SAFe Implementation Roadmap Part 1: Getting started and reaching the tipping point

The journey of SAFe implementation for your business can seem daunting. Knowing where to start and then actually using the tools may seem like a process fraught with complexity. But it doesn't have to be because we've got you covered! Today we're starting our SAFe Implementation Roadmap series in which we will take a look at each of the 12 steps in the SAFe Implementation Roadmap. Since this is part one, we will start by discussing reaching the tipping point. 

"Change is the only constant." We are incredibly familiar with that cliche. Sure, it would be nice to go on about how everything in the universe continually evolves and how we should evolve with it. We choose to face hard facts. Change is hard! And it's even harder when there are few resources available.

Organizational leaders oftentimes discover new frameworks and trends that claim to help their business work faster, more efficiently, or even just better. Due to the nature of free markets and competition, taking advantage of these new frameworks becomes the standard. This is because organizations want to keep up with or even surpass their competition. Decision-makers usually think, “If company X is doing it in our industry, then we should do it too!” The question then is not what or why, but how? How can we implement this new framework that everyone is raving about?

One of those current trends is SAFe. SAFe - also known as the Scaled Agile Framework - is sweeping across industries as the new trend in business, claiming to help empower organizations to use Agile at scale. There are dozens of resources available to help people understand SAFE, but there is a gap when it comes to implementation. The rest of this article and the articles in this series will cover the individual steps recommended by the people at Scaled Agile.

“Understanding how to implement SAFe is the key to getting it functional for your enterprise.”

Essential Roadmap for Implementing SAFe

The first characteristic to highlight about the journey to a successfully implemented Scaled Agile Framework  (SAFe) is that it takes time. Businesses that want to be agile must devote time and have the patience to ensure those team members who are naturally predisposed to resist change warm up to the system.

There are no particular routes that ensure the successful implementation of SAFe. Nonetheless, the existence of a general routine makes the path somewhat more straightforward. This routine incorporates a roadmap which is outlined as follows:

Fig 1: The roadmap to the implementation of Scaled Agile Framework

Today we will talk about the first step in the SAFe Implementation Roadmap, Reaching the Tipping Point. The organization cannot miss this because it is the reason they are even considering SAFe as a solution to their organizational deficiencies.

Although change is difficult, the resolve to change makes the journey less painful. The organization must first set out a defined reason for wanting to implement SAFe. Keeping up with industrial competition, working more efficiently, or aligning company values with daily tasks are all viable reasons for switching to SAFe. One common reason that we often find at Seibert Media is to move away from the very regimented waterfall model of software development. These organizations find it difficult to keep up with their more agile competitors, and that is enough to serve as their Tipping Point and drive the initial move to SAFe. Whatever your organization’s reason might be, it is important to ensure that everyone working on this change understands why it will drive the move to SAFe. 

If an organization can create this shared understanding of the reason for change, they typically meet at least one of these two conditions:

  • A burning platform
  • Visionary Leadership

A Burning Platform

This is where the company is failing in some way. They are losing customers or failing to keep up with their competitors. Usually, this condition is a self-explanatory one. The executive committee or board will see it reflected in their bottom line. Some organization members may still resist the change, but overall the need will be so obvious that resistance will be difficult to maintain.

Visionary Leadership

This is a significantly less obvious condition. In this Tipping Point type, the decision is coming from the top down. The constant need for improvement and fear of “A Burning Platform” pushes the leadership to change their ways of working. There will definitely be some resistance to this. Members will say, “We always do it this way” and “why are we changing what works?”. For this condition, leaders need to create a vision of why the organization needs this change.

Once the conditions are established, it is critical to establish a vision for change. This vision will do three things:

  1. Clarify the purpose for change
  2. Motivates people in the right direction
  3. Aligns people across all departments and initiatives

It might make sense to put data in your Vision for Change. You can use any of the numerous SAFe Case studies to demonstrate the multitude of benefits from moving to SAFe.

This is the Tipping Point, and like all tipping points, it is the catalyst to drive the necessary changes in the organization. These changes could be the need for visionary leaders or the need to create better software—but whatever the need for change, the decision to change sets organizations on the path to compete fairly in the marketplace.

Tying it all up

Any change is going to encounter some resistance. In the following articles, we will discuss discovering value streams, forming Agile Release Trains (ARTs), training the team, and scaling the framework. None of these will be possible without strong leadership and an aligned vision. Making the reason for change known throughout the organization and getting the leadership team aligned is your best bet to successful SAFe implementation. 

Be sure to stay tuned for the next installment of our series, in which we give you information on how to train lean agile change agents. In the meantime, if you are curious about learning more about SAFe or the software-supported implementation of SAFe, ask us about Agile Hive!  We would be happy to discuss your requirements for enterprise-wide agile product development and product management with you. Take a look at our Implementation Project documentation to see an overview of what an implementation would entail.

Get in touch with us today, and let us demonstrate how it works in a personal session.

Further Reading

Agile Hive Implementation Project
Scaled Agile: SAFe 5.0 changes and how Agile Hive maps them
SAFe with Atlassian tools: Agile Hive is a Scaled Agile Platform Partner

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