: This practice is grounded in learning and uncovering issues as early as possible in the development process, thus minimizing the impact and reducing the need for substantial rework later. It restructures basic processes to facilitate learning, such as implementing test-first approaches where tests are created before the solution functions are implemented (Highsmith, 2002).
  2. Pairing and Peer Review: This involves two team members working collaboratively in real-time on the same task, one acting as the driver and the other as the navigator. This encourages knowledge sharing, facilitates immediate feedback, and helps maintain high quality (Cockburn & Highsmith, 2001).
  3. Collective Ownership and T-shaped skills: Under this practice, all team members are skilled and authorized to modify any relevant asset, reducing team dependencies and ensuring the swift delivery of value. It fosters a holistic understanding and maintenance of quality, enabled by T-shaped skills that blend deep expertise in one area with broad capabilities in others (Hunt & Thomas, 1999).
  4. Artifact Standards and Definition of Done: This practice focuses on establishing clear standards for creating and maintaining artifacts, encompassing design practices and automation. It also defines when a work product is complete and correct (Definition of Done – DoD), which varies depending on the team, train, and enterprise (Beck et al., 2001).
  5. Workflow Automation: This approach promotes the reduction of manual steps and error-prone processes through automation, streamlining workflows, and adherence to standards (Anderson, 2013).

What are SAFe’s Business quality standards?

SAFe’s Business Quality Standards are internal or external quality requirements for all business functions. To achieve quality with agility, businesses must organize into SAFe Teams, define their compliance policies, implement agile quality practices, and continuously measure, learn, and specialize their practices according to their specific functions (Scaled Agile Framework, n.d.).

SAFe emphasizes the necessity of Business Quality Standards, which are crucial for maintaining the quality of outputs across different business functions, including accounting, legal, HR, and more. These standards often tie to compliance requirements and serve to regulate the quality of business functions (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).

SAFe offers a 7-step approach to achieve quality with agility as follows:

  1. Organize into SAFe Teams, get trained, and iterate: This step encourages businesses to structure their teams around agility principles and provide the necessary training to operate effectively (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2017).
  2. Define your function’s standards and compliance policies: Each function must have specific standards and policies that ensure regulatory compliance.
  3. Agree on the Definition of Done (DoD) for artifacts and activities for your workflow: A clear DoD helps ensure that work products are complete, correct, and meet the expected quality standards (Beedle et al., 2001).
  4. Implement the basic Agile quality practices: Adoption of the five SAFe Agile quality practices, as detailed above, helps businesses maintain quality standards (Leffingwell, 2007).
  5. Measure and learn: Regular performance assessment and feedback for continuous improvement are essential (Anderson, 2013).
  6. Specialize Agile quality practices further to your specific function: Tailoring Agile practices to suit a function’s specific needs and requirements helps maintain quality standards more effectively (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).
  7. Improve relentlessly: This is about fostering a culture of continuous improvement, always seeking better ways to enhance the quality of products and processes (Kern, 2001).

What is SAFe’s Agile Software Development Quality Practices?

SAFe Agile Software Development Quality Practices highlight the inherent need for quality in software, with techniques such as Continuous Integration, Test-first Practices, Refactoring, Continuous Delivery, and Agile Architecture.

The complex and intangible software domain demands endemically built-in quality, as traditional inspection and testing approaches are inadequate. Extreme Programming (XP) has inspired five new quality practices focusing on achieving speed without sacrificing quality. These practices have proven valuable and influenced quality practices in other domains (Beck et al., 2001).

  1. Continuous Integration (CI): It involves regularly checking and integrating small changes for conflicts and errors. CI quickly builds, integrates, and tests each change at multiple levels, providing fast feedback to developers. CI is vital within and across teams for swiftly identifying and resolving issues in all parts of the codebase (Fowler & Foemmel, 2006).
  2. Test-first Practices: SAFe Teams leverage Test-Driven Development (TDD) for defining tests for small units of code, Behavior-Driven Development (BDD) for acceptance criteria of Story, Feature, and Capability, and Lean UX for feature or capability benefit hypothesis. These practices ensure that the frequent changes in Agile development do not introduce new errors, thus enabling fast, reliable execution (Beck, 2003).
  3. Refactoring involves improving a code area’s internal structure or operation without changing external behavior. Continuous refactoring significantly extends the useful life of a company’s investment in software assets, allowing users to benefit from a flow of value for years (Fowler, 2019).
  4. Continuous Delivery: It provides the ability to release value to customers whenever necessary through the Continuous Delivery Pipeline (CDP), which comprises continuous exploration, continuous integration, continuous deployment, and release on demand. Continuous delivery helps SAFe teams release on demand while ensuring quality (Humble & Farley, 2010).
  5. Agile Architecture: It involves a set of values, practices, and collaborations that support a system’s active, evolutionary design and architecture. It supports Agile development practices through collaboration, emergent design, intentional architecture, and simplicity. Architectural Runway allows SAFe Teams and trains to provide effective enablement for future business capabilities and features (Leffingwell et al., 2018).

What are SAFe’s IT Systems Quality Practices?

SAFe’s IT Systems Quality Practices include Infrastructure as Code, Non-Functional Requirements (NFRs) and Service-Level Agreements (SLAs), Telemetry and Monitoring, Cybersecurity Standards, and Automated Governance.

With IT increasingly powered business workflows, ensuring IT systems’ reliability, scalability, safety, and security is paramount. Five robust quality practices address this need, and they are:

  1. Infrastructure as Code: It involves programmatically controlling configurations that are especially complex in an IT ecosystem. Infrastructure as Code benefits from automation in defining, procuring, and maintaining configurations consistently and integrally. Containerization and immutable infrastructure greatly aid this process (Kim et al., 2016).
  2. NFRs and SLAs: IT infrastructure must provide certain quality attributes to support the systems essential for business operation. These include security, reliability, performance, maintainability, and scalability. Also, relevant Service-Level Agreements, such as Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR), must be ensured. In SAFe, these are achieved incrementally by early and continuous testing and timely corrective action (Anderson, 2010).
  3. Telemetry and Monitoring: These capabilities allow organizations to understand and fine-tune their architecture and operating systems to meet intended loads and usage patterns. Full-stack telemetry is activated for all features deployed through the Continuous Delivery Pipeline, ensuring that performance issues are anticipated or quickly addressed in production (Allspaw, 2019).
  4. Cybersecurity Standards: With increasing quality standards for protection against unauthorized access, use, disclosure, or destruction, the scope of activities to achieve comprehensive cybersecurity is broad. It includes technology enablement like data encryption, streamlined identity management, frequent testing and validation, workforce training, testing of new assets for various vulnerabilities, and constant review of new vulnerability alerts (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2006).
  5. Automated Governance: Advancements in DevOps provide opportunities for IT teams to automate governance, replacing manual, error-prone activities and addressing security, compliance, and audit needs. This includes configuration management automation, audit, security testing (during both build and deployment), and immutable infrastructure, helping to reduce human error that lead to system vulnerabilities (Kim et al., 2018).

What are SAFe’s Agile Hardware Engineering Quality Practices?

SAFe’s Agile Hardware Engineering Quality Practices are committed to Built-in Quality, focusing on Modeling, simulation, and Rapid Prototyping techniques.

Agile hardware engineering quality practices in the SAFe prioritize Built-in Quality, aiming to minimize the high cost and impact associated with quality issues in hardware systems and components (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

A crucial strategy employed is Modeling and Simulation. The objective is to foster a quicker build-and-learn process. Digital modeling, utilized in electrical and mechanical Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE), provides a platform for quickly and economically testing changes. The concept of Digital Twins, combining virtual models with real-world telemetry data, enhances predictive capabilities and improves overall system modeling (Anderson, 2010).

Rapid Prototyping serves as a key method of promoting Built-in Quality. This practice acknowledges that while important, the virtual environment can’t identify all issues. Physical prototypes, often crafted from wood, breadboarded electrical components, or 3D-printed parts, offer higher fidelity feedback that can only be obtained in a physical environment (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010). Additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) is increasingly used for its cost-saving benefits in rapid experimentation and prototyping.

What are SAFe’s Cyber-physical systems Quality Practices?

SAFe’s Cyber-physical systems Quality Practices utilize Model-Based Systems Engineering and promote Frequent End-to-End Integration to ensure Built-in Quality.

In SAFe, quality practices of cyber-physical systems acknowledge the unique challenges of ensuring quality in systems involving hardware components and governing software (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) is one key practice in this area. MBSE involves creating a set of interrelated digital models that assist in defining, designing, and documenting the system in development. These models promote efficient exploration, updating, and communication of various system aspects to stakeholders while reducing dependence on traditional documentation (Fowler, 2003). Testing and validating system properties early on with these models enable fast feedback on requirements and design decisions, facilitating continuous learning.

Frequent End-to-End Integration is another crucial quality practice for cyber-physical systems. While continuous integration is common in software development, large cyber-physical systems often present more challenges due to their scope, the long lead times of certain components, and limitations imposed by physical laws (Kim, Humble, Debois, & Willis, 2016). In these situations, the goal is to balance the cost of integrating versus delayed knowledge and feedback, resulting in frequent partial integrations with at least one complete solution integration for each Program Increment (PI). This practice mitigates risk and promotes greater overall system quality.

Accelerating Flow

What is the definition of “Accelerating Flow”?

Accelerating Flow is improving and speeding up an Agile team’s continuous value delivery to customers. It involves identifying and addressing interruptions, optimizing processes, and applying Agile principles to ensure an uninterrupted value stream.

In the context of the SAFe, Accelerating Flow pertains to enhancing the state in which SAFe Teams consistently deliver value to their customers. This is achieved by identifying and systematically addressing any interruptions to this flow. The SAFe Team and Technical Agility competency provide guidance for establishing effective cross-functional SAFe Teams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs). The application of quality practices and interaction with extended stakeholders further bolsters the delivery of valuable products and services (SAFe, n.d.). The Accelerating Flow concept is embedded throughout SAFe. It is specifically addressed in six articles: Value Stream Management, Principle #6- Make value flow without interruptions, Team Flow, ART Flow, Solution Train Flow, and Portfolio Flow. This series outlines eight ‘flow accelerators’ to tackle, optimize, and debug issues that impede the continuous flow of value.

Why is “Accelerating Flow” important?

Accelerating Flow enables continuous value delivery, improves productivity, and enhances customer satisfaction. It allows SAFe Teams to adapt to changes and deliver customer-centric solutions swiftly.

The importance of Accelerating Flow within the SAFe framework arises from its role in fostering a highly productive, adaptive, and customer-focused environment. SAFe Teams, due to their small and cross-functional nature, are empowered to deliver value faster and more effectively. By addressing potential interruptions to this flow and continually optimizing the value delivery process, SAFe Teams ensure the “flow of work” to the customer as smoothly as possible. The process encourages ongoing improvement since there is no upper limit to a team’s effectiveness (Fowler & Highsmith, 2001).

What are the benefits of “Accelerating Flow”?

The benefits of Accelerating Flow include enhanced productivity, continuous value delivery, improved customer satisfaction, and an empowered team environment.

The Accelerating Flow concept within the SAFe framework brings four benefits, and they are: 

  1. Productivity improvement, resulting from the efficient and smooth flow of work. By reducing interruptions and fostering continuous value delivery, SAFe Teams are better positioned to swiftly and accurately meet their customers’ needs and expectations. 
  2. This, in turn, boosts customer satisfaction. 
  3. The process promotes an empowered team environment, enhancing the overall work culture. 
  4. SAFe Teams are more connected to the customer, creating a more engaging and enjoyable work environment (Anderson & Hunt, 2021).

What are the drawbacks of not “Accelerating Flow”?

The drawbacks of not Accelerating Flow include reduced productivity, delayed value delivery, decreased customer satisfaction, and potential impediments to the team’s effectiveness.

Not focusing on Accelerating Flow in the SAFe framework leads to three drawbacks, and they are:

  1. Decrease in productivity. If interruptions in the flow of work are not identified and addressed, it leads to inefficiencies and delays in delivering value to the customer. 
  2. This results in customer dissatisfaction, as their needs and expectations are not met promptly or accurately. 
  3. Impeding the effectiveness of SAFe Teams leads to a less engaging work environment and reduced team morale (Leffingwell et al., 2022).

What is Team Flow?

Team Flow refers to the continuous and efficient delivery of value to customers by SAFe Teams. It is a state facilitated by the SAFe Team and Technical Agility competency, which guides the formation and functioning of SAFe Teams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs).

SAFe TeamsTeam Flow, as defined in the SAFe, describes a state where SAFe Teams constantly deliver value to their customers. These SAFe Teams are critical in defining, building, validating, deploying, and supporting complex systems. The cross-functional nature of these teams, combined with their empowerment and connection to the customer, contributes to this flow state. The SAFe Team and Technical Agility competency guide these teams in applying specific quality practices and working with extended stakeholders to ensure valuable output. This flow-based system is a central aspect of SAFe, and systematic identification and resolution of any interruptions in this flow are key to enabling continuous value delivery (SAFe, n.d.).

Why is Team Flow important?

Team Flow is important because it increases productivity, improves customer satisfaction, and enhances business outcomes. It fosters a work environment that is more effective, responsive, and enjoyable.

The significance of Team Flow stems from its impact on productivity, customer satisfaction, and business results. SAFe Teams that achieve a flow state delivers value more swiftly and accurately, increasing productivity. Moreover, constant value delivery aligns closely with customer needs and expectations, improving satisfaction. The empowered and engaging work environment created by Team Flow attracts and retains skilled knowledge workers, further enhancing business outcomes (Kniberg & Skarin, 2009).

What are the benefits of Team Flow?

The benefits of Team Flow include enhanced productivity, continuous value delivery, improved customer satisfaction, and a more engaging work environment.

Team Flow within the SAFe framework offers four advantages, and they are:

  1. It improves productivity by fostering a smooth and efficient “flow of work”.
  2. By reducing interruptions and facilitating continuous value delivery, SAFe Teams are better equipped to promptly and precisely meet customer needs and expectations, boosting customer satisfaction.
  3. Moreover, Team Flow promotes an empowered and connected team environment, making the work more engaging and rewarding.
  4. This attracts skilled knowledge workers and positively affects overall business outcomes (Anderson, 2010).

What are SAFe’s 8 “Flow Accelerators”?

The SAFe identifies eight key “Flow Accelerators”: (1) Visualize and Limit Work in Process (WIP), (2) Address Bottlenecks, (3) Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies, (4) Get Faster Feedback, (5) Work in Smaller Batches, (6) Reduce Queue Lengths, (7) Optimize Time ‘In the Zone,’ and (8) Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices.

These “Flow Accelerators” provide strategies for improving value delivery by accelerating flow in the Agile Team and Technical Agility Competency.

  1. Visualize and Limit WIP: SAFe stresses the importance of limiting Work in Process (WIP) as it causes confusion in priorities, induces context switching, and increases waste and frustration, mirroring the congestion caused by rush hour traffic. By visualizing and restricting WIP, teams focus and streamline their workflow (Beedle et al., 2001).
  2. Address Bottlenecks: A team’s productivity is often constrained by bottlenecks. These are due to insufficient skills, capacity, resources, or system/process limitations. For optimum team flow, these bottlenecks need to be continuously identified and addressed (Anderson, 2010).
  3. Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies: SAFe encourages minimizing handoffs (work transitions from one process step to the next) and dependencies (where specific input is needed from another team or individual). Excessive dependencies and handoffs disrupt team flow, cause delays, and increase context-switching and overhead (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).
  4. Get Faster Feedback: Solution development relies heavily on feedback to guide the team’s work. Delayed or absent feedback leads to misunderstandings, rework, slow delivery, and unsatisfied customers. Emphasizing quick and regular feedback is thus crucial (Schwaber & Beedle, 2002).
  5. Work in Smaller Batches: Large batches often lead to delayed feedback, significant rework, and high variability. Hence, working in smaller batches is encouraged to accelerate flow and reduce waste (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).
  6. Reduce Queue Lengths: Long queues, or backlogs waiting for implementation, increase wait times for new functionalities. Reducing these queue lengths improve flow and delivery times (Reinertsen, 2009).
  7. Optimize Time ‘In the Zone’: The ‘zone’ is a highly productive mental state that takes time to enter and maintain. By minimizing distractions and optimizing this time, team members improve their productivity and quality of work (Larsen & Derby, 2006).
  8. Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices: Some legacy policies and practices often conflict with new Agile practices, slowing progress and creating internal friction. Identifying and addressing these discrepancies is crucial to fully embracing Agile and improving flow (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

How do you apply SAFe’s 8 “Flow Accelerators” to Technical and Team Agility?

The eight Flow Accelerators in SAFe – Visualize and Limit Work in Process (WIP), Address Bottlenecks, Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies, Get Faster Feedback, Work in Smaller Batches, Reduce Queue Lengths, Optimize Time ‘In the Zone,’ and Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices – are applied to enhance Technical and Team Agility by implementing strategies such as transparency in task allocation, continuous inspection and adaptation, reducing dependencies, frequent communication, working in small increments, managing backlog efficiently, focusing on productive work, and regularly revising old practices.

Applying the Flow Accelerators requires teams to embrace Agile principles and Lean thinking to optimize their work. SAFe promotes the user of 8 flow accelerators, and they are:

  1. Visualize and Limit Work in Process (WIP): teams must clearly understand their current workload. This is achieved through visual management tools such as Kanban boards, where tasks are represented visually, allowing teams to see the state of every piece of work at any time (Anderson, 2010). Limiting WIP involves having only as much work in the system as the team has the capacity for to prevent context switching and waste.
  2. Address Bottlenecks: Continuous inspection and adaptation enable teams to identify and address skills, resources, or process bottlenecks slowing the team down. Teams use techniques such as retrospectives to identify and address these bottlenecks.
  3. Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies: this involves building cross-functional teams and upskilling team members to eliminate the need for certain external dependencies (Cohn, 2010).
  4. Get Faster Feedback: through frequent communication and close collaboration with stakeholders, including customers and business representatives. Agile practices such as Test-Driven Development (TDD) and Continuous Integration (CI) also play a crucial role in getting fast feedback on the quality of the work (Martin, 2002).
  5. Work in Smaller Batches: this involves breaking down tasks and stories into manageable pieces that are completed quickly. This practice allows for faster feedback, reduces the risk associated with large tasks, and makes it easier to manage and prioritize work (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2003).
  6. Reduce Queue Lengths: by effectively managing the backlog. This requires a good understanding of the team’s capacity and the prioritization of work based on value and urgency. The product owner often does this in collaboration with the team (Pichler, 2010).
  7. Optimize Time ‘In the Zone’: This ensures team members focus on their work without interruptions. This requires a good team environment, supportive management, and respect for individuals’ need for focus time (DeMarco & Lister, 1999).
  8. Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices: this requires challenging and changing legacy decision-making policies, planning, and performance measurement practices incompatible with Agile and Lean working methods (Appelo, 2010).

Visualize and Limit WIP

What does it mean to Visualize and Limit WIP?

Visualizing and limiting Work in Process (WIP) means representing ongoing tasks visually and setting restrictions on the amount of work in progress simultaneously. It’s a principle drawn from the Lean and Kanban methodologies, integral to the SAFe.

For a more in-depth explanation, visualizing and limiting WIP is pivotal in Agile methodologies like Kanban and is widely adopted in the SAFe. This approach advocates for visually representing all the work items in various stages of completion on a Kanban board or similar tool. Simultaneously, it calls for setting explicit limits on how many items progress at any given point. This means there are restrictions on how much new work enters the system while the team is still working on current tasks. It’s about balancing capacity and demand, ensuring the team does not overcommit and lose focus.

Why is it important to Visualize and Limit WIP?

Visualizing and limiting WIP is critical to enhancing team productivity and accelerating customer value flow. It prevents overloading, reduces waste, and promotes focus and efficiency.

Kanban Board with WIP Limits and WIP CountsExpanding on this, visualizing and limiting WIP is crucial for five reasons, and they are:

  1. It prevents the team from overloading with too much work simultaneously, often leading to decreased productivity and slower delivery times (Anderson, 2010).
  2. Moreover, by visualizing work, teams understand their workflow, identify bottlenecks, and spot areas for improvement.
  3. By limiting WIP, teams reduce context switching, often leading to waste and inefficiency.
  4. They focus more effectively on a limited number of tasks, enhancing their performance and productivity.
  5. Ultimately, visualizing and limiting WIP supports a more predictable flow of work and enables teams to deliver value to their customers more quickly and efficiently.

How do you Visualize and Limit WIP?

Visualizing and limiting WIP involves a two-step process: 1) making all work visible (including new functionality, maintenance, architecture, and technical debt reduction) and 2) setting WIP limits that balance the demand against the available development capacity (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

  1. All types of work are visible. This often involves using a Kanban board or a similar tool where each work item is represented as a card that moves from one column (or state) to another as the work progresses. Visualizing work in this way provides a clear overview of what each team member is working on, the status of each task, and the team’s overall progress. It highlights areas of bottleneck where work tends to pile up, enabling teams to address these issues proactively.
  2. Teams must limit the work in each state at any given time. These are known as WIP limits. If a state reaches its WIP limit, no new work is started until some current work has been completed and moved to the next state. This helps to prevent overloading, reduce multitasking and context switching, and enhance focus and productivity.

WIP limits will be flexible and adjusted based on the team’s capacity and the demand for their work. For example, if a team consistently reaches their WIP limit in a particular state and work starts to pile up, they increase their WIP limit for that state or address the issue causing the bottleneck (Anderson, 2010).

While visualizing and limiting WIP is a powerful tool for enhancing team performance and productivity, it must complement other Agile practices and principles for the best results. It is part of a broader Agile and Lean approach to improving flow and delivering value more effectively. Additional principles are: building quality from the start, prioritizing value-based work, and continuously seeking to improve and innovate.

Foster a culture that supports these practices. The team must highlight bottlenecks and identify solutions. They must experiment with different WIP limits and continuously inspect and adapt their approach based on the outcomes.

Visualizing and limiting WIP enhances the overall value delivery process, enabling teams to deliver high-quality products and services that meet customer needs more quickly, predictably, and sustainably (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Visualizing and limiting WIP provides teams with the flexibility and focus to navigate the often complex and unpredictable world of product development. It embodies the Lean principle of “limiting work in process” and the Agile value of “responding to change over following a plan,” equipping teams with the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and deliver value more effectively and efficiently.

Address Bottlenecks

What does it mean to Address Bottlenecks?

Addressing bottlenecks involves identifying and mitigating areas in a team’s workflow where demand surpasses capacity, causing a delay in productivity and overall value delivery.

Littles Law Calculation - Scenario 1In the context of the SAFe, bottlenecks represent areas in the workflow where the demands exceed the ability of the team to deliver due to constraints in capacity, skills, resources, or other elements of the process or system. Addressing bottlenecks refers to recognizing these areas of constraint and taking necessary actions to reduce their impact, ensuring a smoother and more efficient flow of work (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important to address Bottlenecks?

Addressing Bottlenecks is crucial as it enhances team productivity and ensures a continuous flow of value to the customer by identifying and mitigating workflow constraints.

Bottlenecks within a team’s process impair productivity, causing inefficiencies and delays that obstruct the flow of value to the customer. Constant identification and resolution of these bottlenecks allow teams to maintain an efficient and effective workflow, ensuring timely and quality-driven delivery of customer needs (Anderson, 2010).

How do you address Bottlenecks?

To address bottlenecks,  teams identify queues, perform root cause analysis, and increase capacity at the bottleneck or bypass the bottleneck entirely, followed by continuous review and reassessment. SAFe offers five strategies for addressing bottlenecks, and they are:

  1. Identification: Utilizing tools such as Team Kanban, teams identify potential bottlenecks in their workflow. These bottlenecks manifest as much work piling up in front of a particular state in the Team Kanban board.
  2. Root Cause Analysis: The root cause is identified after identifying a bottleneck. Bottlenecks stem from various sources, including resource constraints, overspecialization, technical debt, lack of availability of a shared service, or insufficient customer feedback.
  3. Increase Capacity or Bypass the Bottleneck: Based on the root cause analysis, teams must decide on an appropriate strategy to handle the bottleneck. SAFe’s Built-in-quality and other Agile practices provide four techniques for increasing capacity at the bottleneck, and they are:
    • Collective ownership is the principle that anyone on the team resolves a problem or updates a work product, subject to necessary competence and local governance rules.
    • Developing T-shaped skills: Agile teams cultivate individuals with deep skills in a particular area, complemented by broad knowledge in other areas.
    • Pairing: Pair work doubles the capacity to address the issue, provides better insights into a specific problem, and aids in developing T-skills.
    • Swarming: Multiple team members collaborate to accomplish work that a single team member struggles to complete independently.
  4. Bypass the bottleneck: focusing on other valuable stories in their backlog while it is being addressed. This selective replanning enhances flow while solutions for the bottleneck are being implemented.
  5. Continuous Reassessment: Bottlenecks are reassessed after workflow adjustments are made to ensure the problem has been effectively mitigated and identify and prevent potential new bottlenecks from forming. Additionally, if the root causes of team bottlenecks are beyond the team’s control, they elevate the problem during the Inspect & Adapt event for further discussion and resolution (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies

What does it mean to Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies?

Minimizing handoffs and dependencies entails restructuring work and team organization to reduce the instances where work must transition from one step to the next or requires specific inputs from others. This minimization focuses on reducing delays, mitigating context-switching, and decreasing overhead associated with these transitions and interactions.

Handoffs occur when one team completes a portion of a project and then passes it to another team or process step. On the other hand, dependencies arise when the progression or completion of a task relies on input or action from another individual or team. The idea behind minimizing these elements is to lessen the complexity and friction in the workflow. A central principle within the SAFe underpins the notion of organizing around value.

SAFe Principle 10 focuses on creating structures that enhance flow and value creation rather than perpetuating traditional organizational structures that lead to excessive handoffs and dependencies (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

Why is it important to Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies?

Minimizing handoffs and dependencies is essential as it significantly enhances the flow of value by reducing delays and improving productivity.

Excessive and unnecessary handoffs and dependencies disrupt the flow within and between teams. These disruptions often lead to delays due to waiting for inputs or dependencies and the need to switch contexts frequently. Every handoff risks miscommunication or misunderstanding, which leads to errors.

The context-switching frequently accompanying handoffs and dependencies leads to decreased productivity. It requires a mental shift from one task or project to another, which uses up time and cognitive resources. In essence, minimizing these elements leads to smoother, faster workflows with less wasted time and fewer opportunities for errors (Cohn, 2010).

How do you Minimize Handoffs and Dependencies?

Minimizing handoffs and dependencies involves three steps, and they are: organizing around value, understanding the pattern and impact of these elements, and taking corrective actions.

  1. Organize Around Value: According to SAFe Principle 10, teams must be organized around value streams or features to minimize handoffs. This involves restructuring the teams to align with specific product features or customer journeys, thus minimizing the need for handoffs and reducing team dependencies (Leffingwell et al., 2021).
  2. Make Handoffs and Dependencies Visible: Understanding the pattern and impact of handoffs and dependencies involves visualization. Two techniques for identifying dependencies and handoff are:
    • Dependency-Structure Matrices (DSMs)
    • Value Stream Mapping (Reinertsen, 2009).
  3. Take Corrective Action: Teams take corrective actions once dependencies and handoffs are visible and understood. There are four corrective active approaches (Eppinger & Browning, 2012), and they are:
    • Process changes
    • Changing the system’s design under construction
    • Changing the work product
    • Adapting the team’s organization or skills.

Get Faster Feedback

What does it mean to Get Faster Feedback?

“Getting Faster Feedback” involves accelerating the feedback cycle to guide and improve solution development processes in SAFe.

In the context of the SAFe, “Getting Faster Feedback” means enhancing the frequency and speed at which feedback is received during the solution development process. This involves two major types of feedback: 

  1. ‘Building the right thing’ – relates to ensuring that the right solution is being developed, focusing on relevance and effectiveness in addressing a given problem. 
  2. ‘Building it right.’ – pertains to the quality of the development process, ensuring that the solution is being built with proper techniques, methodologies, and standards. Increasing the speed of feedback allows teams to quickly identify and rectify any potential issues, misunderstandings, or inefficiencies in their development process, thereby promoting the continuous improvement principle of Agile (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important to Get Faster Feedback?

Getting Faster Feedback is essential to minimizing rework, accelerating delivery, and satisfying customers’ requirements in SAFe.

There are three reasons why “Getting Faster Feedback” in the SAFe is important, and they are. 

  1. It allows teams to address misunderstandings or errors, minimizing the required rework promptly. This contributes to more efficient use of resources and accelerated delivery timelines (Leffingwell et al., 2020). 
  2. It ensures that customer requirements and preferences are continually incorporated into the solution, thus increasing the likelihood of customer satisfaction. 
  3. It supports the SAFe principles of alignment and built-in quality, as it allows for real-time adjustments and improvements to maintain the alignment of work with strategic objectives and ensure quality in every increment (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

How do you Get Faster Feedback?

Use peer reviews early to get faster feedback, frequently integrate, engage customers, and leverage SAFe events like System Demo.

Implementing “Getting Faster Feedback” in the SAFe involves 5 approaches as follows: 

  1. Teams must identify which types of feedback are currently missing or inadequate and then focus on improving these areas. 
  2. Work products are peer-reviewed as early in the cycle as possible. This means shifting reviews left, a process known as “Shift Left Testing,” where testing and review activities are performed earlier in the development cycle to find and fix defects more quickly and efficiently (Anderson, 2010). 
  3. Transparency is applied to all work-in-progress (WIP), enabling teams to review and improve their work continuously. 
  4. SAFe’s recurring events, such as the System Demo, which occurs every two weeks, are used for obtaining fast feedback (Leffingwell et al., 2020). 
  5. Teams frequently integrate and engage customers, providing them access to the current product increment in a staging environment, thus inviting early and essential feedback on the product’s functionality, usability, and performance (Kim et al., 2018).

Work in Smaller Batches

What does it mean to Work in Smaller Batches?

Working in smaller batches means dividing large tasks into manageable sub-tasks to expedite the completion and receive quick feedback.

Optimum batch size calculationIn SAFe, working in smaller batches entails breaking down large tasks or features into smaller, more manageable pieces of work. These smaller work units accelerate the various phases of development – from conceptualization to deployment. There are different types of batches in a team’s workflow:

  1. Integration Batch refers to the functionality a team develops without integrating with others.
  2. Testing Batch: This represents the functionality a team creates without conducting systematic testing.
  3. Architectural Batch: This indicates the architectural enablement produced without validating user-facing features.
  4. Customer Feedback Batch: This functionality is implemented without receiving customer feedback.
  5. Deployment Batch: This encompasses the functionality implemented without deploying and testing it in the production environment (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important to Work in Smaller Batches?

Working in smaller batches expedites feedback, reduces rework, reduces variability, and enhances product quality.

Working in smaller batches is a crucial aspect of SAFe and Agile methodologies offering four specific benefits as follows:

  1. Accelerated Feedback: By dividing work into smaller units, teams obtain feedback more rapidly, enabling quicker identification and rectification of issues.
  2. Reduced Rework: Smaller batches decrease the need for significant rework, as errors are caught and addressed earlier.
  3. Decreased Variability: Small batches tend to reduce the variability in the workflow, leading to more predictable outcomes and consistent value delivery.
  4. Enhanced Quality: By fostering an environment that allows frequent feedback and adjustments, smaller batches improve product quality and customer satisfaction (Anderson, 2010).

How do you Work in Smaller Batches?

Implementing smaller batches in SAFe involves following recommended cadence and team size, adjusting processes, and ensuring proper enablement.

Implementing a strategy of working in smaller batches in the SAFe context involves three steps, and they are:

  1. Following Recommended Cadence and Team Size: SAFe provides structural guidance to keep batch sizes small. Adherence to short Program Increment (PI) and iteration lengths naturally makes batch sizes smaller. Keeping Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and teams at an optimal size limits the amount of work processed simultaneously (Kniberg & Skarin, 2009).
  2. Adjusting Processes: If a batch size is too large, consider adjusting planning and execution procedures. This involves making context-specific changes to decrease the effort required to process the batch (Cohn, 2005).
  3. Ensuring Proper Enablement: Reducing batch size often increases the number of smaller transactions. It’s important to plan and execute enablers that allow for the refactoring of architecture and infrastructure. This helps optimize and reduce the batch size (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Reduce Queue Lengths

What does it mean to Reduce Queue Lengths?

Reducing queue lengths means limiting the backlog of work committed but yet to be implemented.

In SAFe, reducing queue lengths refers to actively managing and controlling the backlog of work that is committed but not yet implemented. This backlog is metaphorically called a ‘queue’, drawing parallels to real-world situations where people wait in line for service. Within SAFe, items in the queue are typically tasks, user stories, or features that have been agreed upon and are ready for development but are still waiting to be worked on. Reducing queue lengths is about keeping these work items in check, ensuring they do not amass into an unmanageable volume that overwhelms the development team and hinders flow efficiency (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important to Reduce Queue Lengths?

Reducing queue lengths decreases wait times for new functionality, improving throughput and agility.

The importance of reducing queue lengths lies in its effect on system efficiency and responsiveness. Long queues indicate a high volume of work committed but not yet implemented. This situation creates bottlenecks in the development process and extends the wait time for new functionalities, undermining the Agile principle of rapid, iterative delivery (Anderson, 2010). Long queues lead to context-switching, increased overhead, and reduced predictability, negatively impacting team performance and morale (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010). Reducing queue lengths thus enhances system throughput, enables faster value delivery to the customer, and ultimately leads to increased business agility.

How do you Reduce Queue Lengths?

Reduce queue lengths by committing to work within capacity limits and redirecting extra requests into the backlog.

There are four strategies for reducing queue lengths within a SAFe context, and they are:

  1. Limit Work in Progress (WIP): Only commit to the team’s work within a given iteration. Overcommitment leads to the growth of queues (Anderson, 2010).
  2. Adhere to PI Objectives: Program Increment (PI) objectives summarize a specific PI’s business and technical goals. This way, teams avoid committing to work beyond their defined scope, limiting queue length (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  3. Use Short Iteration Time Boxes: Short iteration time boxes encourage a focus on near-term work, helping to keep queues manageable. The iteration backlog contains only the work to be done in the current iteration, which inherently reduces queue lengths (Beedle et al., 2001).
  4. Manage Incoming Work Requests: Whether formal or informal, requests for additional work cause queues to grow. Teams manage queues by directing these requests into the backlog instead of immediately committing to them (Cohn, 2009).

Optimize Time in the Zone

What does it mean to Optimize Time in the Zone?

Optimizing Time in the Zone involves enhancing periods of focused, highly productive work, often called “flow state” in the software development process.

Optimizing Time in the Zone is about making the most of periods when developers or team members are fully immersed in their work, a state also known as “flow.” This mental state is highly productive and typically takes 15-20 minutes to enter. During this period, developers effectively navigate the complexities of code, understanding and managing the many dependencies involved in software development. However, it’s a delicate state easily disrupted by external factors such as interruptions or excessive meetings. Therefore, optimization involves creating an environment and establishing practices that foster this state and mitigate disruptive factors (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important to Optimize Time in the Zone?

Optimizing Time in the Zone enhances productivity and quality in software development, enabling deep focus and creativity.

The importance of optimizing Time in the Zone lies in the nature of software development work, which relies heavily on team members’ creativity, focus, and intellectual effort. By facilitating a highly productive mental state, teams effectively deal with the intricate dependencies in software development and implement new features efficiently. This focused state is where innovation and quality solutions arise. If this time isn’t optimized, teams struggle with productivity, and the quality of the end product is compromised. Frequent disruptions lead to frustration and stress among team members, affecting overall team morale and engagement (Highsmith & Cockburn, 2001).

How do you Optimize Time in the Zone?

Optimizing Time in the Zone means managing work-in-process, optimizing meetings, innovating collaboration patterns, and improving work product health.

There are four steps that teams and leaders take to optimize Time in the Zone:

  1. Optimize Meetings and Events: Teams need to evaluate the efficiency of their work sessions and meetings. This means understanding which meetings are necessary, who needs to attend, and how these meetings impact the team’s flow. Some teams find that informal daily interactions are more productive, while others benefit from regular synchronization meetings that add cadence to communication and minimize interruptions (Beedle et al., 2001).
  2. Limit Work-in-Process (WIP): Context switching is often a result of excessive work-in-process. By limiting the number of active items at any given time, teams reduce interruptions and maintain a more focused state of work (Anderson, 2010).
  3. Innovative Collaboration Patterns: Practices such as pair programming and mob programming foster deep focus and increase the quality of the team’s output (Jeffries et al., 2000).
  4. Improve Work Product Health: Keeping the code and asset base healthy is crucial. If the system is difficult to maintain or evolve, it will require more effort from the team, disrupting their flow. Regular refactoring, code reviews, and other quality assurance practices help keep the work product healthy (Fowler & Highsmith, 2001).

Each team is unique, and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. The goal is to find the practices that best fit your team’s needs and context (Beck et al., 2001).

Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices

What does it mean to Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices?

Remediating legacy policies and practices means reviewing and modifying outdated and inefficient processes to improve Agile flow.

Remediation of legacy policies and practices takes a 2 step process as follows.

  1. A comprehensive review
  2. Modifying or eliminating outdated, conflicting, or inefficient processes rooted in traditional methodologies. 

Legacy practices act as a hindrance to achieving the desired speed and efficiency. Two process examples that inhibit speed and efficiency are: 

  1. Earned Value Management
  2. Timesheet recording 

Practices like the separation of developers and testers contradict the principles of Agile, making it challenging for the teams to conform to these policies while also adhering to the Agile framework. In this light, remediation is necessary to foster transparency and promote a smoother flow within the Agile environment.

Why is it important to Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices?

Remediation of legacy policies and practices enhances transparency, reduces friction, and accelerates flow in Agile development.

Remediation of legacy policies and practices is essential for three reasons, and they are: 

  1. Legacy practices inhibit transparency, a core Agile value. For instance, traditional status reporting conflicts with Agile’s focus on transparency and objective evidence. 
  2. Legacy practices cause internal friction, slow progress, and impede the desired flow. For example, keeping traditional project management on top of Agile team practices or forcing root cause analysis on every defect creates an additional burden, slowing the development process. 
  3. Failure to remediate leads to a ‘half-Agile’ state, where Agile practices are implemented. Still, the potential benefits are not fully realized due to the continued existence of conflicting legacy practices. 

How do you Remediate Legacy Policies and Practices?

Remediation involves constant vigilance for impediments, tackling issues through transformation roadmaps, and immediately rectifying newly discovered problems.

Remediating legacy policies and practices is a continuous, proactive process, beginning with identifying and acknowledging the legacy elements obstructing Agile flow. Leadership, Scrum Masters, coaches, and SPCs play a vital role in this identification process. Following the detection, a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) integrates these issues into the transformation roadmap, delineating a strategic plan to address these impediments systematically.

Apart from dealing with known issues, leaders need to be vigilant about newly arising impediments caused by legacy practices. Once identified, these are addressed promptly without waiting for a systematic roadmap. Cultivating a constant evaluation and refinement culture promotes an Agile, continuous improvement mindset.

For instance, compensations and performance policies rewarding non-Agile behavior must be modified to align with Agile principles. Similarly, practices requiring managerial review of artifacts and tasking micro-management, which contradict the Agile value of self-organizing teams, are altered or eliminated.

Remediation is not a one-time event but an ongoing effort that requires dedication, vigilance, and prompt action to ensure seamless Agile operations (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

Optimizing Team and Technical Agility

Flow Velocity

What is Flow Velocity?

Flow velocity measures the throughput of work items a team completes over time.

Flow Velocity, in the context of the SAFe, quantifies the number of work items a team completes within a certain period. This metric gauges the speed and efficiency of a team’s work process, usually within an iteration or a Program Increment (PI). For instance, the team counts each iteration’s completed user stories, features, or other work items. However, understanding Flow Velocity requires careful interpretation of the data. Changes in velocity do not necessarily signify shifts in productivity. They reflect adaptations in business or technology domains or an attempt to enhance flow by dealing with smaller work items (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

Why is it important to Measure Flow Velocity?

Measuring Flow Velocity helps assess team performance and predict future delivery capacity, supporting decision-making and planning.

SAFe TeamsFlow Velocity provides insights into a team’s performance trends over time. By tracking the completed work items in each iteration, organizations assess whether their agile teams are becoming more efficient, stable, and predictable. Historical flow velocity data inform future planning and forecasting by indicating the team’s capacity to deliver in subsequent iterations or PIs. Caution is needed when using Flow Velocity for comparisons among teams. Each team operates in a unique context, and velocity metrics are not designed to measure individual or team performance but to indicate delivery trends (Anderson, 2010).

How do you use Flow Velocity Metrics to Improve Flow?

Flow Velocity metrics identify inefficiencies, adjust work processes, and achieve more stable, predictable, high-quality outcomes.

Flow Velocity is a tool for improving a team’s flow in SAFe. By observing velocity trends, teams identify higher or lower throughput periods, prompting introspection about the factors influencing these trends. Initial instability in velocity suggests a need for tighter adherence to the Definition of Done (DoD) to ensure high-quality outcomes. By refining their DoD, teams potentially decrease their immediate velocity. Still, they increase the quality of each delivered work item, resulting in a more sustainable, predictable flow over time (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).

Changes in velocity signal shifts in business or technology contexts or efforts to improve flow by focusing on smaller work items. Understanding these shifts help teams adapt their practices and improve overall flow. If a team notices its velocity decreasing, it implements process changes or invests in training to elevate its capability.

The distribution of work types is used to analyze flow. Observing the balance between work items, such as new features, architecture, and maintenance, offers insights into the team’s health and system stability. A significant shift in work type distribution indicates the need for strategic changes, such as tech debt repayment or investments in new functionalities (Reinertsen, 2009).

Flow Velocity and other flow metrics are complemented with qualitative insights. While metrics provide valuable data, nuanced human judgment is essential for appropriately interpreting and applying these insights (Appelo, 2010).

Flow Distribution

What is Flow Distribution?

Flow Distribution depicts the types of work items in a team’s system, measured at each Program Increment (PI) boundary.

Flow Distribution is a component of SAFe’s Measure and Grow guidance representing a system’s array of work items at the end of each Program Increment (PI). The types of work include new features, bug fixes, maintenance tasks, and architectural enablers. An effective Flow Distribution measurement provides a comprehensive view of the team’s activities and the diversity of tasks they handle. Analyzing this distribution enables a team to identify the types of work they’re investing most in and how that investment changes over time. This understanding is vital to strategize and allocate resources effectively across various work types, ultimately improving flow efficiency.

Why is it important to Measure Flow Distribution?

Measuring Flow Distribution helps assess team health and system performance, informing strategic decisions about resource allocation.

Flow Distribution measurement provides insights into the balance of a team’s work types. This balance indicates the team’s health and the system’s performance. For instance, a significant investment in architectural enablers reflects a conscious effort to address technical debt or prepare for new functionality. By measuring Flow Distribution, teams uncover patterns and trends in their work types, identifying areas of focus and potential bottlenecks. Each team’s flow distribution varies based on its context and responsibilities, making it a uniquely useful metric for that team. Therefore, understanding Flow Distribution informs strategic decisions about where to allocate resources and where to direct improvement efforts.

How do you use Flow Distribution Metrics to Improve Flow?

Flow Distribution metrics help identify bottlenecks, redirect resources, and strategize improvement efforts to enhance overall flow efficiency.

Flow Distribution metrics, when utilized effectively, serve as a powerful tool to enhance flow efficiency in a team’s system using five steps as follows:

  1. Assess Current State: Evaluate the current distribution of work items. Are certain work types dominating the system? Are there trends across Program Increments?
  2. Identify Bottlenecks: Look for work types that tend to accumulate or slow down the system’s flow. These indicate bottlenecks or areas where the team is struggling.
  3. Redirect Resources: Based on the assessment, reallocate resources to address bottlenecks or rebalance work types as needed. This involves assigning more team members to a particular work type or providing additional training to improve skills where they’re lacking.
  4. Set Goals for Future Distribution: Strategize the system’s ideal balance of work types based on the team’s context and responsibilities, and set specific goals to achieve this balance.
  5. Monitor and Adjust: Regularly review Flow Distribution metrics to monitor progress toward the goals and adjust strategies as necessary.

How do you establish healthy teams and teamwork?

Healthy teams and teamwork are established through goal orientation, psychological safety, empowered teams, adequate skills, sustainable pace, constructive conflict management, participation, and accountability.

Healthy teams and teamwork underpin the SAFe principle of Team and Technical Agility Competency, especially in accelerating flow. This principle is recognized as one of the critical aspects of Agile frameworks that facilitate rapid value delivery and is comprised of 7 components, which are:.

  1. Goal Orientation: In SAFe, teams are goal-oriented. Every iteration and Program Increment (PI) begins with planning sessions where teams align on objectives (Leffingwell et al., 2021). Clear, shared goals give direction and foster unity among team members.
  2. Psychological Safety: Psychological safety ensures team members feel comfortable taking risks, admitting mistakes, and expressing their thoughts (Kern, 2001). In the SAFe context, psychological safety promotes innovation, enabling teams to embrace the Lean-Agile principle of failing fast to learn and improve.
  3. Empowered Teams: Empowered teams are self-managing and have the autonomy to determine how to accomplish their work (Beck, 2000). In SAFe, teams own their processes and make collective decisions, which increases their commitment and engagement.
  4. Adequate Skills: Teams need to possess the necessary skills to deliver value. This includes technical skills and soft skills like collaboration and communication. SAFe promotes cross-functional teams and T-shaped skills, where individuals specialize in one area but perform tasks outside their expertise (Cohn, 2005).
  5. Sustainable Pace: Maintaining a sustainable pace is crucial to prevent burnout and preserve long-term productivity. Teams establish their velocity and commit to work within this pace (Schwaber, 2002).
  6. Constructive Conflict Management: Conflicts, if managed constructively, lead to innovative solutions and growth (Highsmith, 2002). In SAFe, the Scrum Master’s role includes facilitating effective conflict resolution.
  7. Participation and Accountability: The team actively participates in decision-making and holds each other accountable for their commitments. This shared responsibility fosters trust and strengthens teamwork (Anderson, 2010).

How do you focus teams on value delivery?

Teams focus on value delivery through strategic work alignment, backlog prioritization, clear acceptance criteria, incremental delivery, commitment predictability, and responsiveness to change.

To further elucidate, SAFe emphasizes the importance of focusing teams on delivering value to the customer and the business. Six strategies and practices in SAFe guide this, and they are:

  1. Strategic Work Alignment: Ensuring work aligns with strategic objectives is paramount. In SAFe, this is accomplished through the Portfolio Backlog, which contains Epics aligned with the organization’s strategic themes (Leffingwell et al., 2021).
  2. Backlog Prioritization: All work comes through the backlog, where it’s prioritized based on value, risk, and dependencies (Cohn, 2005). In SAFe, the Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) method is used to sequence backlog items, ensuring maximum value delivery.
  3. Clear Acceptance Criteria: Clearly defined acceptance criteria ensure a shared understanding of what ‘Done’ means. They form part of the Definition of Done (DoD) and ensure the delivery of high-quality, value-adding products (Anderson, 2010).
  4. Incremental Delivery: Teams deliver incrementally within each iteration, providing early and continuous value (Beck et al., 2001). This approach aligns with the SAFe principle of assuming variability, preserving options, and promoting fast feedback and learning.
  5. Predictability on Commitments: Teams establish predictability by consistently meeting their commitments (Schwaber, 2002). In SAFe, predictability metrics are used at the team and program levels to measure how reliably teams deliver on their obligations.
  6. Responsiveness to Change: Agile teams respond to change, quickly accommodating new information and feedback (Highsmith, 2002). SAFe emphasizes built-in quality and a relentless improvement culture, fostering an environment where teams adapt as necessary.

How do you implement continuous learning and improvement?

“Continuous learning and improvement” is implemented through iterative development, cross-skilling, regular feedback incorporation, and the optimization of value flow.

“Continuous learning and improvement” revolves around high-performing Agile teams who apply effective Agile practices to deliver high-quality solutions that provide the maximum flow of value (Leffingwell et al., 2021). There are four ways to implement continuous learning and improvement, and they are:

  1. Iterative Development: By breaking work into smaller, manageable pieces, teams frequently reassess and adjust their course based on the outcomes of each iteration (Fowler & Highsmith, 2001). This process fosters a learning environment as teams gain feedback on their efforts and make adjustments for future iterations.
  2. Cross-skilling: Cross-skilling is a practice where team members learn multiple skills rather than specializing in one area. This approach promotes team flexibility and reduces the risk associated with the absence of key personnel (Cohn, 2010). By encouraging team members to support each other and learn from one another, cross-skilling also enhances team cohesion and learning culture.
  3. Regular Feedback: Continuous learning and improvement involve incorporating feedback from customers and stakeholders throughout the development process. Feedback is actively sought and acted upon, enabling the team to adapt and refine their work based on user needs and expectations (Patton, 2014).
  4. Optimization of Value Flow: Continuous improvement is about optimizing the flow of value delivered by the team. This involves identifying and eliminating waste, reducing cycle time, and improving the processes and practices that contribute to delivering value to the customer (Poppendieck & Poppendieck, 2007).

How do you implement quality practices?

Quality practices are implemented through adherence to standards, pairing, peer review, collective ownership, early defect detection, and validation in a production-like environment.

Quality practices in the SAFe ensure that teams deliver solutions that meet predefined quality standards. This is accomplished through a blend of techniques that encourage team collaboration, rigor in testing, and an unrelenting focus on the customer (Leffingwell et al., 2021). There are six ways to implement quality practices, and they are: 

  1. Adherence to Standards: Teams follow well-defined quality standards that govern every aspect of their work. This ensures consistency, predictability, and a shared understanding of what constitutes quality (Martin, 2008).
  2. Pairing and Peer Review: Pairing, where two team members work together, and peer review processes encourage collective ownership and foster a shared understanding of the codebase (Beck & Andres, 2004). These practices also help catch potential issues early and spread knowledge across the team.
  3. Collective Ownership: In SAFe, all team members share responsibility for the quality of the work produced. Joint ownership encourages collaboration and accountability and reduces the ‘silo effect,’ promoting higher-quality outputs (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).
  4. Early Defect Detection: Testing practices are employed to identify and fix defects as early as possible. Automated testing, unit testing, and continuous integration are some practices employed (Crispin & Gregory, 2009).
  5. Validation in a Production-Like Environment: Teams validate their work in an environment that closely mimics production. This approach reduces the risk of unforeseen issues arising when the solution is released and helps ensure it performs as expected in real-world conditions (Kim, Humble, Debois, & Willis, 2016).
  6. Contribution to Solution Health: Teams not only deliver features but also contribute to the overall health of the solution. This includes addressing technical debt, improving the architecture, and enhancing the non-functional characteristics of the solution (Leffingwell et al., 2021).

How do you focus on customer satisfaction?

In SAFe, customer satisfaction is prioritized through performance, security, usability standards, feedback incorporation, and preventive root cause analysis.

SAFe integrates customer satisfaction in each aspect of the development process (Leffingwell et al., 2021). This commitment to customer satisfaction manifests in 5 key practices:

  1. Performance Standards: The developed solutions align with established performance standards, ensuring functionality, speed, and responsiveness meet customer needs. This is achieved by integrating performance testing into the Continuous Delivery Pipeline, allowing for early detection and mitigation of potential performance issues.
  2. Security Standards: SAFe ensures solutions meet robust security standards to protect user data and maintain system integrity. This is accomplished by integrating security practices into the development lifecycle and incorporating continuous security validation into the delivery pipeline.
  3. Usability Standards: Usability, a critical factor for customer satisfaction, is emphasized in SAFe. User Experience (UX) designers work closely with development teams to create user-centric solutions that are easy to navigate and use, contributing to overall customer satisfaction.
  4. User Feedback: Gathering user feedback is vital to maintaining and improving customer satisfaction. Feedback is sought through various channels like user surveys, usability testing, and customer interviews. This information helps identify user needs and preferences and helps shape the solution to meet those needs better.
  5. Problem Management: SAFe is proactive in addressing problems on time. Any issues identified are promptly resolved to minimize disruption to the user experience. Root cause analysis helps prevent recurring issues, improving the stability and reliability of the solution over time.

How do you achieve organization and alignment across multiple teams?

In SAFe, organizational alignment is achieved through Agile Release Trains, synchronized planning, inter-team coordination, and mutual delivery dependability.

Achieving alignment across multiple teams in the SAFe is essential to delivering value in a coordinated and effective manner (Leffingwell et al., 2021). This alignment is fostered in five ways:

  1. Agile Release Trains (ARTs): The ART is a long-lived team of Agile teams, which, along with other stakeholders, incrementally develops, delivers, and maintains a solution. The ART organizes the teams to optimize value delivery and ensures that the necessary individuals are included to build and deliver the solution.
  2. PI Planning: Program Increment (PI) Planning is a regular, synchronized planning event involving all team and program stakeholders. It enables teams to align on a shared mission and vision, understand dependencies, and commit to objectives for the upcoming increment.
  3. Inter-team Coordination: Teams are encouraged to collaborate and coordinate their efforts. This is facilitated through the Scrum of Scrums, the ART Sync, and the System Demo. These practices help teams identify and manage dependencies, share knowledge, and coordinate their work effectively.
  4. Dependability: In SAFe, teams foster a culture of mutual trust and reliability. Each team commits to deliver specific parts of the solution in a given increment, and every team can depend on the others to fulfill their commitments.
  5. Synchronization: Teams synchronize their work throughout the PI. Regular integration points ensure all teams stay aligned and any emerging issues or changes are promptly communicated and addressed.

Implementing Team and Technical Agility

How do you implement Team and Technical Agility?

Implementing Team and Technical Agility involves nine steps, from training to regularly adapting and improving.

Implementing Team and Technical Agility, an essential competency in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), is a deliberate and systematic process:

  1. Training: Start with Agile training for the team, focusing on Scrum, Kanban, and Extreme Programming (XP) (Leffingwell, 2011).
  2. Establishing Agile Teams: Form cross-functional teams with all necessary skills to define, build, and test a solution increment within an iteration (Beck, 2000).
  3. Adopting Agile Practices: Adopt Agile practices like Scrum events, XP practices, or Kanban systems based on the team’s context and the nature of the work (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2017).
  4. Embracing Iterative Development: Commit to delivering working, tested software at the end of each iteration or Sprint (Jeffries, 2001).
  5. Building Quality In Implement technical practices like test-driven development (TDD), continuous integration (CI), and pair programming to ensure high quality (Martin, 2008).
  6. Adopting Agile Architecture: Encourage emergent design and architecture to support current and future user needs, abiding by the Agile Architecture principles of SAFe (Leffingwell, 2011).
  7. Implementing DevOps Culture: Foster a culture of shared responsibility between development and operations for continuous delivery and infrastructure maintenance (Kim, 2016).
  8. Launching Agile Release Trains (ARTs): Use Agile Release Trains to align teams to a shared business and technology mission (Leffingwell, 2011).
  9. Inspect and Adapt: Regularly evaluate progress and adapt as necessary for continual improvement (Kersten, 2018).

What are the challenges of implementing Team and Technical Agility?

Challenges include resistance to change, lack of necessary skills, inadequate tooling, overemphasizing planning, and maintaining architectural integrity.

The challenges in implementing Team and Technical Agility arise from seven factors, and they are:

  1. Resistance to Change: Many teams resist the shift from traditional methods to Agile methodologies due to comfort in familiar processes (Kotter, 2012).
  2. Lack of Necessary Skills: Teams do not possess the necessary skills for Agile practices like Test-Driven Development, Pair Programming, or Continuous Integration (Martin, 2008).
  3. Inadequate Tooling: Without the right tools to support Agile practices like automation, continuous integration, and delivery, Agile implementation falters (Anderson, 2010).
  4. Overemphasis on Planning: Agile emphasizes responding to change over following a plan. However, some teams struggle to let go of detailed, upfront planning (Highsmith, 2001).
  5. Maintaining Architectural Integrity: As systems grow in complexity, maintaining a coherent, flexible architecture that abides by the Agile Architecture principles becomes challenging (Leffingwell, 2011).
  6. Scaling Agile: Larger organizations struggle with synchronizing and coordinating multiple Agile teams, often necessitating the adoption of frameworks like SAFe (Leffingwell & Jemilo, 2011).
  7. Implementing DevOps: Bridging the gap between development and operations and fostering a shared responsibility culture is difficult but essential for Agile implementation (Kim, 2016).

How do you overcome resistance to Team and Technical Agility adoption?

Overcoming resistance to Team and Technical Agility involves education, communication, demonstrating value, and addressing concerns with empathy and understanding.

Resistance is a common reaction to change, including adopting Team and Technical Agility (Kotter, 1996). Overcoming this resistance is vital for successful Agile transformation, and it involves six steps as follows:

  1. Education: Teams need to understand why Agile practices are being adopted and how they will benefit from them. This includes training on Agile principles, practices, and tools.
  2. Clear Communication: Communicate the Agile transformation vision, benefits, and strategy clearly and frequently. Regular updates on progress, challenges, and wins help reduce uncertainty and fear.
  3. Demonstrating Value: Show teams tangible results of Agile practices. Highlight successful implementations, improved metrics, or case studies from other organizations.
  4. Addressing Concerns: Encourage open discussions about fears and concerns. Address these concerns with empathy, understanding, and factual responses.
  5. Involvement: Involve teams in the transformation process. Give them a role in decision-making, problem-solving, and shaping the Agile transformation journey.
  6. Patience and Persistence: Change takes time and perseverance. Be patient with resistance and persistently work towards the Agile transformation vision.

Resistance to Team and Technical Agility adoption is natural. However, by taking a systematic, empathetic, and communicative approach, organizations overcome resistance and foster a successful Agile transformation.

How do you address the challenges of implementing Team and Technical Agility?

Addressing these challenges often involves a mix of training, change management, tooling investment, and organizational culture evolution. 

  1. Overcoming resistance to change involves training in new methods and understanding why these changes are beneficial and how they support the overall business objectives (Kotter, 2012). 
  2. Addressing the lack of necessary skills involves training and skill development and fostering a culture of learning and continual improvement within the team (Hunt & Thomas, 1999). 
  3. In terms of tooling, this challenge is addressed by investing in appropriate Agile tools and training the team in their use. But it’s not enough to have the right tools; they must be integrated into the team’s work processes, often requiring changes to existing workflows and practices (Anderson, 2010).
  4. Overemphasis on planning is addressed by training the team in Agile practices, which emphasize responding to change over following a plan and reinforcing this through the team’s routine practices (Highsmith, 2001).
  5. Maintaining architectural integrity as complex systems grow involves technical practices, team structures, and coordination mechanisms. Agile teams must work closely with architects and have regular Architectural Runway built into their work cycles (Leffingwell, 2011). 
  6. Scaling Agile is not merely a matter of adding more teams. It involves coordinating those teams, managing dependencies, and keeping everyone aligned toward the same goals. Frameworks like SAFe provide practices and structures for this (Leffingwell & Jemilo, 2011).
  7. Implementing DevOps involves tooling and practices and a cultural shift towards shared responsibility for delivery and operations, breaking down silos between development and operations teams (Kim, 2016).
  8. In all these challenges, a key element is a need for an Agile mindset and culture within the team and the wider organization, recognizing that Agile is not merely a set of practices but a way of thinking and working (Cohn, 2010).

What are the prerequisites for a successful Team and Technical Agility implementation?

Successful Team and Technical Agility implementation requires leadership buy-in, employee training, robust infrastructure, effective communication, and cultural readiness.

Implementing Team and Technical Agility is a substantial shift for most organizations, requiring careful preparation. Five key prerequisites are:

  1. Leadership Buy-In: As previously discussed, the organization’s leadership support is paramount. They must understand, advocate, and facilitate the implementation (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  2. Employee Training: The workforce must have the necessary knowledge and skills. This includes Agile methodologies, team collaboration strategies, and technical practices such as continuous integration and test-driven development (Beck & Fowler, 2001).
  3. Robust Infrastructure: A technical environment that supports Agile practices is crucial. This includes tools for project management, version control, automated testing, continuous integration, and others (Kniberg & Skarin, 2010).
  4. Effective Communication: Implementing Team and Technical Agility requires clear, open, and continuous communication. Everyone understands the new processes, their roles, and the benefits they will deliver.
  5. Cultural Readiness: The organization’s culture must embrace change, collaboration, and a focus on delivering customer value. Any resistance must be acknowledged and addressed to ensure a smooth transition (Anderson, 2010).

These prerequisites pave the way for successful implementation and ensure the organization reaps the full benefits of Team and Technical Agility.

How do you get leadership buy-in to establish Team and Technical Agility?

Leadership buy-in is established through effective communication, showcasing benefits, and providing proof of success from similar implementations.

Establishing Team and Technical Agility necessitates full support from leadership, as its success hinges on their understanding and commitment to this approach. Four strategies to secure this crucial buy-in are:

  1. Clear Communication: Convey the necessity of Team and Technical Agility, underlining its impact on productivity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Emphasize how this shift aligns with the organization’s strategic objectives (Cohn, 2009).
  2. Showcase Benefits: Demonstrate the benefits of implementing Team and Technical Agility like faster delivery cycles, enhanced quality, increased innovation, and improved customer satisfaction (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  3. Share Success Stories: Present cases of similar organizations that experienced positive outcomes through adopting Team and Technical Agility. Real-world success stories often resonate more than theoretical benefits and alleviate leadership concerns.
  4. Conduct a Pilot Project: Run a pilot project with a small team to demonstrate the effectiveness of “Team and Technical Agility”‘s effectiveness in the organization’s context. A successful pilot project dispels doubts and catalyzes organization-wide implementation (Kotter, 1996).

What is the role of leadership in establishing Team and Technical Agility?

Leadership establishes Team and Technical Agility through strategic involvement, influence, training, and adopting Agile principles and practices.

Leadership is pivotal in establishing Team and Technical Agility within an organization (Leffingwell et al., 2021). They are responsible for nurturing an environment conducive to Agile values and principles. They involve themselves in the following six ways:

  1. Driving Vision and Strategy: Leaders articulate the vision and strategy for adopting Agile methodologies. They align the organization’s strategic objectives with Agile’s principles and practices, ensuring synchronization and support of one another.
  2. Promoting Learning Culture: Leaders foster a culture of continuous learning, encouraging teams to embrace Agile practices and constantly improve. They provide resources and support for ongoing Agile education and training.
  3. Leading by Example: Leaders demonstrate Agile values and principles in their actions. They encourage openness, collaboration, and adaptability. They actively engage with Agile teams, participating in ceremonies like retrospectives, reviews, and planning.
  4. Encouraging Empowerment: Leaders empower teams, fostering self-organization and decision-making capabilities. They nurture a culture of trust and respect, encouraging teams to take ownership of their work.
  5. Removing Impediments: Leaders proactively identify and eliminate bureaucratic processes, rigid hierarchical structures, or a lack of resource impediments hindering Team and Technical Agility.
  6. Measuring Progress: Leaders establish metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to track the progress of Agile transformation. They monitor these metrics to ensure continuous improvement and adjustment of Agile strategies.

Through their strategic involvement, leaders play an instrumental role in establishing Team and Technical Agility within the organization, guiding the transformation, and driving adoption across all levels.

How do you prepare the team and organization for Team and Technical Agility?

Preparation involves comprehensive team and organizational training, adopting an agile mindset, and securing the appropriate SAFe training certifications.

Building Team and Technical Agility demands profound preparation at both the team and organizational levels. This preparation begins with embracing an agile mindset encompassing flexibility, transparency, collaboration, and customer-centricity.

  1. Team Training: This includes cross-functional skill development to promote adaptability, role clarity to ensure team cohesiveness, and instilling the principles of Agile and Scrum to ensure a uniform understanding of Agile practices.
  2. Organizational Training: Organizational training aims to nurture a culture conducive to Agile practices. This involves refining leadership approaches to support agility, promoting a learning culture, and cultivating an openness to change (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  3. SAFe Training Certifications: These offer a structured approach to developing Agile competencies in the organization:
    • Leading SAFe: This certificate equips leaders with a comprehensive understanding of the Scaled Agile Framework, Lean-Agile mindset, and the roles needed to successfully transform the organization to Lean-Agile.
    • SAFe Scrum Master: This focuses on the Scrum Master’s role within a SAFe environment, empowering them to effectively perform their roles at the team, program, and enterprise levels.
    • SAFe Advanced Scrum Master: This provides the skills required for a Scrum Master to facilitate Agile teams, programs, and enterprises, focusing on leadership, facilitation, coaching, and team dynamics.
    • SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager: This training enables individuals to execute the role of Product Owner/Product Manager, fostering an understanding of activities, tools, and mechanics to deliver value in a Lean enterprise.
    • SAFe Agile Software Engineering: This emphasizes Agile software engineering practices and techniques, promoting alignment with a Lean-Agile mindset.

How do you provide ongoing support to Team and Technical Agility?

Ongoing support involves one-on-one coaching, group coaching, mentoring, ceremony facilitation, and leadership development.

70-20-10 Model for LearningEnsuring sustained support for Team and Technical Agility requires a multi-faceted approach that spans individual, team, and leadership levels.

  1. One-on-One Coaching: This is a personalized approach where Agile coaches guide individuals in their Agile journey, addressing specific challenges and fostering continuous improvement (Cohn, 2010).
  2. Group Coaching: This method allows a group or a team to learn and grow together. It aids in resolving team-level issues, promotes shared understanding, and helps align toward common goals.
  3. Mentoring: Agile mentors provide insights based on their experience and knowledge, helping teams navigate complex situations and improving their Agile practices (Adkins, 2010).
  4. Ceremony Facilitation: Facilitating Agile ceremonies such as daily stand-ups, sprint planning, reviews, and retrospectives is vital to maintaining a delivery rhythm and continuous learning. These ceremonies encourage communication, transparency, and adaptability.
  5. Leadership Development: Leadership plays a pivotal role in promoting and sustaining Team and Technical Agility. Developing leadership agility involves fostering a servant-leadership mindset, nurturing decision-making abilities, and instilling an Agile mindset in leadership roles. This development is achieved through programs like the SAFe Lean Portfolio Management and SAFe Agile Leadership training.

Note that these strategies are not exclusive and are combined to address teams’ and organizations’ unique needs and contexts.

What are common Agile Team Topologies?

Agile Team Topologies are the structural configurations of SAFe Teams based on their role in the value stream. In SAFe, there are four types: Stream-Aligned, Complicated Subsystem, Platform, and Enabling teams.

Agile Team Topologies within SAFe are configurations of SAFe Teams, each with a distinct role in delivering value. These include:

  1. Stream-Aligned Team: Organized around the “flow of work, ” delivering value directly to the customer or end user.
  2. Complicated Subsystem Team: Organized around specific subsystems that require deeply specialized skills and expertise.
  3. Platform Team: Organized around developing and supporting platforms that provide services to other teams.
  4. Enabling Team: Organized to assist other teams with developing proficiency with new skills or technologies (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

What is the definition of a Team Topology?

A Team Topology is a classification of a team based on its role, responsibilities, and structure within an organization’s value stream.

Team Topology in the context of Agile and SAFe is the structure or configuration of a team based on its role and responsibilities in delivering value within an organization’s value stream (Leffingwell et al., 2020). It defines how a team aligns with the flow of work, its level of expertise and specialization, its responsibility towards platform development and support, or its role in enhancing the proficiency of other teams.

Why is it essential to use the best team topologies?

Using the best team topologies optimizes the flow of value, enhances collaboration, reduces dependencies, and promotes agility and efficiency within the organization.

SAFe PI Planning Program Board with dependencies mappedChoosing the best team topology is crucial for four reasons, and they are:

  1. Optimizes Value Flow: By aligning teams with value streams, organizations streamline “the flow of work” and deliver customer value more effectively (Anderson, 2010).
  2. Enhances Collaboration: Organizing teams based on their roles and responsibilities enhances collaboration and breaks down silos (Kim et al., 2018).
  3. Reduces Dependencies: Organizing teams to minimize interdependencies helps reduce delays and inefficiencies in the delivery process (Kniberg and Skarin, 2010).
  4. Promotes Agility and Efficiency: Proper team topologies allow organizations to respond better to changes, improve skills, and deliver services more efficiently (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

What are the impacts of using the wrong team topologies?

Using inappropriate team topologies reduces productivity, and inefficient work processes increase dependencies and diminish value delivery.

The utilization of incorrect or ill-suited team topologies has four detrimental effects on an organization, and they are:

  1. Reduced Productivity: Teams are burdened with responsibilities beyond their expertise, decreasing efficiency (Anderson, 2010).
  2. Inefficient Work Processes: Misaligned teams disrupt “the flow of work,” causing unnecessary delays and bottlenecks (Kim et al., 2018).
  3. Increased Dependencies: Inappropriate topologies result in higher inter-team dependencies, escalating complexities, and impeding agile working practices (Kniberg and Skarin, 2010).
  4. Diminished Value Delivery: Ultimately, these factors impact the organization’s capacity to deliver value to the customer, thereby affecting its overall business agility (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

What is the role of team topologies in an Agile organization?

Team topologies in an Agile organization are crucial in defining the structure, collaboration, and value delivery processes within the value stream.

In an Agile organization, team topologies serve four critical functions, and they are:

  1. Defining Structure: They define the structure of teams based on their role and alignment with the value stream (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  2. Facilitating Collaboration: They encourage effective collaboration by breaking down silos and promoting cross-functional interaction (Highsmith, 2002).
  3. Optimizing Value Delivery: They maximize work flow, enhancing value delivery to customers (Anderson, 2010).
  4. Boosting Agility: They foster an environment that promotes responsiveness to change, enhancing overall organizational agility (Cohn, 2010).

What is the relationship between team topologies and organizational agility?

Team topologies and organizational agility are interconnected – correctly applying team topologies enhances responsiveness, efficiency, and adaptability, thereby increasing organizational agility.

The relationship between team topologies and organizational agility is one of mutual influence and interconnectedness. Appropriate team topologies lay the foundation for effective Agile practices by optimizing “the flow of work,” promoting collaboration, reducing dependencies, and enhancing the capacity to respond to change (Leffingwell et al., 2020). In turn, this enhances organizational agility, as the organization becomes more capable of delivering value to the customer efficiently and effectively, adapting to changing circumstances, and maintaining a sustainable pace of work (Beck et al., 2001).

What are the common types of Agile Team topologies?

The SAFe framework has four common types of Agile Team topologies: Stream-Aligned Teams, Complicated Subsystem Teams, Platform Teams, and Enabling Teams.

These four types of team topologies in the context of the SAFe are characterized as follows:

  1. Stream-Aligned Teams: These teams are organized around the flow of work that delivers value directly to the customer or end-user (Leffingwell et al., 2020).
  2. Complicated Subsystem Teams: This topology consists of teams organized around specific subsystems, requiring deep specialized skills and expertise (Kniberg and Ivarsson, 2012).
  3. Platform Teams: These teams are organized around developing and supporting platforms that provide services to other teams (Jez Humble et al., 2010).
  4. Enabling Teams: These are teams organized to assist other teams in developing proficiency with new skills or technologies (Adkins, 2010).

Each topology has a distinct role and purpose in the value stream, facilitating different aspects of the product development process.

Stream aligned teams

What are stream-aligned teams?

Stream-aligned teams are SAFe Teams organized around the flow of work that delivers value directly to the customer or end user.

Stream-aligned teams in the SAFe are specifically formed to maximize the flow of value directly to the end customer or user (Leffingwell et al., 2020). These teams are typically cross-functional, encompassing all the skills and capabilities necessary to deliver a workstream from idea to production. Essentially, they represent the ‘team-of-teams’ concept at the heart of the Agile Release Train (ART) (Leffingwell, 2010).

What are the Benefits of stream-aligned teams?

Stream-aligned teams promote faster delivery, reduce dependencies, enhance customer focus, and enable quicker feedback loops.

The advantages of utilizing stream-aligned teams in an Agile framework include the following:

  1. Faster Delivery: These teams are designed to deliver value directly to the customer, resulting in a faster delivery cycle (Poppendieck and Poppendieck, 2003).
  2. Reduced Dependencies: By including all necessary skills within the team, dependencies on other teams are reduced, enhancing the flow of work (Anderson, 2010).
  3. Enhanced Customer Focus: Being aligned with a particular value stream helps the team understand customer needs and deliver solutions that meet those needs (Cohn, 2010).
  4. Quicker Feedback Loops: Direct alignment with the customer or end user enables quicker feedback, improving the team’s ability to learn and adapt (Kim et al., 2018).

What are the Drawbacks of stream-aligned teams?

While stream-aligned teams offer numerous advantages, they also come with potential drawbacks, including difficulty in coordination, risk of siloing, and challenges in skill development.

Stream-aligned teams in SAFe are beneficial for numerous reasons, but there are also drawbacks:

  1. Difficulty in Coordination: These teams experience difficulties coordinating their work with other teams, especially if the value stream they’re working on intersects with another (Schwaber, 2001).
  2. Risk of Siloing: While these teams have a strong focus on a specific stream, there’s a risk of developing a silo mentality, where they become disconnected from the overall organizational goals and objectives (Anderson, 2010).
  3. Challenges in Skill Development: Specialization within the stream-aligned team limit opportunities for individuals to learn new skills and technologies outside of their stream (Appelo, 2010).

When do you use stream-aligned teams?

Stream-aligned teams are best used when a continuous “flow of work” delivers value directly to the customer or end user.

The decision to form stream-aligned teams is based on the work’s nature (Leffingwell et al., 2020). If a continuous flow of work delivers value directly to the customer or end-user, aligning a team around this stream is beneficial. 

When do you not use stream-aligned teams?

Stream-aligned teams are not ideal when the work requires deep specialized skills, when teams need to develop and support platforms, or when teams need to assist others in acquiring new skills or technologies.

While stream-aligned teams are highly effective in many situations but are not the best choice in every circumstance. For instance:

  1. Deep Specialized Skills: A Complicated Subsystem Team is more appropriate if the work revolves around a specific subsystem that requires deep specialized skills and expertise (Kniberg and Ivarsson, 2012).
  2. Platform Development: If the team’s role is to develop and support platforms that provide services to other teams, then a Platform Team is more suitable (Humble et al., 2010).
  3. Skill Development: If the team’s main task is to help other teams develop proficiency with new skills or technologies, then an Enabling Team would be a better fit (Adkins, 2010).

Complicated subsystem teams

What are complicated subsystem teams?

Complicated subsystem teams are SAFe Teams focused on specific subsystems requiring deeply specialized skills and expertise.

In the context of SAFe, complicated subsystem teams are SAFe Teams that are organized around specific subsystems within a product that require deeply specialized skills and expertise. These teams often work on parts of the product that are technically complex and intricate, requiring expertise and focus to manage and develop effectively (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

What are the benefits of complicated subsystem teams?

The benefits of complicated subsystem teams include deep expertise, increased efficiency, and high-quality outcomes in complex areas.

Complicated subsystem teams, as conceptualized in SAFe, bring three advantages and they are:

  1. Deep Expertise: They possess a high level of specialized skills and knowledge in a specific subsystem, which enables them to effectively navigate complex challenges (Kniberg and Ivarsson, 2012).
  2. Increased Efficiency: By focusing on a particular subsystem, these teams deliver work more efficiently because they deeply understand the nuances of their subsystem (Rubin, 2012).
  3. High-Quality Outcomes: These teams often produce high-quality results due to their specialization and focus on a specific product area (Highsmith, 2009).

What are the Drawbacks of complicated subsystem teams?

While the specialized focus of complicated subsystem teams provides benefits, there are also three drawbacks, and they are:

  1. Potential Bottlenecks: These teams become bottlenecks if other teams frequently need their expertise, leading to delays in overall project completion (Anderson, 2010).
  2. Risk of Siloing: Complicated subsystem teams develop a silo mentality, focusing too much on their tasks and losing sight of the bigger picture (Humble et al., 2010).
  3. Challenges in Cross-Functionality: With their specialized focus, these teams find it difficult to contribute to areas outside of their subsystem, which limits the team’s flexibility and adaptability (Cohn, 2005).

When do you use complicated subsystem teams?

You use complicated subsystem teams to deal with highly specialized subsystems requiring deep expertise.

Complicated subsystem teams are utilized when there’s a requirement to handle complex, specialized subsystems within the product development landscape. They’re necessary when parts of the system demand a level of expertise and knowledge that is deeply specialized and beyond the scope of a generalized team. Such a team’s skill set would typically be centered around specific technologies, methodologies, or system components that form an integral part of the broader system (Cohn, 2010).

When do you not use complicated subsystem teams?

You typically avoid using complicated subsystem teams for general tasks or when a cross-functional approach is more beneficial.

While complicated subsystem teams bring expertise to a specific area, they do not fit every situation best. For instance, for tasks or projects that require a broad range of skills or a high degree of cross-functional collaboration, a more generalist or cross-functional team is more appropriate (Kniberg and Skarin, 2010). Relying on a subsystem team for general tasks leads to inefficiencies and suboptimal utilization of their specialized skills (Leffingwell, 2007).

Platform teams

What are platform teams?

Platform teams are SAFe Teams dedicated to developing and supporting platforms that provide services to other teams.

Platform teams within the context of SAFe focus on building and maintaining infrastructure, shared services, or foundational components on which other product or service elements are built. The platform team’s role is to ensure that these platforms are robust, scalable, and capable of supporting the development and operation of other elements of the product or system (Leffingwell et al., 2020). This arrangement enhances the efficiency of the development process by allowing other teams to focus on building features and delivering value without getting bogged down with underlying platform concerns (Kim, Humble, Debois, & Willis, 2016).

What are the benefits of platform teams?

Platform teams help improve efficiency and consistency by providing shared services or platforms other teams utilize.

Platform teams offer three benefits in a Scaled Agile Framework setting.

  1. Developing and maintaining shared platforms or services frees other teams to focus more on their specific feature or product development tasks.
  2. This leads to increased productivity and a quicker time-to-market for new features or products.
  3. By managing shared resources, platform teams ensure high consistency and reliability across the organization, significantly enhancing the final product’s overall quality (Anderson, 2010).

What are the Drawbacks of platform teams?

The potential drawbacks of platform teams include the risk of creating silos, reducing the autonomy of feature teams, and possible delays due to dependencies.

While platform teams bring many benefits, they have potential drawbacks. One risk is the creation of silos within the organization. Platform teams, by nature, require a certain degree of isolation to focus on their specific tasks. However, this leads to communication gaps between the platform and teams that depend on their services (Fowler, 2006). Additionally, using platform teams reduces autonomy for feature teams, as they have to wait for the platform team to deliver certain services or components before proceeding with their work. This dependency results in delays, especially if not managed effectively (Leffingwell et al., 2020).

When do you use platform teams?

Platform teams are used when shared services or platforms need to be developed and maintained by multiple teams in the organization.

You would employ a platform team when services, infrastructure, or foundational components are shared among different teams or projects within the organization. The purpose of such a team is to build and maintain these shared resources to a high standard, ensuring they are scalable, reliable, and fit for purpose. By doing this, the platform team allows other teams to focus more on developing the unique features or components of their specific products or services (Anderson, 2010). This approach is particularly valuable in large-scale agile environments where numerous teams work on different aspects of a complex product or system (Schwaber and Sutherland, 2017).

When do you not use platform teams?

Platform teams are unsuitable when the organization is small, the technology stack is not complex, or services and resources do not need to be shared across multiple teams.

While platform teams offer considerable benefits but are not the best choice in all circumstances, platform teams add unnecessary layers of complexity for smaller organizations or projects where the technology stack isn’t complex, and services or resources don’t need to be shared across multiple teams. Instead, a more cross-functional approach is more appropriate, allowing for greater flexibility and direct engagement with the product or service being developed (Anderson, 2010).

Enabling Teams

What are enabling teams?

Enabling teams are specialized groups that provide the necessary expertise and guidance to streamline and enhance other teams’ efficiency.

In the context of SAFe, enabling teams serve as a resource center, leveraging their distinct skills and knowledge to aid other teams in the face of complex technical challenges. They are considered the “technical consultants” within an organization, not assigned to a particular ART or solution train. They are ready to jump in and provide their unique expertise whenever necessary. These teams typically comprise subject matter experts (SMEs) with deep cybersecurity, UX design, architecture, and data science knowledge. Citing Cockburn (2004), they operate under a ‘pull model,’ meaning they’re called upon by other teams in need rather than being permanently embedded within them.

Benefits of enabling teams

Enabling teams to expedite issue resolution, foster skill-building, and drive organizational innovation.

Enabling teams act as force multipliers in an organization, helping accelerate problem-solving by bringing their specialized knowledge to bear on complex challenges in three ways, and they are:

  1. They empower teams to address issues quickly, thus reducing delays in product development cycles (Schwaber & Sutherland, 2017).
  2. They also contribute to capability development by transferring knowledge and best practices to the teams they assist, thereby enhancing the overall competency of the organization (Anderson, 2010).
  3. Due to their deep knowledge of specific domains, they introduce innovative techniques and technologies, driving forward-thinking practices within the organization (Kniberg & Ivarsson, 2012).

Drawbacks of enabling teams

Enabling teams inadvertently creates dependencies and discourages self-sufficiency among other teams.

While enabling teams to contribute significantly to problem resolution, their continual assistance creates a dependency culture (Leffingwell et al., 2012). Teams begin to rely too heavily on them for solutions, compromising their problem-solving skills and reducing self-sufficiency. The constant involvement of enabling teams makes them overstretched, resulting in inefficiencies and delayed delivery of their services.

When do you use enabling teams?

Enabling teams are employed when faced with complex, specialized challenges that extend beyond the expertise of regular Agile teams.

Enabling teams are typically called into action when Agile teams encounter issues beyond their current knowledge or skill set. There are three specific types of issues, and they are:

  1. Technical problems requiring deep expertise.
  2. Legal compliance or cybersecurity issues(Marick, 2001).
  3. Implementing new technologies or methodologies that the Agile teams are unfamiliar with.

When do you not use enabling teams?

Enabling teams are not employed for routine tasks or challenges that Agile teams are equipped to handle.

Overreliance on enabling teams leads to unhealthy dependency. Therefore, enabling teams are not typically used for tasks, or problems are solved using the existing skills and knowledge of the Agile teams (Hunt, 2000). They are also not used when the issue is within the normal range of challenges expected in the Agile team’s domain or when it’s beneficial for the Agile team to learn and solve the problem independently.

What is SAFe, and how does it relate to Team and Technical Agility?

The SAFe is a set of organization and workflow patterns intended to guide enterprises in scaling lean and agile practices. Team and Technical Agility is a critical competency within SAFe.

The SAFe, conceived by Dean Leffingwell, Drew Jemilo, and others, is designed to help organizations apply Agile principles and practices at scale. It incorporates elements from Agile development, systems thinking, and lean product development.

SAFe Requirements Model Big PictureTeam and Technical Agility in the context of SAFe refers to the ability of SAFe Teams to deliver high-quality solutions that meet customer needs via continuous collaboration and iterative development. It is one of the seven core competencies of a Lean Enterprise defined in SAFe, thus indicating its importance in driving the organization’s agility and continuous improvement.

What are the SAFe configurations and their connection with Team and Technical Agility?

SAFe configurations include Essential SAFe, Large Solution SAFe, Portfolio SAFe, and Full SAFe, each catering to different organization scales and complexities. They all emphasize Team and Technical Agility as fundamental competencies.

The Scaled Agile Framework offers four configurations designed to meet different needs based on the size and complexity of the organization or initiative, and they are:

  1. Essential SAFe: The foundational layer representing the minimal set of roles, events, and artifacts required to deliver business solutions continuously. It is centered on SAFe Teams and their collaboration and alignment.
  2. Large Solution SAFe: Adds an extra layer to coordinate multiple Agile Release Trains (ARTs) when building large and complex solutions.
  3. Portfolio SAFe: Expands upon Essential SAFe to provide lean governance, portfolio strategy, and investment funding at the enterprise level.
  4. Full SAFe: This represents the most comprehensive configuration, combining all levels of SAFe for organizations that need to operate at a large scale.

Each of these configurations emphasizes the importance of cross-functional teams, agile practices, and technical excellence at every level of the organization. This ensures consistent value delivery while maintaining adaptability for a changing market. Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, co-creators of Scrum, also strongly advocate these principles.

What is the role of Team and Technical Agility in modern organizations?

Team and Technical Agility is pivotal in enabling modern organizations to rapidly deliver value, enhance product quality, and foster innovation in response to evolving market demands.

In the dynamic environment of modern business, organizations are continually exposed to changes in customer preferences, competition, and technology. Team and Technical Agility principles help organizations remain resilient in these changing circumstances.

By embracing agility, teams deliver solutions in shorter cycles, enabling faster feedback and adaptation. This accelerates value delivery to customers and decreases the risk associated with long development cycles. SAFe Teams also focus on technical excellence, fostering a culture of continuous learning and improvement and promoting innovation. This principle is significantly echoed in the works of Kent Beck, author of “Extreme Programming Explained.”

SAFe Teams encourage collaboration across roles and functions, breaking down silos and enhancing organizational transparency and communication. This increased collaboration often leads to more creative problem-solving and a more cohesive organizational culture.

What are the disadvantages of traditional organizational structures?

Traditional organizational structures often lead to siloed departments, slower decision-making, less adaptability to change, decreased employee engagement, and difficulty meeting unique customer needs.

Traditional Siloed Organizational Structure

While traditional hierarchical organizational structures offer stability and clear lines of authority, they present five challenges, as discussed by management thinkers like John P. Kotter and David J. Anderson, and they are:

  1. Siloed Departments: Traditional structures often separate departments by function, which leads to communication breakdowns, lack of collaboration, and difficulty achieving cross-functional objectives.
  2. Slower Decision-Making: Hierarchical structures slow decision-making as decisions often have to go through multiple levels of management.
  3. Less Adaptability: Traditional structures are rigid and resistant to change, making it hard for the organization to adapt quickly to market changes or new opportunities.
  4. Decreased Employee Engagement: Employees often have little autonomy or decision-making power in traditional structures, leading to lower job satisfaction and engagement.
  5. Difficulty Meeting Unique Customer Needs: A hierarchical, top-down approach makes it harder to respond quickly to unique customer needs and innovate at the pace of today’s dynamic markets.

These issues are why organizations increasingly adopt Agile and Lean practices, prioritizing cross-functional collaboration, rapid decision-making, adaptability, and customer value.

What are the key benefits of implementing Team and Technical Agility?

Key benefits of Team and Technical Agility include faster delivery of value, improved product quality, enhanced responsiveness to change, and fostering a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

Team and Technical Agility, as advocated by many Agile thought leaders, including Martin Fowler and Ron Jeffries, offers four benefits and they are:

  1. Faster Delivery of Value: SAFe Teams work in short iterations, delivering value increments more frequently. This allows for faster feedback and reduces the time to market.
  2. Improved Quality: By incorporating continuous testing and integration, SAFe Teams identify and rectify issues earlier, improving product quality.
  3. Enhanced Responsiveness to Change: SAFe Teams embrace change as an opportunity to deliver more value. They pivot quickly in response to feedback or market shifts.
  4. Continuous Improvement and Innovation: Regular retrospectives encourage teams to learn from their experiences and improve. Also, they maintain innovation flexibility by keeping the design simple and the codebase clean.

What are the disadvantages of traditional teams?

Traditional teams often suffer from slow response to change, siloed knowledge, lower quality outputs due to long feedback loops, and lack of innovation.

Traditional, or Waterfall, teams typically follow a sequential process, where each stage is completed before the next one begins. This rigidity leads to four issues, as outlined by Alistair Cockburn, a signatory of the Agile Manifesto.

  1. Upfront Planning: the full scope of the project is determined upfront; changes mid-project are usually difficult and costly. This reduces the team’s ability to adapt to market changes or new insights.
  2. Siloed Teams: Knowledge tends to be siloed due to the compartmentalized nature of roles, which hinders cross-functional collaboration and learning.
  3. Since the product is usually tested and reviewed at the end of the process, issues are detected late and are expensive to fix.
  4. The hierarchical structure of traditional teams often suppresses innovation, as team members are typically expected to follow plans rather than explore new ideas.

What are the differences between traditional approaches and Team and Technical Agility?

Traditional approaches are plan-driven, sequential, and rigid, while Team and Technical Agility is iterative, incremental, and embraces change.

Traditional and Agile approaches contrast significantly in their philosophy and practices, as highlighted in the works of various Agile experts, including Jim Highsmith and Andrew Hunt.

  1. Planning and Execution: Traditional approaches, like Waterfall, involve extensive upfront planning and sequential execution, making them less adaptable to change. Conversely, Agile approaches embody iterative planning and incremental delivery, making them highly adaptable.
  2. Change Management: In traditional models, change is seen as a risk and is often resisted. In Agile models, change is seen as an opportunity to deliver more value and is actively embraced.
  3. Feedback Loops: Traditional models have long feedback loops, with testing and reviews generally occurring at the end of the project. In contrast, Agile practices incorporate continuous feedback mechanisms, such as sprint reviews and retrospectives, leading to faster learning and improvement.
  4. Roles and Responsibilities: Traditional models typically have rigid and defined roles. SAFe Teams are cross-functional, and roles are often fluid, fostering collaboration and shared ownership.
  5. Quality Assurance: In traditional models, quality assurance is usually a separate phase towards the end of the project. Agile practices, on the other hand, emphasize continuous integration, testing, and refactoring, ensuring quality is built in from the beginning.
  6. Innovation: Due to their rigid structure and resistance to change, traditional approaches tend not to encourage innovation. In contrast, SAFe Teams tend to be more conducive to innovation through their iterative nature and continuous improvement focus.

What are the SAFe Core Competencies?

The SAFe Core Competencies include Lean-Agile Leadership, Team and Technical Agility, Agile Product Delivery, Enterprise Solution Delivery, Lean Portfolio Management, Organizational Agility, and Continuous Learning Culture.

SAFe Business AgilitySAFe identifies seven core competencies critical to an organization’s success in the Lean-Agile world. These 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.

Team and Technical Agility is a core competency in SAFe that’s enriched by other competencies. Lean-Agile Leadership cultivates an agile mindset vital for team performance. Agile Product Delivery, Organizational Agility, and Enterprise Solution Delivery facilitate efficient teamwork across various scales. Lean Portfolio Management aligns team efforts with strategic goals, while Continuous Learning Culture promotes constant improvement within teams. Together, these competencies boost Team and Technical Agility, fostering a collaborative environment capable of delivering high-quality, valuable solutions on time.

How does “Team and Technical Agility” support the SAFe Core Competencies?

Team and Technical Agility lays the foundation for other competencies by promoting cross-functional, self-organizing teams that consistently deliver high-quality, valuable solutions, thus supporting Agile Product Delivery, Enterprise Solution Delivery, Organizational Agility, and Continuous Learning Culture.

Team and Technical Agility serve as a crucial foundation for the other SAFe Core Competencies:

  1. Agile Product Delivery: SAFe Teams, through their iterative, customer-focused approach, are crucial to delivering valuable products consistently and responding to feedback rapidly, supporting the Agile Product Delivery competency.
  2. Enterprise Solution Delivery: Large-scale solutions often require collaboration among multiple SAFe Teams. Their ability to deliver high-quality increments consistently contributes to the delivery of large-scale solutions, enabling the Enterprise Solution Delivery competency.
  3. Organizational Agility: SAFe Teams’ ability to adapt quickly to change is at the heart of Organizational Agility. Their iterative nature and feedback loops enable rapid response to market changes and new opportunities.
  4. Continuous Learning Culture: SAFe Teams’ focus on continuous improvement and learning—through practices such as retrospectives and pair programming—supports the establishment of a Continuous Learning Culture in the organization.

SAFe creators and Agile experts, including Dean Leffingwell and Richard Knaster, have discussed these relationships.

What is the relationship between Team and Technical Agility and Agile?

Team and Technical Agility is a competency within the SAFe framework that builds upon Agile principles to foster high-performing, cross-functional SAFe Teams that continuously deliver value and respond effectively to change.

Agile is a set of values and principles defined in the Agile Manifesto, aiming to improve software development processes through iterative development, customer collaboration, and flexibility to change. Within the context of SAFe, Team and Technical Agility extends these principles to create SAFe Teams that operate effectively within a scaled Agile context.

Team and Technical Agility incorporates Agile values and principles but focuses on the team’s capabilities and technical excellence. It highlights the necessity of self-organizing, cross-functional teams that continuously deliver high-quality increments of value and adapt swiftly to changing requirements or feedback.

The relationship between Agile and Team and Technical Agility is underlined in the works of many Agile experts, including Jeff Sutherland, co-creator of Scrum, and Dean Leffingwell, co-founder of the SAFe framework.

How does the Lean-Agile Mindset support Team and Technical Agility?

The Lean-Agile Mindset—embracing the values and principles of both Lean and Agile—supports Team and Technical Agility by encouraging continuous learning, respect for people, the flow of value, and systemic thinking.

The Lean-Agile Mindset is a fundamental aspect of the SAFe framework. It combines Lean thinking, focusing on reducing waste, optimizing the flow of value, and systemic thinking, with Agile’s emphasis on adaptability, customer collaboration, and continuous feedback.

This mindset supports Team and Technical Agility in 4 specific ways:

  1. Continuous Learning: The Lean-Agile Mindset promotes continuous learning and improvement, encouraging SAFe Teams to reflect and adapt their practices regularly.
  2. Respect for People: By acknowledging that the most significant potential for improvement comes from people, the Lean-Agile Mindset encourages the formation of self-organizing, cross-functional SAFe Teams.
  3. The flow of Value: The focus on optimizing the flow of value supports SAFe Teams in their goal to deliver value incrementally and consistently.
  4. Systemic Thinking: Understanding the organization as a system enables SAFe Teams to identify dependencies better and improve collaboration across teams and functions.

Agile leaders such as Jim Highsmith and Alistair Cockburn, among others, underscore the importance of this mindset in their works.

SAFe Practices

What is the SAFe Requirements Model?

The SAFe Requirements Model combines Artefacts and activities that guide the creation of system solutions.

SAFe Requirements Model includes a combination of Artefacts – Epics, Capabilities, Features, and Stories, along with the corresponding activities necessary for defining and implementing a system. It’s a flexible model that can be adapted according to the needs of each organization. This model assists in breaking down large work items into manageable sizes, thus promoting incremental delivery.

What is PI Planning?

PI Planning represents a routine, face-to-face event where Agile Release Trains establish a plan for the upcoming Program Increment (PI).

Agile Release Train (ART) teams collaborate and align on a shared mission and vision in this event. PI Planning creates the framework for teams to understand their work in the broader context, set team and program PI objectives, and identify dependencies across teams. It involves two main parts: Day One focuses on business context, product vision, and team breakout sessions, while Day Two emphasizes draft plan reviews, management review, and problem-solving.

What is SAFe built-in Quality?

SAFe built-in Quality means integrating quality standards into every product increment, promoting high standards rather than fixing issues afterward.

Built-in Quality is one of the core values of SAFe and emphasizes prevention over cure. It encompasses flow, architecture and design quality, code quality, system quality, and release quality. Incorporating quality from the earliest stages of the development process reduces the cost of subsequent defects, promotes faster delivery times, and encourages frequent iterations.

What are SAFe Value Streams?

SAFe Value Streams identify the activities needed to deliver value to the customer through a product or service.

In SAFe, two types of value streams are identified: Operational and Development. Operational Value Streams are the steps that an organization uses to deliver the product or service to the customer. In contrast, Development Value Streams represent the organization’s steps to develop new products or services, underpinned by Agile Release Trains (ARTs).

What is SAFe Continuous Delivery?

SAFe Continuous Delivery refers to the development practice of always maintaining a releasable state of the product, enabling frequent and reliable releases.

SAFe’s continuous delivery pipeline consists of four aspects: Continuous Exploration, Continuous Integration, Continuous Deployment, and Release on Demand. Continuous Delivery allows teams to reduce the lead time of feature delivery, increase deployment frequency, enhance product quality, and heighten customer satisfaction by providing regular updates and improvements.

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.

SAFe 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.

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