What is SAFe? The Scaled Agile Framework – part 2

In the previous blog about the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), I explained the Scaled Agile Framework in its most elementary form and why it’s gaining such popularity in large organizations. Now we’ll dive into the available content and the application of the framework itself.

 

“Train everyone, launch Trains.”

The slogan above is Scaled Agile’s launch mantra, and it’s completely true.

Getting trained in SAFe is tremendously helpful in bringing the framework to life. During a course mere theory gets turned into something you can apply in practice, in particular because you get to learn from other people’s experiences: successes as well as failures…!

You can visit one of our courses – there’s one for every role and position in the organization. At Gladwell Academy we even designed the SAFe Foundation course to help get acquainted (in-company) with the framework. The Leading SAFe course, Scaled Agile’s own introductory course, dives into the material headfirst –  which makes sense, when trying to change a large organization… That’s why Leading SAFe is essential to implement SAFe, but perhaps a little much for a first introduction.

You could also get together some of those concerned (SAFe Agilists) and agree to learn from each other – a bit like Meet-up. In SAFe, such an informal learning circle is called a Community of Practice.

 

There’s Plenty of Content Available

If you’d like to take the plunge without getting trained first: all the information about the Scaled Agile Framework can be easily found on the website. There’s also a page explaining what SAFe is. All of the information is only available in English. You can click every icon to find out more about that specific item. If you’re interested in the background of and reasons for scaling Agile, read on at:

 

  1. Scaling Agile: the challenges.
  2. Scaling Agile: the solution.

 

The Structure of the Scaled Agile Framework

In the SAFe 5.0 Big Picture you can see three levels separated by a black line. Every level corresponds to a particular level of organizing product development.

 

  • Essential SAFe
    • Tells the story of multidisciplinary Agile Teams (Scrum teams with a couple of characteristics specific to SAFe) that work with Scrum, Kanban and a few useful principles and techniques;
    • Describes how 5 of these Agile teams – totalling a maximum of 150 persons – can work together on a product in a synchronized cadence by means of an Agile Release Train (ART).
  • Large Solution
    • This only comes up when multiple ARTs work on a product together, which is why it’s completely optional. Another level of roles and rituals will be added on top of the teams to ensure quality: Solution Train Engineer, Solution Train and Solution Demo;
  • Portfolio Level
    • This is where the leaders of an organization work on making choices about the budget for ARTs, the Epics priorities and feeding the Agile Release Train with the most valuable work.

 

Like a Painter’s Palette

On the left side and bottom side of the framework you see a grey bar filled with icons and words. The grey bar on the left is sometimes called the ‘Spanning Palette’ or the ‘painter’s palette’. You can use it to familiarize yourself with core elements like setting up a supporting team for the executive teams. The bottom grey bar is the foundation of SAFe – the underlying principles, the implementation, the role of leadership.

Is your head spinning? It’s a complicated diagram, mostly meant for a trainer to have one image to use during a course to refer to while discussing all artefacts, constructs and concepts. Without some education, SAFe can be hard to understand…!

We’re curious to hear about your experiences with SAFe!

 


About the Author: Boris de Jong

Boris de Jong is an Agile trainer and content specialist at Gladwell Academy. Boris has a background in political science and journalism as well as theatre. At Gladwell Academy, he works on making the abstract parts of working Agile in organizations more concrete and palpable.

To achieve this, he uses a personal, people-oriented style, which is why his clear-cut articles are filled with practical examples, descriptive metaphors and telling anecdotes.

His talent as a storyteller and knowledge of politics and administration are also put to use in his work as an Agile trainer: with a feel for context and a storyteller’s sense of flair, he makes sure Agile methods and principles are both tangible and comprehensible.

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