Learning SAFe

For an array of reasons, I’ve decided to become familiar with SAFe (the Scalable Agile Framework) and it’s proving an interesting education. The underlying model is not bad, and in fact it has one or two practices I wish I had known about earlier. My favorite? If you have multiple teams working on stuff, collect sprints into “increments” – buckets of 5 sprints – and have high level planning around that. Fun extra caveat – you only plan on 4 working sprints. The 5th sprint is nominally for creativity and exploration, and I love that idea, but the fact that it could also be used for hardening or deployment is a nice bit of flexibility.

Cynically, yes, it’s just a different wrapper around quarterly planning, but I admit I like the idea of models rolling up which is sort of the point of things like SAFe and Scrum@Scale.

Downside? I could not tell you why, but the diagrams I’ve run into as I learn SAFe are consistently horrible. I don’t think it’s necessary intrinsic to the framework, but the keystone image you see when you first go to find out about SAFe looks like this:

And I think that sort of establishes a tone of erring on the side of comprehensiveness over clarity. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it was definitely at odds with my expectation of something in the lean & agile space. That might just be on me, though.