Connect Your Learning Networks to SAFe – Benefits of SAFe

Welcome to the final post in our series on learning networks. In previous posts, we’ve discussed the power of informal learning networkshow informal learning networks emerge, and how to uncover these networks in your own organization. In this post, I’ll explain how to connect your learning networks with SAFe®.

Benefits of SAFe

I like to think of these learning networks as essential tools in the toolbox of a SAFe enterprise as it works to create a continuous learning culture. Formal events are valuable, intentional, and complement a shift from formal to informal learning opportunities. Creating learning—or serendipitous—moments catalyze a change in mindset with curiosity at the forefront.

A Learning Mindset

Everyone is always learning, all the time, and creating a continuous learning culture is paramount to acknowledging that. 

The informal learning networks I’ve been describing align nicely with the three dimensions of a continuous learning culture.

  • Become a learning organization. Formal and informal learning networks can help you get there. Informal learning networks are a grassroots-level way to create a learning organization, without anyone actually realizing it. 
  • Create an innovation culture. Do your teams have the time and space to work on different, unique things and learn from each other? People in these networks are meeting, learning, and innovating together.
  • Cultivate a relentless improvement mindset. People in these informal learning networks are curious and always looking to get better at what they’re doing. Relentless improvement is how they think and part of who they are, and they’re meeting, learning, and improving together. 
Connect Your Learning Networks to SAFe

Creating a continuous learning culture is about more than learning how to code in a new system. People want to learn how to coach their leaders, how to mentor people, how to share what they’ve learned, and how to become lifelong learners in the process. And this culture enables people in a Lean-Agile enterprise to solve challenges behind the scenes. In my last post, I wrote about how people in informal learning networks aren’t interested in recognition. They’re passionate about learning new things and applying what they’ve learned to the enterprise. They seek out others with the same mindset, and that’s how the learning mindset and culture grows which is better for any organization and its success without doing much.

How SAFe Promotes Learning Networks

The fact that an organization has adopted SAFe in the first place is a catalyst for promoting these learning networks. So, where in SAFe do these learning networks appear? And where are the opportunities for informal learning networks to emerge as enterprises adopt SAFe, business agility and sustain their transformation over time? Let’s do some exploring.

Communities of practice

The best communities of practice (CoPs) I participate in don’t have a full, formal agenda. Instead, they leave space for thoughts and ideas to surface. CoPs don’t exist for people in similar roles to get together once a month with a guest speaker. Rather, they exist to organically create tremendous learning opportunities and thriving social networks. 

Before I left my last enterprise, I was an SPC at the time, and I started a CoP for all the SPCs across the organization. There were a lot of us, and I’m still active in a few informal learning networks that started from this CoP, as well as other CoPs that crossed organizational boundaries. Many informal networks start from the most casual conversations and events, some with just a few people, and expand from there—within and outside the organization.

Benefits of SAFe

Continuous learning culture

Fostering a continuous learning culture isn’t about checking boxes, bringing in external trainers, or transactional learning. It’s about tying these elements together from formal and informal events. And I remember being part of an organization that was great at this. 

One time in particular, there was a fairly large internal Agile conference organized in one of our Texas offices. As a speaker for this event, I got to meet so many other coaches and agilists from business units that I didn’t even know existed in our enterprise. It was an amazing experience. The event launched numerous social networks that turned into learning networks for me—many that I’m still part of. Other times, less-formal events would just emerge. Events like unplanned coaching clinics we’d spin up to help associates discover growth areas that they could focus on within their role. A lot of mentoring relationships even grew from some of these. Suffice it to say, there was no shortage of available learning networks to lean into. Once I joined them, my traditional perspective about having to go outside of my organization to learn just disappeared.

IP iteration

The innovation and planning (IP) iteration is a perfect opportunity to build and expand informal networks. People typically have more time and space to explore and focus on something other than their day-to-day work. Oftentimes, we see leaders try to take this iteration off the schedule and go directly from one PI to another. There isn’t a pause for innovation or learning or preparing for the next PI. This is why I think the IP iteration is non-negotiable and should be a promise that all leaders make to their ARTs.

I’ve seen so many learning networks emerge during IP iterations, including from hackathons. After the hackathon demo, people that are curious about the outcome and want to lean in and help take it forward, often (quite informally) start a learning network.  Maybe they put some stories on a backlog. Maybe they decide to extend the network to more people outside of their teams and ARTs. That’s exactly how these networks start and grow.

What’s so great about learning networks is that you can meet with anyone from anywhere internal and external to your organization. You can create a protected space where people can connect and find new ways to improve their skills. Everyone can learn together from practicing SAFe.

Informal Learning Networks: Find One. Join One. Start One.

I participate in a number of informal networks. Some of them originated from past enterprises where I worked. Some of them originated from Agile conferences. Some of them originated from other formal facilitation groups that I’m part of. But they all share a key characteristic: the only constraints that exist are the ones that we may place on them ourselves.

At one time, I had four mentors that emerged from my learning networks. And from each one of those relationships, I created new, informal learning networks. I couldn’t wait to keep sharing what I learned, including practicing new skills. I wasn’t the only one who had external mentors, so I got to learn from others in the networks too. By joining all these learning networks, I sharpen my skills, and extend them in areas where it used to take me twice as long to do something. But now that I’ve learned from others, I can work smarter. The biggest benefit? It doesn’t actually feel like work when you’re part of a learning network.

In the first post I wrote for this series, I described the moment when I shifted from being a transactional learner to a lifelong learner after my leader told me to, “Just keep doing what you’re doing.” In your quest to be a lifelong learner, I expect that many of you are already part of an informal learning network—you probably just didn’t have a name for it.

I challenge and encourage you to find someone in your enterprise who’s interested in the area that your learning network is currently exploring. Invite them to collaborate with you. Although these networks are informal, they’re still open to everyone.

Here’s my advice around finding, joining, and creating a learning network:

  • Be curious.
  • Seek out a learning network. Find out how it started and what members are learning about. I can almost guarantee you won’t find a calendar entry for it.
  • Join a learning network. But not the first one you come across. Find one whose members are exploring and learning something you’re passionate about.
  • Start a learning network. All of us have topics that really excite us. What’s the one thing you spend your weekends learning more about? And how can you contribute your knowledge, expertise, and experience to help others learn? Start a learning network by bringing what you know into your daily collaborations at work. Chances are once you start sharing what you’re learning, people will come to you.

I truly believe that learning networks are a best-kept secret in organizations. Primarily because they catalyze learning and help organizations cultivate a continuous learning culture. What will you learn next?

About Audrey Boydston

Audrey Boydston is a senior consultant at Scaled Agile

Audrey Boydston is a senior consultant at Scaled Agile and an experienced SPCT, Lean-Agile coach, trainer, and facilitator. Her work focuses on continuous learning, building fundamentals, re-orienting around principles, and helping clients—from senior executives to developers—build networks and communities that support their transformations.

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Next: Launching an ART? Do a Gemba Walk.

Launching an ART? Do a Gemba Walk – Implementing SAFe

Launching an ART?

What if you could see a great example of SAFe® in the wild; a vision of a possible future as you prepare to launch your first ART? Would you want to stand in the middle of where the work is done and gain insights into what could inhibit your success? I’d like to share an approach I’ve used to leverage the power of a Gemba walk. I believe it to be one of the most powerful accelerators available for those considering implementing SAFe.

What is Gemba?

Gemba is a Japanese term that means “the real place.” It represents going to where the work is done or the place where value is created from a Lean-Agile perspective. Within an automotive plant, it’s the manufacturing floor, at a hospital, it could be the ER or operating room, and in the U.S. Government, it could be inside a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility (SCIF).

Traditionally, a leader would take a Gemba walk to visit where the work is being done to observe the value being created and interact with the people and processes. Together, they can identify opportunities for improvement. Within SAFe, Gemba walks are among the collaborative research techniques product management will use for continuous exploration.

I encourage enterprise executives, Lean Portfolio Management executives, and ART stakeholders to take Gemba walks of PI Planning from a relentless improvement perspective. Gemba walks to allow them to truly understand the Framework while raising awareness of systemic issues that may require senior leadership assistance. Even before you’ve launched your ART, a Gemba walk of PI Planning is valuable. It is similar to someone looking to invest in a restaurant franchise who visits an existing location to get a closer look at what might be ahead of them.

While I have used this within large corporations, I have found it particularly applicable to the federal government. Many of the corporation-to-corporation or even business-unit-to-business-unit challenges that exist in the private sector do not apply as civil servant leaders are, ultimately, all part of the same overall entity. I’ve seen an incredible willingness for government leaders to share with others across agencies, such as the USAF/US Army program leader inviting NASA leaders to observe PI Planning before their ART launch. In this case, “the real place” is a live PI Planning event for an established ART.

Doing a Gemba Walk at PI Planning

As you can imagine, observing PI Planning before attempting to launch your ART will always provide valuable insights. Even if you only glean some examples of things you might do differently, there is no substitute for actually experiencing a live event.

I recommend you find the best example of SAFe you can and arrange to observe it with an experienced tour guide.

Tip: Look for ARTs organized around value, with dedicated Agile teams that meet the commitments they make themselves. If you can, find an ART where the Business Owners, Product Management, System Architect, and RTE have cleared their schedules to be 100-percent available during the entire event. Seek an ART where leaders demonstrate Lean, Agile, and SAFe values in how they work while genuinely seeking to cultivate transparency, create alignment, and deliver value together.

Interested?  Here are the steps I like to take:

1. Find an ART that represents the type of SAFe implementation you hope to achieve yourself. Starting with the practices alone can still bring value, as not every company, business unit, or government program is ready to weave the values and principles necessary for great success. Additionally, some see SAFe as a process to be implemented by the numbers, pushing practices out, and directing how everything will work. Others understand that implementing SAFe, or any scaling agile framework requires shifts in mindsets and people making decisions based on new values and principles. I focus on the latter, as it’s the one that creates the deep roots needed to sustain and grow.

2. Obtain permission from the program leaders, understand what values they seek from experience, and address any concerns. Often, this idea of a Gemba walk is part of the introduction email between leaders of both programs.

3. Facilitate an orientation meeting before the planning event. This orientation allows you to introduce leaders from both programs, review the host ART’s schedule, and set the working agreements to ensure minimal disruption and maximum learning. Additionally, this meeting allows the host to share any context-specific ways they have leveraged the Framework. The visitors and the tour guide will understand the reasons for the changes before observing the event.

Tip: If remote, provide an overview of the tooling and methods used to replicate the deep collaboration model present in a face-to-face event.

ART’s schedule

4. Arrange for a dedicated tour guide who doesn’t need to facilitate the actual PI Planning event. If they have an SPC, as well as experience coaching ART launches, I recommend that the new program’s coach be the guide. Otherwise, the existing coach from the host program is a solid choice. The purpose of the tour guide is to help the visitors connect their knowledge to the field experience while highlighting best practices and answering questions in real-time without disrupting the host ART’s event. Ensure that everyone stays connected by having a persistent chat channel available for coaches and visitors throughout the event, and pre and post syncs to reflect on the insights gained.

Tip: If you consider bringing in an SPC as a coach or consultant, deeply explore their field experience. You might even find one who has a previous customer willing to share their perspective or allow you to observe their PI Planning event.

5. Allow visitors to observe the entire PI Planning event. If this isn’t feasible, see how many of the key events are available, such as opening briefings, team breakouts, plan reviews, management review, ROAMing of program risks, and the confidence vote. Understanding the host’s parameters and the visitor’s role can help you prioritize if time is limited.

6. Facilitate daily meet-afters between both sets of leaders. Standing meet-afters provide a safe forum to ask tough questions and discuss sensitive topics with honesty. Those who have the experience can share their tips and tricks with those preparing to embark on their SAFe journey.

7. Encourage connections between each visitor and the individual in their corresponding ART role. Personal relationships create an opportunity for those in the various roles to connect beyond the event. These introductions also can spark the creation of role-specific communities of practice.

Remember: SAFe is a framework, and while some essential elements, patterns, and practices lead to success, it is not one size fits all. As you look to customize your implementation, understanding why the methods are in place and which values and principles power them will serve you well.

A Gemba walk is one of the best ways to turn your knowledge of PI Planning into real understanding. It provides insights for hosts and visitors alike while creating community connections that foster alignment, transparency, quality, and execution.

Gemba resources

If you would like to learn more about Gemba within the Framework, check out the Continuous Exploration article. If you want to take a deeper dive, Jim Womack’s book, Gemba Walks Expanded, 2nd Edition is a great resource, and you can connect with one of the SAFe Fellows through the “Ask an Expert” forum on the SAFe Community Platform portal (login required).

About Phil Gardiner

Phil Gardiner, a SPCT, is focused on enabling people to achieve sustainable success through greater business agility. He has served various markets from Fortune 10 corporations to the U.S. federal government.

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Next: Uncovering Your Organization’s Hidden Learning Networks

Uncovering Your Organization’s Hidden Learning Networks – Business Agility Planning

 Learning Networks

Welcome to the third post in our series on learning networks. In previous posts, we’ve discussed the power of informal learning networks and how informal learning networks emerge. In this post, I’ll share how you can uncover these networks in your own organization. Chances are they exist; they’re just not necessarily in plain sight.

I’ve found that people in learning networks aren’t in them to put themselves in the spotlight. They’re interested in sharing what they’ve learned and learned from others. If that’s the case, how do you find these people and networks? It’s actually what you find around these people that will give you some clues.

Be curious: listen for hints of learning

Have any of these scenarios ever played out in your own organization?

  • Impediments that mysteriously disappear without any leadership involvement and people are asking “Who fixed this?”
  • Teams and ARTs delivering work that they’ve never had the skills to work on before.
  • Casual mention of “People in this business unit do this,” or “I learned that if we …” or “Did you know that …”

Informal learning networks help agility planning, solve real business and operational problems, often without anyone else knowing anything about it.

Be curious: explore the most unlikely of places

Now, think about that one business unit, team, or department where there’s low attrition, lots of innovation happening, and lots of employee excitement. 

Being a curious person myself, I remember looking across the landscape of my enterprise and noticing one specific Agile release train (ART) with about 145 people that had absolutely zero attrition, for a very long time. Nobody wanted to leave. They were completely engaged and enjoyed their work so much that people stayed, even when tempted by attractive opportunities elsewhere. Around the same time period, I also observed another ART that had the opposite environment. Picture a revolving door at the entrance. This ART struggled to keep people and couldn’t replace them fast enough to stay on track with their commitments.

As I reflected on my observations, two things became very clear. One ART was learning and one wasn’t. And that meant that one ART had informal learning networks and one didn’t. The people on the first ART I described, which I call the learning ART, were learning from every single place they could, internal and external. And they were bringing in what they learned and sharing it with their coworkers. “Just keep doing what you’re doing” wasn’t even part of the conversation.

This is exactly why I encourage you to explore and ask the question, “Does anyone know this technology, this Agile skill, etc.?” Explore outside of your specific area as you seek opportunities to accelerate your learning journey. Spend time not only with your teams and ARTs but with leaders in other areas—even those completely outside of your business unit. Taking that leap to start connecting with people in other business units is a crucial first step. Inquire about what they’ve learned, what they’re learning, and where they’re learning it from. Even just sitting down for a cup of coffee (in person or virtually) and talking to someone can be the best way to find these learning networks. Which, by the way, might be hidden from direct view but aren’t secret. 

Be curious: engage the people-connectors

As I alluded to earlier in this post, people in learning networks truly want to learn something and share it to mentor others, so, chances are they’re willing to tell you about everything they’re learning. I like to call them the people-connectors. These are the people that seem to know everybody, are curious, and are part of at least one internal learning network—which they probably started themselves.

Here’s an example of a typical conversation with a people connector.

Person 1: “We need to learn this skill.”

Person 2:  “Maybe we could bring someone in to teach us.”

People-connector: “I know someone on team K who has this skill and who’d be happy to teach it to you.”

Think about it: what you’ll remember most about that conversation is not how you got the connection but the learning you received from it. People-connectors are motivated to share what they’ve learned to better the organization. The more they connect people and share, the more they learn from others too. 

Learning Networks

Find and join a learning network  

One of the best benefits I’ve experienced working within large enterprises is that there are lots of people in various business units to connect with while on your learning journey. Many of us, including me, have unknowingly added constraints to our thinking about who we should collaborate with, such as people in our general area of business. A world of learning awaits as soon as you remove those constraints and find ways to connect with people in other areas.

But don’t stop there. Seek out others outside of your enterprise that has common learning goals and start a learning network with them. I’m in a variety of learning networks with people all over the world—and each of them started with one conversation or interaction.

Now that you know where to find these networks, read the final post in my blog series about how to connect your learning networks with SAFe.

About Audrey Boydston

Audrey Boydston is a senior consultant at Scaled Agile and an experienced SPCT, Lean-Agile coach, trainer, and facilitator. Her work focuses on continuous learning, building fundamentals, re-orienting around principles, and helping clients—from senior executives to developers—build networks and communities that support their transformations.

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Next: Demystifying Leading Indicators in Product Development and Innovation

Understanding Leading Indicators in Product Development and Innovation

It’s quite common for people to nod knowingly when you mention leading indicators, but in reality, few people understand them. I believe people struggle with leading indicators because they are counterintuitive, and because lagging indicators are so ingrained in our current ways of working. So, let’s explore leading indicators: what they are, why they’re important, how they’re different from what you use today, and how you can use them to improve your innovation and product development.

What Are Leading and Lagging Indicators?

Leading Indicators in Product Development

Leading indicators (or leading metrics) are a way of measuring things today with a level of confidence that we’re heading in the right direction and that our destination is still desirable. They are in-process measures that we think will correlate to successful outcomes later. In essence, they help us predict the future.

In contrast, lagging indicators measure past performance. They look backwards and measure what has already happened.

Take the example of customer experience (CX). This is a lagging indicator for your business because the customer has to have the experience before you can measure it. While it’s great to understand how your customers perceive your service, by the time you discover it sucks it might be too late to do anything about it.

ROI is another example of a lagging indicator: you have to invest in a project ahead of time but cannot calculate its returns until it’s completed. In days gone by you might have worked on a new product and spent many millions, only to discover the market didn’t want it and your ROI was poor.

Online retailers looking for leading indicators of CX might look instead at page load time, successful customer journeys, or the number of transactions that failed and ended up with customer service. I often tell clients that if these leading indicators are positive, we have reason to believe that CX, when measured, will also be positive.

Don Reinertsen shares a common example of leading vs. lagging indicators: the size of an airport security line is a leading indicator for the lagging indicator of the time it takes to pass through security screening. This makes sense because if there is a large line ahead of you, the time it will take to get through security and out the other side will be longer. We can only measure the total cycle time once we’ve experienced it.

If you operate in a SAFe® context, the success of a new train PI planning (which is a lagging indicator) is predicated on leading indicators like identifying key roles, training people, getting leadership buy-in, refining your backlog, socializing it with the teams, etc.

Simple Examples of Successful Leading Indicators

The Tesla presales process is a perfect example of how to develop leading indicators for ROI. Tesla takes refundable deposits, or pre-orders, months if not years before delivering the car to their customers. Well before the cars have gone to production, the company has a demonstrated indicator of demand for its vehicles.

Back in the 90s, Zappos was experimenting with selling shoes online in the burgeoning world of e-commerce. They used a model of making a loss on every shoe sold (by not holding stock and buying retail) as a leading indicator that an online shoe selling business would be successful before investing in the necessary infrastructure you might expect to operate in this industry.

If you are truly innovating (versus using innovation as an excuse for justifying product development antipatterns, like ignoring the customer) then the use of leading indicators can be a key contributor to your innovation accounting processes. In his best-selling book, The Lean Startup, Eric Ries explains this concept. If you can demonstrate that your idea is moving forward by using validated learning to prove problems exist, then customers will show interest before you even have a product to sell. Likewise, as Dantar P. Oosterwal demonstrated in his book, The Lean Machine, a pattern of purchase orders can be a leading indicator of product development and market success.

Leading Indicators Can Be Near-term Lagging Indicators

Let’s loop back and consider the definitions of leading and lagging indicators.

  • Lagging: Measures output of an activity. Likely to be easy to measure, as you’ve potentially already got measurement in place.
  • Leading: Measures inputs to the activity. Often harder to measure as you likely do not do this today.

Think about the process of trying to lose weight. Weight loss is a lagging indicator, but calories consumed and exercise performed are leading indicators, or inputs to the desired outcome of losing weight.

While it’s true that both calories consumed and exercise performed are activities that cannot be measured until they’re completed, and therefore might be considered near-term lagging indicators, they become leading indicators because we’re using them on the path to long-term lagging indicators. Think back to the CX example: page load time, successful customer journeys, and failed transactions that end up with customer service can all be considered near-term lagging indicators. Yet we can use them as leading indicators on a pathway to a long-term lagging indicator, CX.

Leading Indicators in Product Development

How to Ideate Your Leading Indicators

The most successful approach I’ve applied with clients over many years is based on some work by Mario Moreira, with whom I worked many moons ago. I’ve tweaked the language and application a little and recommend you create a Pathway of Leading to Lagging Indicators. To demonstrate this, I will return to the CX example.

Ideate Leading Indicators

If we walk the pathway, we can estimate that an acceptable page load time will lead to a successful user journey, which—if acceptable—will then lead to fewer failed transactions that revert to customer service, which ultimately will lead to a positive customer experience metric.

Work Backwards from Your Lagging Indicator

To create your Leading to Lagging Pathway, start from your lagging indicator and work backwards looking at key successful elements that need to be true to allow your lagging indicator to be successful.

At this stage, these are all presuppositions; as in, we believe these to be true. They stay this way until you’ve collected data and can validate your pathway. This is similar to how you need to validate personas when you first create them.

Add Feedback Loop Cycle Times

Once you have your pathway mapped out, walk the pathway forward from your first leading indicator and discuss how often you can and should record, analyze, and take action for that measure. You should make these feedback loops as short as possible because the longer the loop, the longer it will take you to learn.

Feedback Loop Cycle

All that’s left is to implement your Leading to Lagging Pathway. You may find a mix of measures, some which you measure today and some you don’t. For those you already do measure, you may not be measuring them often enough. You also need to put in place business processes to analyze and take action. Remember that if measures do not drive decisions, then your actions are a waste of resources.

Your leading indicator might be a simple MVP. Tools like QuickMVP can support the implementation of a Tesla-style landing page to take pre-orders from your customers.

Applying Leading Indicators in Agile Product Management

A common anti-pattern I see in many product management functions is a solution looking for a problem. These are the sorts of pet projects that consume huge amounts of R&D budget and barely move the needle on profitability. Using design thinking and Lean Startup techniques can help you to validate the underlying problem, determine the best solution, and identify whether it’s desired by your potential customers and is something you can deliver profitably.

In SAFe, leading indicators are an important element of your epic benefit hypothesis statement. Leading indicators can give you a preview of the likelihood that your epic hypothesis will be proven, and they can help deliver this insight much earlier than if you weren’t using them. Insight allows you to pivot at an earlier stage, saving considerable time and money. By diverting spending to where it will give a better return, you are living by SAFe principle number one, Take an economic view.

Let’s look at some working examples demonstrating the use of leading indicators.

Leading Indicators in Agile Product Management
Leading Indicators in Agile Product Management
Leading Indicators in Agile Product Management
Leading Indicators in Agile Product Management

I hope you can now see that leading indicators are very powerful and versatile, although not always obvious when you start using them. Start with your ideation by creating a Leading to Lagging Pathway, working back from your desired lagging indicator. If you get stuck, recall that near-term lagging indicators can be used as leading indicators on your pathway too. Finally, don’t feel you need to do this alone, pair or get a group of people together to walk through this process, the discussions will likely be valuable in creating alignment in addition to the output.

Let me know how you get on. Find me on the SAFe Community Platform and LinkedIn.

About Glenn Smith

Glenn Smith is SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT), SPC, and RTE

Glenn Smith is SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT), SPC, and RTE working for Radtac as a consultant and trainer out of the UK. He is a techie at heart, now with a people and process focus supporting organizations globally to improve how they operate in a Lean-Agile way. You will find him regularly talking at conferences and writing about his experiences to share his knowledge.

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Next: Traits of the Stoic Agilist

Traits of the Stoic Agilist – Agility Planning and Scaling

Hollywood has a way of portraying philosophers as pretentious finders of fault. (Emily in Paris, I love you, but you are guilty of this.) What’s more, the mention of the stoic philosopher leads to images of people who are emotionless and incapable of feeling (Spock, anyone?).

These portrayals are unfortunate, because we all stand to learn a great deal from the stoics of ancient times. Especially agilists.

Over the last year, my wife and I have focused a portion of each day studying the stoic philosophers Chrysippus, Marcus Aurelius, Seneca the Younger, and Epictetus. Our daily meditation has helped us be in better control of our emotions and hone our world view. It’s helped me become a better consultant and coach. Most significantly, the lessons have helped my wife process what she has seen as a nurse in the year of COVID.

Each of us, agilist or otherwise, can build a healthier outlook by taking a moment to reflect on these ancient lessons. Here are a few insights I’ve gained that have helped me better engage with enterprises and agilists during this tumultuous year.

The discipline of perception

Clarity. For an agilist, clarity is achieved through a combination of education, experience, and making mistakes. The stoics remind us that we should remain humble as we gain more clarity. As we learn to observe, absorb, and reflect, we begin to recognize patterns, and we need to remain empathetic to the circumstances that cause these patterns. The more we learn, the more open we become to others’ circumstances, emotions, and conflicts.

Passions and emotions. As a coach or consultant, it’s incredibly important that we lead with passion, while keeping our emotions in check. The stoics remind us that the journey belongs to our client, and it is our responsibility to walk that journey with them. With a calm dignity, we must steady the impulse to act on what we think we know, to not give in to the self-fulfilling prophecy of fear that may be felt by those we are guiding, and to avoid making the job of change harder than it needs to be.

Awareness. The fall of many energetic agilists comes from an eagerness to act before fully appreciating the situation at hand. Awareness is where philosophy begins, and is the starting point of any transformative journey. We must observe, take the time to appreciate history, and seek to understand the interconnected nature of the people working within the system. We work with a firm footing in the present but with a keen eye on the future. One day, it will all make sense.

Unbiased thoughts. The Agile community is full of some of the most volatile, well-intended people I have ever come across. To their own undoing, many have firm opinions based on perception and bias. As the stoics teach us, the more we think we know about an issue, the less we understand. A person who remains unbiased, as all agilists should, will seek to understand, do their own research before forming an opinion, and welcome a change of perspective.

To be so firmly rooted in a position of being (Agile) or not leaves one in a position to be alienated and left behind by an ever-evolving idea.

The discipline of action

Right action. As we lead others along the pathway to a new way of working, it’s a common mistake to tell others what to do—especially when they ask you to. The problem with direction and execution is that context and intention, and thereby learning, are lost. As a SAFe coach or SAFe consultant, we must avoid this temptation and instead show a client what they need to do. You can accomplish this through demonstration, facilitation, and showing up to perform even on the hard days. In the spirit of carpe diem, we, along with our clients, must do our best to make the most of the present while maintaining awareness of the end goal, and giving little thought to the future.

Problem solving. In problem solving, we have to be flexible. As we learn through many problem-solving tools, the problem is rarely what we think it is. It’s in our best interest to remain flexible and to have a mental reverse clause, no matter how well we think we know what we know (the freedom to admit when you’re wrong.) There isn’t room for pride in problem solving; growth and learning is what we’re here for.

Duty. This is the single world embodying everything it means to be a servant leader. Servant leadership is a rallying flag common to nearly all agilists, but true servant leadership is a call few are willing to answer. The sense of duty that comes with putting the needs of others before your own is one of selfless service and sacrifice. As a servant leader, you must show up, do your job, learn, and embrace the ethos that doing the right thing for those you’re serving is the only thing you can do—even if it’s the wrong thing for you personally.

Agile for Business

Pragmatism. One of the most important skills that pragmatism teaches those of us with an agile heart is to not expect perfection. Perfect agile is subjective and should never be the goal. Instead, focus on helping clients achieve better business outcomes, helping employees attain a healthier and more fulfilling work experience, and creating a culture that is focused on outcomes and free of blame.

The discipline of will

Fortitude and resilience. You’re going to fail. People will struggle. People will be angry with you. Do you have the fortitude to endure? Are you resilient enough to endure this again and again? Transformation is a messy job. It’s often thankless until the moment it isn’t, and then the agilist is on to the next engagement and asked to start over. It’s rare that the agilist is in a position to enjoy the fruits of their labor, but it shouldn’t be about that. We work with a steady resolve. We’re resistant to the blame, the negativity, and the haters. Our hidden power is to know what the pain is for. We know the indisputable benefits of our craft. We’ve seen lives transform and organizations flourish through this new way of working. All reasons why we shall endure, again and again.

Virtue and kindness. The most beautiful thing any of us can do is to be kind to others. Kindness is especially important when others are fraught with struggle and may not be able to be kind to you. Will you look out for those who are unkind anyway? The stoics teach us that character is fate. People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel, especially when they may be embarrassed by how they made you feel.

Acceptance. The strong accept responsibility. They never complain, they never explain. Instead, they seek to control their own attitudes and responses to those events. The only thing that could have happened will happen, and we must seek to learn all we can from that outcome. As a stoic agilist, we must do our best to apply the guidance of Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, 8.7), which suggests that our acceptance of events and nature moves freely when it:

  • Accepts nothing false or uncertain
  • Directs its impulses only to acts for the common good
  • Limits its desires and aversions only to what’s in its own power
  • Embraces everything nature assigns it

We accept the outcome of our best efforts, reflect, grow, and share.

Meditation. A career focused on changing human behavior and organizational psychology is not for the faint of heart. It takes strong resolve to let the little things go so that we can elevate ourselves from the day’s chaos to evaluate the big picture. Are we making progress? What is the goal? Where is their pain? Am I inflicting pain? How can I help make the situation better? Am I the person best suited to help this team?

As agilists, we must take the time to reflect, to ensure we’re not burning the candle at both ends, and to give thanks for the invitation to help others do what is hard. Our calling is noble, our purpose transcendent, and the impact undeniable. By studying the stoics we can help assure that we are showing up as our best selves and that we stay firmly rooted in the intent that brought us to this type of work.

If you are interested in developing a stoic mindset, check out The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday.

About Adam Mattis

Adam Mattis is a SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) at Scaled Agile with many years of experience overseeing SAFe implementations across a wide range of industries. He’s also an experienced transformation architect, engaging speaker, energetic trainer, and a regular contributor to the broader Lean-Agile and educational communities. Learn more about Adam at

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Next: Taking the Sting Out of Remote Teaching with Scaled Agile’s Virtual Classroom

Taking the Sting Out of Remote Teaching with Scaled Agile’s Virtual Classroom – SAFe Training

The backstory

Scaled Agile’s Virtual Classroom

Due to the global pandemic, almost overnight, we had to convert all 2020 SAFe® classes to virtual delivery. I’m most proud of how the worldwide SAFe community came together and experimented to figure out remote delivery. My contribution was to imagine the class experience and determine how to help instructors facilitate learning activities remotely. We came up with remote training aids which were simple slide templates for each activity that groups could collaborate indirectly. It was an early stage MVP in our journey to evolve remote learning.  

Remote was not for the faint of heart

As instructors, we had to figure out the tooling and how to set up those templates for the class. I remember when I remotely delivered new Lean Portfolio Management Alpha and Beta classes, it took me close to 30 hours to set up the activities and groups for each class. Delivering back-to-back classes, while good for our work, was exhausting because setup activities would bleed into our evenings and weekends. I could definitely understand why some SPCs were hesitant to venture into remote delivery.

The virtual classroom evolution

We kept experimenting with different formats and tools in class, and learning with each one how to make the experience better. We started to use SAFe® Collaborate, our cloud-based visual workspace, to standardize the activity templates. Early feedback was positive about the learning and ideation experience. But attendees still felt that having too many windows open was distracting and tedious, especially during activities with short timeboxes. For instructors, it took time to set up these templates for each group and class. And while we were able to automate a portion of the setup via script, that wasn’t the case for course updates. Instructors still had to revise class activities when Scaled Agile introduced a new class version.

During a hackathon at Scaled Agile, colleagues built an interactive virtual classroom prototype in SAFe Collaborate that solved the navigation and usability challenges. 

This hackathon idea won first place and got approved as a feature during our next PI Planning.  

Scaled Agile’s Virtual Classroom

Virtual classroom for the win

I recently taught my very first class using our virtual classroom, and it was such a wonderful experience. I’ve switched from being a sceptic to a fan because it’s so awesome! All the templates were indexed by lesson, well organized, and easily accessible for both students and teachers. Students could quickly navigate to their own group activity and even browse around to see what other groups were doing.

The learning experience was much richer and more fun for the students, especially when we got to the PI Planning simulation. The best part for me as an instructor? I could set up the class and groups with a single action! I simply showed up to class, clicked a button to designate the number of groups, and started teaching.

Lean Agile Centers of Excellence (LACEs) and SPCs that need to update templates with every course upgrade will score an even bigger win with the virtual classroom experience. Scaled Agile now provides the activity templates and automatically updates them when new course versions are released. This is a huge value and time saver. 

If you’re an SPC or a LACE member, I encourage you to try our virtual classroom in your next class. Just select “SAFe Virtual Classroom” as you set up your next remote class, and explore the different activities. Or, watch the remote trainer enablement video to see a demo.

If you’re like me, you’ll find it hard to go back!

About Deema Dajani

Deema Dajani is a Certified SAFe® Program Cons

Deema Dajani is a Certified SAFe® Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT).
Drawing on her successful startup background and an MBA from Kellogg Northwestern University, Deema helps large enterprises thrive through successful Agile transformations. Deema is passionate about organizing Agile communities for good, and helped co-found the Women in Agile nonprofit. She’s also a frequent speaker at Agile conferences and most recently contributed to a book on business agility.

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Next: Three Ways Informal Learning Networks Emerge

Three Ways Informal Learning Networks Emerge – Agile Planning

Welcome to the second post in our series on learning networks. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, read the first post to get caught up.

So, how exactly does an informal learning network emerge? There are three different ways that I’d like to share with you. 

Learningful conversations

Informal Learning Networks

The first comes as a result of a ‘learningful’ conversation. I first discovered these while reading the book The Lean Machine by Dantar Oosterwall. Learningful conversations balance two key elements:

  • Advocacy, where you state your point of view and ideas
  • Inquiry, where you ask someone about their point of view and encourage them to ask about yours

Learningful conversations are fundamental to dialogue because they’re not one-sided. They lead to experiments and curiosity to learn from others. Here’s an example.

Picture a development team that wants to present a new technology as an option to implement a feature currently being refined. A team member learned about this new technology from a close colleague in another business unit. She shared everything she knew about how this technology would work, then paused to ask what others thought of it. Just that one question opened up several conversations, more ideas, and other possible options. Once other teams heard about this, a few people requested to be involved in exploring the technology.

Learning moments

Learningful conversations often lead to learning moments, something I came upon in the book Organizational Learning and Performance by Ryan Smerek. Garry Ridge, the CEO of WD-40, developed the concept of a learning moment, “… an opportunity to grow from the experience of our colleagues, who are free to report back to us.”

I’ve personally experienced more of these learning moments than I can count. And the most profound ones, the most impactful ones, were those where teams came forward and said, “We made a mistake that we’d like to share, along with what we learned from it.”

I remember once where a team member pulled something out of production the night before the release and forgot to put it back in. Rather than trying to somehow conceal it, he came in front of our ART leadership first thing in the morning and explained what happened. Most important, he shared what he learned from it, as well as how the team would change its processes and the way they’d work together to avoid this in the future. Not only was that a brave move but the team member’s transparency was the number one thing leadership remembers about that team. It was so profound, in fact, that the leaders still use that example in ARTs across the enterprise.

Informal Learning Networks

Now, imagine you just heard someone share a learning moment like that and it was relevant to an area that you’re curious about or would like to grow in. Maybe something similar has happened to you. Imagine afterwards that you had a conversation with that person and they were open to teaching you about what they learned. That’s another way a learning network can emerge.

Aha moments

So, the first two ways I described how informal learning networks emerge relate to interactions with others. But there’s another way that these networks form that’s even more personal: the aha moment. 

“… any sudden comprehension, realization, or problem solution that involves a reorganization of the elements of a person’s mental representation of a stimulus, situation, or event to yield a nonobvious or nondominant interpretation.” —John Kounios & Mark Beeman 

Personally, I’m always on a quest for aha moments. Every time I go for a run, I work through things in my mind, and when that aha moment emerges, I wonder how I didn’t see that before. Then I start thinking about the next opportunity where I can share it.

CoPs and classes

OK, I lied. I actually have two more ways learning networks can emerge, but these two are more formal. One is from a community of practice (CoP). 

While participating in a CoP, you might have a conversation with a colleague who’s interested in learning more about a skill you have, or vice versa, and you start to share and learn together. Listen for conversations that start with, “We don’t do that in our area. Maybe we could get together and I can learn from you.” The same types of conversations happen during meetups, too.

CoPs and Classes

Another formal way is through classes. You’ve probably been in a training or workshop where you and other students are having conversations and forming social networks  that actually create learning networks. I was teaching a class a few years ago and another trainer from a different business unit and corporate location asked to observe my class. She happened to be in an informal learning network with me and wanted to learn from our business unit and how we did things. The coolest part of this whole experience? Not only did she learn a lot about our area within the organization but all of the class participants learned from her, too. This is how the start of an informal learning network generates opportunities to create a formal one where you can recruit even more people to join you on your learning journey.

Start experimenting

I hope that after reading this, you’re inspired to experiment with some of these techniques. Start by engaging people in a learningful conversation. The next time you’re trying to solve a problem, create a new solution, or present one of your ideas, share an idea (any idea) that you have with a colleague and ask them what they think about it. More likely than not, other ideas will emerge from the interaction. WARNING: Once you have your first learningful conversation, it’s easy to become slightly preoccupied with them. 

Now that you know how learning networks emerge, read my next post about how to uncover them.

About Audrey Boydston

Audrey Boydston is a senior consultant at Scaled Agile and an experienced SPCT

Audrey Boydston is a senior consultant at Scaled Agile and an experienced SPCT, Lean-Agile coach, trainer, and facilitator. Her work focuses on continuous learning, building fundamentals, re-orienting around principles, and helping clients—from senior executives to developers—build networks and communities that support their transformations.

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Next: How We Turned Business as Usual into Value Delivery Using Agile Marketing

Using Agile Marketing How We Turned Business as Usual into Value Delivery

Agile Marketing

There are few sentences more toxic to a workplace than, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”  A marketing team is often tasked with ongoing maintenance work that must be done. Updating a webpage, a piece of collateral, or a social feed can often feel like everyday, run-of-the-mill work that rarely gets seen or appreciated. It just sort of runs in the background and quietly eats away at the work day. As a result, this unappreciated, untracked work usually gets thrown into an ever-expanding pile of just-get-it-done tasks that mandate no thought and no context. Before you know it, someone’s asking why we do it at all, and that toxic answer resurfaces: “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”

To me, this answer is a symptom of the larger problem. Born out of years of repetitive tasks that never see the organizational light of day. We always do it that way because we’ve never had the time to closely examine our process. Or, it’s been so long that literally no one can remember why those decisions were made in the first place.

Agile marketing provides multiple tools to marketing leaders to help focus their teams’ efforts. Our goal is to never just eliminate business as usual (BAU) work; just make sure it’s the right one. This was the challenge I faced when I recently took over an agile marketing team. How could I leverage the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) to make sure we’re doing the right work to keep the ART on track, rather than just busywork? Luckily, agile marketing gave me a few tools I never had before in previous marketing leadership roles. I have visibility into and clarity around the work that had never existed before, and my team has reaped the benefits.

Data: It’s not just for open rates anymore

Agile preaches that all work should be visible. But as previously stated, BAU work rarely is. Being an agile team that leverages a Kanban board to visualize the flow of work getting done, we made a small tweak. We tagged every user story that fit the description of BAU. Voilà! I could now pull clean reports on exactly what type of BAU we were working on, what percent of our time we were dedicating to it, and who on the team it affected the most.

We found that we were spending a staggering 31 percent of our time on BAU! And as we examined more closely, we found many people had no idea why we were working on these things at all. It was just the way we had always done it.

Most importantly, the ART and the team had no idea just how much time all this work was taking. No one had ever calculated it. By taking a data-driven approach to the issue of BAU, we did something crazy: We timeboxed it.

Capacity allocations

Agile Marketing

There are only so many hours in a day and any good leader wants to make sure their team is getting the top-priority things across the line. Our goal is not to eliminate BAU work, but to ensure it’s the right work. By following agile marketing practices we can calculate exactly how much we can accomplish in a two-week iteration. Leveraging ‘capacity allocation’ helps marketing leaders limit BAU’s ability to derail the priorities.

And that’s exactly what we did. Our team allocates 20 percent of our available time to deal with BAU work like website maintenance, monthly newsletters, and updates to graphics. This creates a forcing function in evaluating BAU. Is this BAU user story more important than another one? To answer that question, team members have to fully understand the work and the product owner (PO) has to understand the customer’s needs. If no one understands why they’re working on something, they shouldn’t be working on it.

Hypothesis-driven development

Marketers love a good A/B test. It’s short and simple. But harder, more in-depth questions like “Does this webpage provide value to the reader?” take more effort and thought. When evaluating BAU, we found we needed to develop some muscle memory around answering these harder questions. And we wanted something more defensible than our personal opinions.

To do this, we’ve introduced an agile marketing concept called hypothesis-driven design. Essentially, it means you develop a testable hypothesis and the experiment to validate or falsify it. In other words, you leverage the scientific method to evaluate your work. 

After the team took the Agile Marketing with SAFe® course, we began to apply hypothesis-driven design to our website and our underperforming monthly newsletters. This won’t come as much of a surprise to marketing professionals, but we found we’re pretty good at designing tests; not so great at writing hypotheses that can be tested. Introducing hypothesis-driven design was a meaningful step toward building more intention into our BAU work.

So what happened?

Since adopting these practices, our team has seen a 42 percent decrease in capacity spent on BAU. This work is being turned into productive, value-delivering efforts that support the ART’s overall go-to-market strategy.

By leveraging agile marketing we’re no longer just busy: We’re busy delivering value.

About Hannah Bink

Hannah Bink -Agile Marketing

Hannah Bink heads the Marketing Success team at Scaled Agile. She has nearly 15 years of B2B marketing experience and studied business at Pennsylvania State University. Prior to Scaled Agile, Hannah spent the majority of her career in telecommunications and healthcare sectors, running global marketing divisions. She is also author of the “Musings of a Marketeer” blog, and lives in Denver, Colorado.

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Next: What is SAFe? Eight Facts About the Scaled Agile Framework That You Should Know.

8 Facts about Scaled Agile Framework Training

If you’ve spent much time working in enterprise environments, you might have heard about the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). And if that’s the case, there’s also a good chance that you’ve heard many opinions about what SAFe is and what it’s not.

Maybe you’ve found yourself in a ‘SAFe-adjacent’ space, are curious about how SAFe concepts can help you, or are new to the space entirely. Regardless, here are eight facts about SAFe that you should know. 

 1: SAFe is based on nearly 100 years of lessons learned

The concepts within SAFe are nothing new. In fact, one key aspect of the Framework—flow—was first documented by Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno in the 1930s as the Toyota Production System (translated to Lean manufacturing).

2: Enterprises of all sizes are using SAFe to solve the digital transformation equation

For organizations such as MetLife, Lockheed Martin, and PepsiCo, SAFe has proven to be a significant factor in helping them figure out what it means to be a digital organization and how to remain competitive in a post-digital economy. What have we learned? That is in 2020, every company is a digital company that may serve a specific customer or market. Mastering customer-centricity and technology are not optional.

3: Enterprises use SAFe to successfully run their entire business

Though SAFe has helped many large organizations address the challenges of large and complex solutions, the Framework is not effective only in those circumstances. In fact, many smaller organizations (such as Mattis & Company and Scaled Agile itself) have found success running their entire business using Portfolio SAFe. It doesn’t matter if technology is your entire business or only part of it, the concepts of organizing around value, Lean startup, and business agility transcend the type of work being done. 

4: Enterprises use SAFe to successfully build complicated cyber-physical solutions
SAFe has helped organizations, such as FitBit, solve the complexity of delivering cyber-physical solutions (the art of marrying software and hardware) within a tight market rhythm to achieve quality and predictability. Organizations like FitBit also appreciate the guidance around Agile Product Management and Lean Portfolio Management to help them achieve strategy agility. 

5: SAFe helps highlight opportunities for improvement

When organizations begin their SAFe journey, many systemic issues become very clear. Issues such as bloated processes, communication bottlenecks, duplicative work, and a lack of understanding around what customers teams serve. While SAFe won’t fix these problems for you, applying the Lean-Agile Mindset, SAFe Lean-Agile Principles, and SAFe Core Values can help you figure out the correct path given your unique context and circumstances.  

6: SAFe is more about what you value than what you do

Many well-intentioned people have relied on the processes within SAFe to address their issues. And more often than not, these people have been quick to learn that SAFe is less about what we do and more about why we do it. Changing mindset, values, and principles is hard to do on your own. Fortunately, there is a plan to help you get started, and plenty of seasoned professionals to guide you along the way. 

7: Enterprises use the tools within SAFe to solve all sorts of problems

You’re in the right headspace if you consider SAFe a giant toolbox—a resource full of proven concepts and patterns that can be used to solve a wide variety of problems, like quality, time-to-market, and employee engagement. But those aren’t the only problems SAFe can help an organization address. At Scaled Agile, we regularly maintain and expand our library of valuable resources, including toolkits, workshops, and videos—all freely available to members of the SAFe Community Platform. Consultants and coaches use these resources daily to help organizations create solutions that are rooted in the Lean-Agile Principles and applied in organizations’ specific contexts.

8: SAFe is constantly evolving

As the global business climate continues to change at an ever-accelerating pace, the Framework is changing along with it. From providing guidance around participatory budgeting, SAFe® for Marketing, and people agility—and in the spirit of relentless improvement—the Scaled Agile team is constantly working to refine these concepts. We’re committed to understanding markets, evolving business guidance, and helping you help others win in the post-digital economy.

Join us at this year’s 2020 Global SAFe Summit to learn more about SAFe from the people practicing it, and explore a wide variety of concepts and topics. I hope to see you there!

About Adam Mattis

Adam Mattis is a SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) at Scaled Agile with many years of experience overseeing SAFe implementations across a wide range of industries. He’s also an experienced transformation architect, engaging speaker, energetic trainer, and a regular contributor to the broader Lean-Agile and educational communities. Learn more about Adam at

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Next: SAFe® Program Dependency Board Retrospective

SAFe® Program Dependency Board Retrospective – PI Planning and Execution

Learning from the program dependency board

SAFe® Program Dependency Board Retrospective

The SAFe program board, or program dependency board, is a key artifact used in PI Planning and execution. The Agile Release Train (ART) teams and stakeholders used it to align, anticipate risks, and adapt the plan accordingly.

This inspection and adaptation of the plan based on insights from the program dependency board is first-loop learning—making changes in the plan based on what we see.

Deeper learning from the program dependency board

What we rarely see, though, is deeper learning from what the program dependency board shows us. It’s like the good old times where you would see a project manager/PMO working their Microsoft Project Gantt Chart, moving things around, but rarely stopping to ask deeper questions around the base structure of their plans and why they’re based on a waterfall model.

Program dependency boards can drive deeper learning about the structure of our ART and its alignment with the kind of mission/vision we’re pursuing, and the backlog of features we’re working on. If we see too much red yarn on our boards, it isn’t something to be proud of. Yes, we can be proud that we identified the dependency and even more that we were able to massage our PI plan to deal with it in a reasonable way. But too much red yarn means too many dependencies. Too many dependencies mean our Value Stream network isn’t configured well. It means we should probably look at ways to reconfigure the network (meaning restructure teams and maybe even the ART).

When to do this deeper learning

I get it. This sort of learning is hard to pursue in the heat of PI Planning. And all too often when PI Planning is done and we have a workable plan in hand, it’s tempting to just move into execution. Resist the temptation. Let the dust settle, but find the time that makes sense to have a deeper retrospective that is based on the patterns you see on the program board. This can be a good discussion in your Scrum of Scrums or with an extended forum that includes the wider ART leadership.

SAFe® Program Dependency Board Retrospective

There’s no need to wait for the next inspection and adapt (I&A). It’s fresh now and outcomes from this retrospective might anyhow require a lot of refinement and consideration before they’re actionable. Start the process early in the PI, so hopefully, you’ll be in a position to reconfigure the network going into the next PI as needed.

A typical pattern is when such a retrospective raises the need to rerun a Value Stream identification (VSI) workshop.

Validating the Value Stream design hypothesis—a key but often skipped step

Speaking of the VSI workshop, one key element in it that many practitioners skip is the validation of your Value Stream design hypothesis. After identifying a development Value Stream, run some water through the pipes—take some work in the form of Features or even higher-level Epics/Themes and explore how they will flow through this Value Stream/ART/Solution ART. If the work flows nicely with a minimal number of dependencies, you found a good setup. If even in this ‘dry run’ you already see you have too many dependencies, time to rework the design!

PI Planning dry run

And yes, what this dry run means is that ideally, even in this early phase, before even launching the ART, you should consider doing a light version of PI Planning with the Value Stream design you have in mind to see that it makes sense. You don’t want to train everybody, spend a serious amount of time on preparing to launch the ART, and then find it’s not a self-sufficient ART or that it’s comprised of teams that aren’t self-sufficient.


I’ve talked about some recommended SAFe best practices here—some are implicitly mentioned in SAFe, and some complement the formal guidance. The key point I wanted to make is how important is it to aim for the right Value Stream network and to continuously inspect and adapt so that value can easily flow with minimal dependencies and slowdowns. And if your Value Stream network is configured well, everything else becomes much easier.

If you’d like to read more about my SAFe experiences in the trenches, I’ve written an e-book. I’ll also be at the upcoming 2020 Global SAFe Summit on the Agile Marketing panel, at the AgileSparks booth in the Partner Marketplace, and at the SAFe Experts Coaching Station. I look forward to connecting with you.

About Yuval Yeret

Yuval Yeret is the head of AgileSparks (a Scaled Agile Partner)

Yuval Yeret is the head of AgileSparks (a Scaled Agile Partner) in the United States where he leads enterprise-level Agile implementations. He’s also the steward of The AgileSparks Way and the firm’s SAFe, Flow/Kanban, and Agile Marketing. Yuval is a SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT5), a Professional Trainer (PST), an internationally recognized Kanban Trainer, a thought leader, recipient of the Lean/Kanban Brickell Key Award, and a frequent speaker at industry conferences.

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Next: The Power of Informal Learning Networks