Is SAFe(tm) Bad? Is it unsafe? Is it Agile? Are there alternatives?

For much better alternatives to SAFe(tm), see this page.

All my personal/professional opinion.

I’m not a big fan of SAFe(tm). I haven’t yet had time to sit down and detail all of the problems I have with it, but I’ll hit a couple.

1. It’s not Agile at all. It’s a sales strategy.

My biggest problem with it is that it condones old, out of date, and dysfunctional practices that don’t enhance Agility. It is essentially a hybrid approach of Waterfall and Agile, along with a lot of baggage from RUP. This probably shouldn’t surprise anyone since the creator, Dean Leffingwell, was a big salesman/evangelist for RUP. The biggest baggage from RUP is the complexity of a zillion different roles and the fact that SAFe is a “slice and dice” methodology. It’s not a framework. I think the “slice and dice” thing is really just a slick sales strategy. It allows those selling SAFe to immediately disown any practice of SAFe that a potential client complains isn’t Agile or won’t work. It also means that any tiny subset of SAFe is still considered to be SAFe. As such, I just consider this a sales strategy to sell more billable hours. This strategy was also used in RUP, and yet… over the years… which has prospered more? RUP or Scrum? Scrum is a framework, so there is no slice and dicing of the framework itself.

2. It misleads people into thinking that it uses Scrum at the team level.

It claims to use Scrum at the team level, but then completely sells out Scrum in so many ways. It sells out the Product Owner role by giving control to all manner of people over the Product Backlog contents, something Scrum expressly forbids. It sells out the Scrum Master role by suggesting it’s a 25% time commitment. Then, it completely sells out the Development Team by creating Ivory Tower architects.

3. To date, no Agile Manifesto author has endorsed it. That should tell you something right there.

This one is self explanatory. :-)

The reasons I don’t like it are covered in way more detail in these reviews of SAFe by other people who are sharp enough to tell the differences between SAFe and other approaches, as well as the history behind similar practices and approaches

For much better alternatives to SAFe(tm), see this page.

Scrum of Scrums is an event *of* the Development Team, *by* the Development Teams, and *for* the Development Teams!

Hello ScrumCrazy readers,

I’m proud to announce that my article on the “Scrum of Scrums” practice got posted on Scrum.org.

In the article I give some advice on excellence in execution of the Scrum of Scrums practice, and how the Scrum of Scrums has been misinterpreted my many to be a status meeting. It’s an event of the Development Teams, by the Development Teams, and for the Development Teams!

Please give it a look and give me feedback here or there. Feedback welcome!

I Recommend the New Book _Scrum Shortcuts…_ by Ilan Goldstein

I came upon Ilan’s new book, Scrum Shortcuts Without Cutting Corners,  by seeing his great blog posts first, then I actually offered to review his book.  What he didn’t know, is that on the rare occasion I take the time to review a book (unpaid), I usually look at the first couple of chapters they give me to review before deciding whether I’ll actually follow up and review more of it or not.  Ilan’s book was great, so I offered to do some more reviewing for him before he published it.

There are some recent books out on the Scrum Master role, and I don’t care for a lot of them.  Ilan’s book is one I wholeheartedly endorse.  It’s short, it’s easily digestable, and packed with practical advice.  Like he says in the book, it’s not a prescription — it’s simply a list of possible strategies to play Scrum with.

Ilan’s book is in the Mike Cohn series, and even though I’m certified as a trainer through a different organization (and don’t always agree with anything 100% these days), I really like the Mike Cohn series a lot.  It’s a quality series of books, among a larger field of books that I mostly don’t recommend.

I’m gladly adding Ilan’s book to my list of favorite Scrum and Agile resources.  I recommend you pick up a copy and do the same!

(I receive no financial benefit for writing this review)

May the Sprint be with you… and… Scrum On!

Great Article from Scrum Co-Creator Ken Schwaber on “Agile Value”

Ken Schwaber’s written a great article on Agile Value .  He talks about how value can be defined in Agile, and the article also covers the difference between traditional project management metrics and Agile project measurements.

On a related note, see Common Project Management Metrics Doom IT Departments to Failure

Urgent: Vote for Lance Dacy for Scrum Alliance Board of Directors!

My dear readers of the ScrumCrazy.com blog,

First of all, long time, no talk!

The deadline to vote is THIS Wed Dec 11.  Please pass this message along if you are willing.  Vote for Lance!

I have a special request for you.  I would like to wholeheartedly endorse Lance Dacy as a candidate for the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors.  I have had the good fortune of interacting numerous times in the past with Lance, and I believe he truly embodies the servant leadership that we in the Scrum community all aspire to.  You should know that I have very high standards anyway, but I have an even a much higher standard for endorsing people in business in a public forum.  So, if you know me well, you know what my endorsement means.  I have no business or financial incentive of any kind to endorse Lance other than I had the good fortune to meet him and interact with him, and learn what he is all about.  I’ve never done business with him or his company  I haven’t talked to him in quite some time, but I know he’s a good egg, so I’m throwing my weight behind him!

So, if you haven’t yet cast your Scrum Alliance board vote, please vote for Lance Dacy!

P.S.  For those wondering how to vote — if your SA membership is current, then you should have received an email about the election at the email address you provided for your SA profile account.  It’s literally two clicks, starting from your email.

The deadline to vote is THIS Wed Dec 11.  Please pass this message along if you are willing.  Vote for Lance!

Scrum On!

——-
Charles Bradley
Professional Scrum Trainer
Scrum Coach-in-Chief
ScrumCrazy.com

Scrum and Agile Adoption: Backsliding into Waterfall Habits

It’s very common, when an organization is in the Shu level of learning Agile or Scrum, for it to fall into old, bad, waterfall habits.  Today I’d like to talk about two bad waterfall habits:  tracking so called ‘individual velocity,’ and tracking actual effort expended on a task or story.

First, tracking some sort of metric like “individual velocity” is probably an excellent way to completely sabotage your project/product and it’s also a great way to kill your Agile adoption.  A key concept in the Agile Manifesto principles, as well as in Scrum, is team work and “self-organizing” teams.  Self organization is generally the ability for a team to create and execute their own plan of work(Sprint Backlog), as well as decide “How” to do their work.  Whenever there is a single entity (individual on or off the team, department, etc) who strongly influences or makes unilateral decisions for how a team works, there is, by definition, no self organization.  Tracking individual velocity, or any similar “individual incentive” (this can include raises, performance reviews, awards, etc) does not encourage team work at all.  In his book, Agile Estimating and Planning, Mike Cohn says it this way:

“If I am forced to choose between finishing a story on my own and helping someone else, what incentive does measuring individual velocity give me?  Individuals should be given every incentive possible to work as a team. If the team’s throughput is increased by my helping someone else, that’s what I should do. Team velocity matters; individual velocity doesn’t. It’s not even a metric of passing interest.”

Tracking actual effort expended is another really bad waterfall habit.  Tracking estimates and actuals is just another example of where Common Project Management Metrics Doom IT Departments to Failure.  Mike Cohn, an Agile and Scrum thought leader, and a former project manager himself, says this about tracking estimates and actuals:

“On a project, it is far more useful to know how much remains to be done rather than how much has been done. Further, tracking effort expended and comparing it with estimated effort can lead to ‘evaluation apprehension’ (Sanders 1984). When estimators are apprehensive about providing an estimate, the familiar ‘fight or flight’ instinct kicks in, and estimators rely more on instinct than on analytical thought (Jørgensen 2004).

Tracking effort expended in an effort to improve estimate accuracy is a very fine line. It can work (Lederer and Prasad 1998; Weinberg and Schulman 1974). However, the project manager or whoever is doing the tracking must be very careful to avoid putting significant evaluation pressure on the estimators, as doing so could result in estimates that are worse rather than better.

Additionally, keep in mind that variability is a part of every estimate. No matter how much effort is put into improving estimates, a team will never be able to estimate perfectly. Evidence of this is no further away than your morning commute to work. There is an inherent amount of variability in your commute regardless of how you travel, how far you must go, and where you live. If you drive to work, no amount of driving skill will eliminate this variability.”

In a later post on the ScrumDevelopment Yahoo Group, Mike summarizes it this way:

” I’d say you shouldn’t do it because it doesn’t add value commensurate with its cost. Don’t argue with your bosses that it ‘adds no value’ because
comparing what you originally thought a task would take with what it did take can help make you a better estimator.

But, it can be time-consuming to track actuals, especially for a full team where some on the team are probably already decent estimators.

Because Scrum already has solid mechanisms for monitoring whether all the work gets done in a sprint (high team commitment, daily burndown charts, daily scrum, and so on), Scrum does not have the same reliance on early and accurating estimating that a predictive or waterfall approach does.

So–the cost to gather actuals is the same in Scrum or waterfall. The benefit in Scrum is greatly reduced.”

So, be very careful when backsliding into old waterfall habits.  It usually happens in small doses, which is why many Shu level adoptions don’t notice it, especially if they don’t have a skilled Scrum Coach or highly experienced Scrum Master around.  The other thing to keep in mind is that, even if you do have someone skilled around, this old adage still applies:  “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink.”

What kind of backsliding into old waterfall habits have you seen?  What do you suggest be done about them?  Sound off in the comments below!

Great 2 Minute Video on the Product Owner Role in Scrum

SSW of Australia has just put out a great two minute video on the role of the Product Owner in Scrum.

Check it out here(might take a minute to load):  http://tv.ssw.com/3244/what-is-a-product-owner

I’ve added it as #4 under Scrum on the ScrumCrazy.com’s list of preferred Scrum resources.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 266 other followers

%d bloggers like this: