Disciplined Agile

Disciplined Agile® Transformation Roadmap: Improve SAFe

Many organizations have chosen to adopt the SAFe® framework. In some cases they are struggling to make it work, and in other cases they are ready to improve their way of working (WoW). Disciplined Agile® (DA) can help with that. Figure 1 overviews the steps that organizations typically take improve upon their existing SAFe-based WoW.


Figure 1. Improvement roadmap for an organization that has already adopted SAFe (click to enlarge).

As you can see in Figure 1, improving upon SAFe involves a four-step process:

  1. Customize for your organization. Many organizations start by adopting SAFe as it is defined, which is often a good start at improving their value creation structure. But they soon discover that they need to tailor their SAFe implementation to address their context. At this point they accept that they need to learn how to choose and evolve their way of working (WoW), including the identification of agile roles at scale that may be missing. Looking at SAFe from a value stream perspective can be useful.
  2. Create an improvement plan. To create an improvement plan you must build a coalition of like-minded people who realize that they need to improve upon their initial SAFe implementation. They will recruit people to join an improvement team, an improvement guidance team, and one or more centers of excellence (CoE).
  3. Initiate improvement. Given the scope of SAFe, your SAFe improvement efforts will also have significant scope. You will want to clearly communicate the outcomes that you hope to achieve and create clarity on the strategies that you are following. To align with the SAFe work cadence of quarters, you want to prepare for and perform quality improvement (QI) planning.
  4. Release improvements incrementally. Each quarter, you will apply one or more proven DA FLEX improvement plays for SAFe. Examples of plays include using minimum business increments (MBIs), creating focused solution teams (FSTs), and apply lean budgeting. These plays are covered in the Disciplined Agile Value Stream Consultant (DAVSC) workshop.

There are also two ongoing activities that support your efforts to improve upon SAFe:

  • Coaching. Your teams, managers, and executives will need ongoing coaching in process improvement. Remember that your real transformation goal isn’t to adopt a framework such as SAFe (although that is often a step along the way); instead, the goal is to learn how to thrive as a learning organization. This will likely require both a change in mindset as well as skillset, hence the need for coaching.
  • Training. Everyone on your team should be given training to learn how to improve via guided continuous improvement (GCI). PMI training partners offer a range of training for your teams. Furthermore, we recommend that your team coach be trained in leading the team in process improvement, so we highly suggest that team coaches earn their Disciplined Agile Coach (DAC) certification. People will need to receive training specific to their roles. You will also want to ensure that your product owner (PO) is sufficiently skilled; the Disciplined Agile Product Owner (DAPO) workshop is a good option for doing so.