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SAFe Implementation Roadmap – Detailed Guide

Somewhere in the basement of an ambitious yet innovative American tech company, project ‘PURPLE’ was in full swing. With just a trickle of engineers, all handpicked by the CEO himself, the project was such a high secret venture, that every team member was literally frisked every single time they entered or exited the project premises. They were not allowed to talk about it, let alone to the public but not even to a member of family. So why was this so important to the CEO and the company? We probably would never really know what was running through his mind at that point of time but on hindsight, we can guess that deep down the CEO knew that the product was about to revolutionise the world. Deep down, either knowingly or unknowingly a clear roadmap for the next generation product vision was being established.  The CEO was Steve Jobs and the product was none other than the first generation ‘iPhone’. What started as an enhancement for an iPod went a long way in setting up the roadmap for today’s modern world smartphones.  As exaggerated, as it may seem, it is still very relevant to the topic we will be exploring here today – the SAFe® implementation roadmap. In simple terms, if your organization is like a mountainous region of the Himalayas, then you would want to use the SAFe implementation as the ‘Sherpa’ to guide you to reach Mount Everest. SAFe Implementation Roadmap - OverviewWe all are well aware, that SAFe is a way of taking any iterative Agile ways of working (normally restricted to a few teams) and scaling it up at various levels of the organization, whilst applying a mindset of Lean manufacturing.  Considering the implementation of SAFe is a major decision for any organisation and should not be taken lightly, it will involve a significant amount of effort, training time and of course cost. Understanding SAFe can be tricky, but understanding it is a must. At the end of the day, if you want to do something, you would want to do it correctly, wouldn’t you?  My suggestion would be simple. If you want to implement SAFe please go ahead, but do not rush it. Take it one step at a time, follow the SAFe implementation roadmap. This roadmap (depicted in the diagram below) is a very useful strategy and charts out some critical moves which are needed in order to achieve organizational change.  Source Link1. Why is it required?Similar to how Steve Jobs’s product roadmap for Apple created a magic of sorts in terms of user experience, by shrinking an entire operating system into a hand-held powerhouse of a device; the SAFe implementation roadmap will lay out the foundation and vision for a successful adoption of SAFe at all levels within your organization.   It basically describes the steps, or as Dan and Chip Heath call it the ‘critical moves,’ that an enterprise will have to take, in order to implement SAFe in a successful, reliable, and orderly fashion. One can’t go too far into their SAFe adoption without following these critical steps as not only does the roadmap provide you with a safety net of proven techniques, it also makes your transformation journey that much more enjoyable.  2. This is Why Your Agile Transformation is FailingWhile we will discuss in detail as to why the roadmap is a necessity, it is also important to understand some of the stumbling blocks which we need to be wary of before beginning the transformation. Let’s look at a few common pitfalls that organisations will need to tackle.  Hierarchical way of leadership: Lack of commitment by higher management, possibly due to organizational culture or fear of failure, is a big setback for the agile transformation. The teams should be motivated and encouraged to learn and practice to excel so people are not always in a ‘survival mode’ setting. Various reasons like ego clashes, miscommunication, lack of ownership etc. are a classic recipe for failure.  Trying to swim before you float: In swimming, the most basic technique beginners are taught is ‘how to stay afloat in water’. It is essential to get the basics right and try achieving one thing at a time, rather than putting your feet into too many things and thereby sinking. For e.g try to implement the approach in one pilot program, prove that it works successfully and then radiate it across other programs.  Lack of common sense: Things can’t be changed overnight, the sooner this is realised the better it is. Agile/Lean will fail if it cannot coexist with more traditional parts of an organisation, especially in big enterprises. There must be a transition period where you learn technical practices that will help you overcome some of the traditional/legacy challenges eventually.  Synthetic Transformation: An idea for change may have been accepted in general but eventually the team will need to grasp an understanding of why they are doing that practice. Otherwise, it won't necessarily be that practice that gets them in trouble but their lack of fundamental understanding, which will cause them problems, or at least expose their lack of innovation or adoption of emerging new practices. Running out of gas: Keeping the transformation moving with a sustainable pace is another challenging ask. This is where you need to make sure that you have the right set of change agents (like SPCs) who can keep echoing the need for change and be the catalyst who can continue the movement required for a large-scale transformation.  What are the steps of a successful SAFe Implementation Roadmap?While the Scaled Agile framework team recognises that not all transformations will be fail-proof, they have charted out a 12-step guide, which recommends a path to the roadmap journey, backed by the fact that successful implementations will always have something in common. Let's go through the steps in a bit more detail.1. Step-by-step explanationReaching the Tipping Point - Organizations at some point will arrive at a situation where an overwhelming necessity for change will be felt. There could be many reasons but the most obvious one would be the fact that they would be constantly struggling to deliver user requirements earlier into the market thereby lagging behind in business trends.   A ‘burning platform’ as referred by SAFe could be the reason. If not for this reason, a mindset of change may set it when a true visionary is handed over the reins of the organization. A new vision , new targets and early adoption of technical trends in the business cycle could well be the signs to watch out for. This is what is referred to as the tipping point, a catalyst for change.Train Lean-Agile Change Agents – Once the vision is set and the ball is rolling, it's important to create a pool of strategic change agents. Agents who can help with the transformation and pull their coaching weight are needed to influence teams and individuals in aligning to the roadmap. Remember, a great SPC would be the one who can guide an organization to balance business agility with predictability; both of which are extremely important to the typical enterprise-scale technology organization. Train Executives, Managers, and Leaders It is important for leaders to learn new skills- skills that will help them execute the roadmap strategy through constant and early release of value through their Agile release trains. A clear understanding of the SAFe lean agile principles will help them a long way in achieving their goals.  Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence Referred to as the LACE – Lean Agile centre of excellence, this is nothing but a group of like-minded people who help with implementing the SAFe lean agile ways of working. From a leader’s perspective, getting the right set of people onto LACE will be key to unlocking the fullest of its benefits. The LACE will normally take charge of radiating the vision throughout the organisation, providing training where necessary and also helping with charting the roadmap elements along with the change agents.  Identify Value Streams and ARTs - Identifying value streams and in turn the related ARTs (Agile release trains) is THE most critical activity for SAFe implementation as this will form the backbone of the roadmap execution. In order to get this right, an organisation would need to spend some quality time in understanding their value streams, which are normally of two types-- operational value streams and development value streams.  Typically, a workshop would be arranged for organisational value stream mapping since this is a critical step in implementation of the SAFe roadmap.   Create the Implementation Plan – The most important aspect of this step is to try and not get too detailed with your planning. In a true agile fashion, it's important to plan a little for the iteration, execute the same, learn from it and then repeat the exercise. It's all about the inspect and adapt philosophy. This simple yet powerful incremental approach to SAFe implementation will help with the solution development.  Prepare for ART Launch – Once you have sorted out the above two steps, the next step is to get your ARTs right. Defining an ART aligned to the value stream is important from a change management perspective. In principle the following sub-steps are recommended:  Define the ART  Set the launch date and cadence for the program calendar  Train ART leaders and stakeholders  Establish the Agile teams  Train Product Managers and Product Owners (POs)  Train Scrum Masters  Train System Architects/Engineers  Assess and evolve launch readiness  Prepare the program backlog   Train Teams and Launch the ART – Well this step is more of moving the parked train out of the station and launching it to carry out the iterative process of enhancing value streams, keeping business agility at its epicentre.   Coach ART Execution  - “Whenever you let up before the job is done, critical momentum can be lost and regression may follow.’ – John Kotter, Leading Change.  The trains are all set now to deliver value incrementally but mere knowledge is not understanding. It takes a few iterations, and a few PIs before the train can stabilize. This is where SPCs (SAFe Program consultants) will be key to ensure that significant effort is put in to constantly coach the ARTs of the intended value delivery. This will help organisations to tap into the core potentials and purposes of the ARTs rather than just scratching their surface. A successful ART will have a culture to  Continuously explore – the vision, roadmap, backlog and architectural runways in order to respond to the market in a timely fashion  Continuously Integrate – To inspect and adapt from system increments  Continuously deploy – To deliver faster and be ready for release when the market needs it. Launch More ARTs and Value Streams – This is the step that represents the largest amount of work that will be pulled into the roadmap. It requires persistent leadership guiding the organization towards a cultural shift inducing new values and norms aligning with the sole purpose and vision of the SAFe implementation roadmap.   Once an ART on a particular value stream has proved successful and shows positive returns, just take that working concept and apply it on similar value streams, include more ARTs. Only by scaling up will the organisation achieve faster time-to-market, improved productivity, and increased employee engagement. As a checklist though, the SAFe Implementation Railway Kanban can be used to determine the readiness of launching subsequent ARTs. Extend to the Portfolio – Once it's proven that multiple ARTs are running successfully, its time then to apply it at a portfolio level (using Portfolio level SAFe process) with the added guidance of the Lean Portfolio management function. This is where we would need to start aligning value streams with the enterprise strategy and thereby establishing enterprise value flows.  Fostering a leaner approach to supplier and customer relationships will go a long way in ensuring tactical business strategy solutions. Accelerate – This last step is basically to ensure that you are set up to build on your benefits. Start understanding where you are in terms of achieving business agility. Multiple assessments are available to help quantify this, provide options to enhance and reap in more profits by improving your business agility.  What are the benefits of an implementation roadmap? The benefits of referring to the SAFe implementation roadmap are far reaching. Although it's not the magic wand you are looking for, it does give you a head start with your SAFe adoption. It's like putting the right step forward.  Bird’s eye view of the mission, vision and goals  Identifying and Scripting the critical moves Achieving organisational change organically  Sustaining enterprise-wide growth and transformation  Achieving a measurable business agility Conclusion: Any major decision like whether to or not to implement SAFe is almost likely to be very contextual. I am sure the adoption of SAFe by virtue of its SAFe implementation road map will help organizations reap the benefits in the longer term, in its race to achieve a sustainable business agility formula.   However, the key would be in trying to understand and measure what impact it is resulting in, and measuring some of the key aspects & business outcomes (like cycle time, release frequency, NPS, key business metrices like customer retention etc.) will be critical along with the adoption of SAFe.  Remember, similar to Apple’s roadmap for powerful handheld devices, the SAFe implementation roadmap will guide your organisation to reap the benefits and lay out strong foundations for the future of scaling agile at enterprise levels.  

SAFe Implementation Roadmap – Detailed Guide

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SAFe Implementation Roadmap – Detailed Guide

Somewhere in the basement of an ambitious yet innovative American tech companyproject ‘PURPLE’ was in full swing. With just a trickle of engineers, all handpicked by the CEO himself, the project was such a high secret venturethat every team member was literally frisked every single time they entered or exited the project premises. They were not allowed to talk about it, let alone to the public but not even to a member of family. 

So why was this so important to the CEO and the company? We probably would never really know what was running through his mind at that point of time but on hindsight, we can guess that deep down the CEO knew that the product was about to revolutionise the world. Deep down, either knowingly or unknowingly a clear roadmap for the next generation product vision was being established.  

The CEO was Steve Jobs and the product was none other than the first generation ‘iPhone’. What started as an enhancement for an iPod went a long way in setting up the roadmap for today’s modern world smartphones.  

As exaggerated, as it may seem, it is still very relevant to the topic we will be exploring here today – the SAFe® implementation roadmap. In simple terms, if your organization is like a mountainous region of the Himalayas, then you would want to use the SAFe implementation as the ‘Sherpa’ to guide you to reach Mount Everest. 

SAFe Implementation Roadmap - Overview

We all are well aware, that SAFe is a way of taking any iterative Agile ways of working (normally restricted to a few teams) and scaling it up at various levels of the organization, whilst applying a mindset of Lean manufacturing.  

Considering the implementation of SAFe is a major decision for any organisation and should not be taken lightly, it will involve a significant amount of effort, training time and of course cost. Understanding SAFe can be tricky, but understanding it is a must. At the end of the day, if you want to do something, you would want to do it correctly, wouldn’t you?  

My suggestion would be simple. If you want to implement SAFe please go ahead, but do not rush it. Take it one step at a time, follow the SAFe implementation roadmap. This roadmap (depicted in the diagram below) is a very useful strategy and charts out some critical moves which are needed in order to achieve organizational change.  

SAFe Implementation RoadmapSource Link

1. Why is it required?

Similar to how Steve Jobs’s product roadmap for Apple created a magic of sorts in terms of user experience, by shrinking an entire operating system into a hand-held powerhouse of a device; the SAFe implementation roadmap will lay out the foundation and vision for a successful adoption of SAFe at all levels within your organization.   

It basically describes the steps, or as Dan and Chip Heath call it the ‘critical moves,’ that an enterprise will have to take, in order to implement SAFe in a successful, reliable, and orderly fashion. One can’t go too far into their SAFe adoption without following these critical steps as not only does the roadmap provide you with safety net of proven techniques, it also makes your transformation journey that much more enjoyable 

2. This is Why Your Agile Transformation is Failing

While we will discuss in detail as to why the roadmap is a necessity, it is also important to understand some of the stumbling blocks which we need to be wary of before beginning the transformation. Let’s look at a few common pitfalls that organisations will need to tackle.  

  • Hierarchical way of leadershipLack of commitment by higher management, possibly due to organizational culture or fear of failure, is a big setback for the agile transformationThe teams should be motivated and encouraged to learn and practice to excel so people are not always in a survival mode setting. Various reasons like ego clashes, miscommunication, lack of ownership etc. are a classic recipe for failure.  
  • Trying to swim before you float: In swimming, the most basic technique beginners are taught is ‘how to stay afloat in water’. It is essential to get the basics right and try achieving one thing at a time, rather than putting your feet into too many things and thereby sinking. For e.g try to implement the approach in one pilot program, prove that it works successfully and then radiate it across other programs.  
  • Lack of common sense: Things can’t be changed overnight, the sooner this is realised the better it is. Agile/Lean will fail if it cannot coexist with more traditional parts of an organisation, especially in big enterprises. There must be a transition period where you learn technical practices that will help you overcome some of the traditional/legacy challenges eventually.  
  • Synthetic Transformation: An idea for change may have been accepted in general but eventually the team will need to grasp an understanding of why they are doing that practice. Otherwise, it won't necessarily be that practice that gets them in trouble but their lack of fundamental understanding, which will cause them problems, or at least expose their lack of innovation or adoption of emerging new practices. 
  • Running out of gas: Keeping the transformation moving with a sustainable pace is another challenging ask. This is where you need to make sure that you have the right set of change agents (like SPCs) who can keep echoing the need for change and be the catalyst who can continue the movement required for a large-scale transformation.  

What are the steps of a successful SAFe Implementation Roadmap?

While the Scaled Agile framework team recognises that not all transformations will be fail-proof, they have charted out a 12-step guide, which recommends a path to the roadmap journey, backed by the fact that successful implementations will always have something in common. Let's go through the steps in a bit more detail.

steps of a successful SAFe Implementation Roadmap

1. Step-by-step explanation

  • Reaching the Tipping Point Organizations at some point will arrive at a situation where an overwhelming necessity for change will be felt. There could be many reasons but the most obvious one would be the fact that they would be constantly struggling to deliver user requirements earlier into the market thereby lagging behind in business trends.  
  •  A ‘burning platform’ as referred by SAFe could be the reason. If not for this reason, a mindset of change may set it when a true visionary is handed over the reins of the organization. A new vision , new targets and early adoption of technical trends in the business cycle could well be the signs to watch out for. This is what is referred to as the tipping point, a catalyst for change.

Step-by-step explanation

  • Train Lean-Agile Change Agents  Once the vision is set and the ball is rolling, it's important to create a pool of strategic change agents. Agents who can help with the transformation and pull their coaching weight are needed to influence teams and individuals in aligning to the roadmap. Remember, a great SPC would be the one who can guide an organization to balance business agility with predictability; both of which are extremely important to the typical enterprise-scale technology organization. 
  • Train Executives, Managers, and Leaders It is important for leaders to learn new skills- skills that will help them execute the roadmap strategy through constant and early release of value through their Agile release trains. A clear understanding of the SAFe lean agile principles will help them a long way in achieving their goals.  
  • Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence Referred to as the LACE – Lean Agile centre of excellence, this is nothing but a group of like-minded people who help with implementing the SAFe lean agile ways of working. From a leader’s perspective, getting the right set of people onto LACE will be key to unlocking the fullest of its benefits. The LACE will normally take charge of radiating the vision throughout the organisation, providing training where necessary and also helping with charting the roadmap elements along with the change agents.  
  • Identify Value Streams and ARTs - Identifying value streams and in turn the related ARTs (Agile release trains) is THE most critical activity for SAFe implementation as this will form the backbone of the roadmap execution. In order to get this right, an organisation would need to spend some quality time in understanding their value streams, which are normally of two types-- operational value streams and development value streams.  

SAFe Implementation Roadmap

Typically, a workshop would be arranged for organisational value stream mapping since this is a critical step in implementation of the SAFe roadmap.   

  • Create the Implementation Plan  The most important aspect of this step is to try and not get too detailed with your planning. In a true agile fashion, it's important to plan a little for the iteration, execute the same, learn from it and then repeat the exercise. It's all about the inspect and adapt philosophy. This simple yet powerful incremental approach to SAFe implementation will help with the solution development.  
  • Prepare for ART Launch – Once you have sorted out the above two steps, the next step is to get your ARTs right. Defining an ART aligned to the value stream is important from a change management perspective. In principle the following sub-steps are recommended:  
    • Define the ART  
    • Set the launch date and cadence for the program calendar  
    • Train ART leaders and stakeholders  
    • Establish the Agile teams  
    • Train Product Managers and Product Owners (POs)  
    • Train Scrum Masters  
    • Train System Architects/Engineers  
    • Assess and evolve launch readiness  
    • Prepare the program backlog   
  • Train Teams and Launch the ART  Well this step is more of moving the parked train out of the station and launching it to carry out the iterative process of enhancing value streams, keeping business agility at its epicentre.   
  • Coach ART Execution  - “Whenever you let up before the job is done, critical momentum can be lost and regression may follow.’ – John Kotter, Leading Change.  

The trains are all set now to deliver value incrementally but mere knowledge is not understanding. It takes a few iterations, and a few PIs before the train can stabilize. This is where SPCs (SAFe Program consultants) will be key to ensure that significant effort is put in to constantly coach the ARTs of the intended value delivery. This will help organisations to tap into the core potentials and purposes of the ARTs rather than just scratching their surface. 

A successful ART will have a culture to  

  1. Continuously explore – the vision, roadmap, backlog and architectural runways in order to respond to the market in a timely fashion  
  2. Continuously Integrate – To inspect and adapt from system increments  
  3. Continuously deploy – To deliver faster and be ready for release when the market needs it. 
  • Launch More ARTs and Value Streams  This is the step that represents the largest amount of work that will be pulled into the roadmap. It requires persistent leadership guiding the organization towards a cultural shift inducing new values and norms aligning with the sole purpose and vision of the SAFe implementation roadmap.   

Once an ART on a particular value stream has proved successful and shows positive returns, just take that working concept and apply it on similar value streams, include more ARTs. Only by scaling up will the organisation achieve faster time-to-market, improved productivity, and increased employee engagement. As a checklist though, the SAFe Implementation Railway Kanban can be used to determine the readiness of launching subsequent ARTs. 

Launch More ARTs and Value Streams

  • Extend to the Portfolio – Once it's proven that multiple ARTs are running successfully, its time then to apply it at a portfolio level (using Portfolio level SAFe process) with the added guidance of the Lean Portfolio management function. This is where we would need to start aligning value streams with the enterprise strategy and thereby establishing enterprise value flows.  Fostering a leaner approach to supplier and customer relationships will go a long way in ensuring tactical business strategy solutions. 
  • Accelerate – This last step is basically to ensure that you are set up to build on your benefits. Start understanding where you are in terms of achieving business agility. Multiple assessments are available to help quantify this, provide options to enhance and reap in more profits by improving your business agility.  

What are the benefits of an implementation roadmap? 

The benefits of referring to the SAFe implementation roadmap are far reaching. Although it's not the magic wand you are looking for, it does give you a head start with your SAFe adoption. It's like putting the right step forward.  

  • Bird’s eye view of the mission, vision and goals  
  • Identifying and Scripting the critical moves 
  • Achieving organisational change organically  
  • Sustaining enterprise-wide growth and transformation  
  • Achieving a measurable business agility 

Conclusion: 

Any major decision like whether to or not to implement SAFe is almost likely to be very contextualI am sure the adoption of SAFe by virtue of its SAFe implementation road map will help organizations reap the benefits in the longer term, in its race to achieve a sustainable business agility formula.   

However, the key would be in trying to understand and measure what impact it iresulting in, and measuring some of the key aspects & business outcomes (like cycle time, release frequency, NPS, key business metrices like customer retention etc.) will be critical along with the adoption of SAFe 

Remember, similar to Apple’s roadmap for powerful handheld devices, the SAFe implementation roadmap will guide your organisation to reap the benefits and lay out strong foundations for the future of scaling agile at enterprise levels.  

Rajkumar

Rajkumar Dileep

Author

Dileep Rajkumar , a seasoned software and agile delivery expert, who specialises in quantitative product development for large digital transformations. A self motivated individual, always committed to helping various teams and individuals, realise their potential and deliver quality (incremental) software!!

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This is where the Scrum Master plays a very critical role in the success of the team. Despite Scrum being ‘simple to understand and difficult to master’ the Scrum Master is considered to be the expert on all things Scrum.As a coach, guide and mentor, the Scrum Master should facilitate the successful adoption of Scrum, and help others to gain mastery over Scrum principles and values.A Scrum Master must mandatorily follow certain core values and inspire the team to follow them as well. These core values that include openness, commitment, focus, courage and respect bring the team together and promote better work ethics and practices.Besides inculcating Scrum principles and values and guiding a successful adoption, a Scrum Master should also have these attributes:  An Unbiased and Open Mind:  An unbiased and open mind is key to being a good Scrum Master. As part of their portfolio, Scrum Masters have to work with different teams and team members having different personalities. Having an open mind will help the Scrum Master to not look at every team with the same lens and treat each team differently. Solutions that work for one team may not work for other teams or situations. Having an open mind will help you realise this and tweak your decisions based on teams and situations.   Transparency:  Transparency and open communication are the pillars of Scrum. As a Scrum Master your intentions should be open and transparent to everyone including your team and the product owner. The team must at all times know your reasons for doing certain things or taking certain decisions. Being upfront with the team members will help in trust building and lead to better work ethics.   Metrics to Map Progress:There are several tools available to track a team’s progress and the Scrum Master must ensure that these metrics showing the team’s progress be made available to the entire team. This will help the team better plan sprints, work collaboratively and improve working practices in order to ensure better output and value.   Motivation for Team Members: Keeping your team members happy and motivated is a Scrum Master’s main job. This includes removing obstacles that may impede the team from performing and helping them work according to Scrum values and techniques. The development team develops the product, and a happy team means a well-built product and satisfied customers. Assistance to the Product Owner:  As a Scrum Master, aiding the Product Owner is a major part of your responsibility. The Product Owner is a major stakeholder in the Scrum team and the Scrum Master aids the product owner in backlog management and by facilitating Scrum events, product planning and by helping the team to identify backlog items. Aiding the Product Owner in issues that they may face with regards to the project, stakeholders or the team will create a positive environment and will make things between the team and the product owner smoother.   Focus on the Challenges: Every Scrum project comes with its set of issues. But an effective Scrum Master will be aware of every challenge or impediment that comes in the way of the development team and takes these problems head on. Focusing on these challenges early on and resolving them is paramount to the success and progress of the team and the project. Appreciation for Achievements:  The focus of daily sprints and retrospectives is often to celebrate achievements and give the development team proper appreciation. A Scrum Master encourages and motivates and this they also do by respective current achievements. While giving advise on how things should be done is necessary, appreciating the team on its achievements is equally important.   Respect for Others: Your team members all have different personalities and each brings their own uniqueness and expertise to the team. No one team member is less or more important than the other. An effective and efficient Scrum Master will recognise this early on and treat every team member with the same amount of respect.  Understanding of Situations in the Right Context:  Not all things are as what they appear. The sooner a scrum master understands this, the better. Situations in context to teams, individuals and even the organization are not always black and white and the Scrum Master must consider the baggage of organizational culture, current systems, internal politics, etc before coming to a conclusion about a team or a team members. Instead, one must attempt to form close relationships with the team and understand the workings of the team and the organizations before passing judgement. Ability to Have Tough Conversations :  You as a Scrum Master are often seen as a problem solver, friend and mentor. But don’t let this image of yours come in the way of making tough decisions or having tough conversations. As a Scrum Master you must have the courage to do the right thing and if this means having difficult but necessary conversations with either the team members, the product owner or the stakeholders, then you must do it.    Courage to Protect the Team:  More often than not, there are unreasonable demands made on the development team. The Scrum Master should have the courage to protect the team and say an emphatic ‘no’ to the Product Owner or the stakeholders.  Accountability: You are accountable for your team’s success as you are for its failures. If as a Scrum Master you want your team to be accountable then the best way to get them to do that is to be accountable yourself. You can do this by being more invested in the day-to-day activities of the team and considering yourself to be a part of the team as well.  Support for Team Members: As a Scrum Master you are not just invested in the project but also in the growth of individual team members. You should motivate, encourage and support your team members to grow and reach heights in their careers.   Deep Commitment: If the team feels that the Scrum Master is committed to the project, committed to the team and committed to the team members, then they are more likely to be open and transparent with the Scrum Master. This trust with the team has to be built so that team members can be open about the challenges they face. The Scrum Master is the voice of the team and must support them at all stages.   Focus on Improvement:  Scrum is all about continuous improvement and the success of the Scrum Master is also tied to the continuous improvement of the Scrum team. If your team is getting better with time then you are doing well as a Scrum Master. From daily sprints to retrospectives, the Scrum Master provides avenues for the team to improve itself, identify problems and suggest solutions to work better.  Conclusion Scrum is the most used Agile framework, yet there are several lessons that organizations need to learn about Scrum before they embark on a transformation journey. This lightweight and easy to use framework can turn around the fortunes of companies if implemented in the right way. It’s important for an organization’s culture to be ready to accept and implement Scrum for project and organizational success.  
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Why Scrum Is Lightweight; Simple To Understand; Di...

85 percent of respondents say Scrum continues to... Read More

Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servant-Leader!

The term servant leader is synonymous with a Scrum Master. But what does it mean? The Scrum Master is a servant leader in Agile projects, but servant leadership goes far beyond Agile, and Scrum Masters serve more than just the team.In this blog we attempt to look at the Scrum Master’s role as a servant leader, what the role entails and the responsibilities of the Scrum Master beyond the team, in context to the organization. What is servant-leadership?The term servant leadership was first coined by Robert Greenleaf in his article “The Servant as Leader”, in which he defined a servant leader as: The Servant-Leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That leader significantly differs from one who is leader first, may be due to the need to acquire power, material belonging, control and authority within the organization. Servant leadership is something very different from traditional leadership, which places the leader at the top of the hierarchy and the employees in the lower rung. Servant leadership, in a sense, is the opposite of traditional leadership, as it places the leader at the bottom of the hierarchy while employees are on the higher rungs. The leaders, in this case, are serving the people above them. Servant leadership refers to leaders who believe in serving people and the community that they are a part of, rather than accumulating power for themselves. This style of leadership emphasizes on helping subordinates better themselves, empowering employees and helping others perform to the best of their abilities.Servant leadership does not prescribe telling employees what to do, instead it helps the workforce find their sense of ownership and unlock their potential to reach their goals. Servant leadership is all about empowering others, which when consistently done can raise morale, enhance productivity and reduce employee attrition.Servant Leadership and ScrumScrum, in a way, is the very essence of servant leadership. Unlike traditional project management methodologies, it does not follow a top-down, hierarchical approach. Instead, decisions are lateral and happen with the involvement of the whole team. Scrum is the perfect approach in which to practice the concept of servant leadership. The 5 Scrum values of Openness, Respect, Commitment, Courage, and Focus, adhere to the philosophy of Servant Leadership. The Scrum Master plays a key role in the development of the product, the team and the organization. The Scrum Guide defines the servant leadership a Scrum Master’s role has to perform in context to the roles mentioned above. The Scrum Values that a Scrum Master practices have a ripple effect throughout the organization. The Scrum Master is seen as an evangelist for practicing and promoting Scrum in the enterprise.The Agile Manifesto and servant-leadershipThe Agile Manifesto states that one must value: Individuals and interactions over Process and tools Working software over Comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation Responding to change over Following a plan These again align with the values of servant leadership, which is all about putting people or employees first. The Agile Manifesto describes focusing on building projects around motivated individuals and giving them an environment of support, trust and collaboration—all characteristics of servant leadership.Who Are These Servant Leaders?The Scrum Guide defines the service provided by the Scrum Master as servant leadership. The Scrum Master selflessly provides servant leadership to the development team, product owner and the whole organization. By serving these entities, the Scrum Master can create a high performing team, a valuable product and an efficient organization that is able to meet business objectives and keep customers happy.  Though the term Scrum Master may be deceptive, the Scrum Master is not a master of the team but in fact serves the team in order to ensure smooth functioning and productivity.Servant Leadership and Scrum Master Roles of Servant LeadershipServant leadership:The day-to-day activity of a Scrum Master involves servant leadership. Servant leadership in a scrum team involves performance planning, coaching, helping the team self- organize, resolving conflicts through conflict management, removing obstacles that hinder progress and serving the team. The Scrum Master, while practicing servant leadership, helps the team grow and mature and become independent enough to make their own decisions. Servant leadership in Scrum is all about making the team self-reliant, so they can cope with the pressures of the role. As a servant leader the Scrum Master creates a high performing team, helps them become collaborative and high performing in order to achieve goals and meet the requirements of the customer.  Service to the Scrum Team: As a servant leader, the primary responsibility of the Scrum Master is to help the development team perform. They help the team perform to the best of their abilities by giving them an environment that is conducive to work in, encouraging them, guiding them and removing obstacles that may hinder progress. As a coach, the Scrum Master will guide the team on scrum processes and help them adhere to Agile values during the development of the product. The Scrum Master is responsible for the scrum team’s effectiveness, and they work tirelessly to ensure that the team is motivated, encouraged, creative and innovative. The Scrum Master through servant leadership helps the team improve Scrum practices which helps them become more productive and generate value. The Scrum Team’s role in motivating and helping the team comes through in the daily stand-up meetings that are arranged as part of the sprint. The Scrum Master encourages team members to share their grievances and progress made through the sprint. Team members can talk about obstacles that may be hindering their work and due cognizance will be taken up by the Scrum master to ensure that these obstacles are removed.  According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Development Team by: Coaching the team in becoming self-organized and cross-functional Helping the Scrum Team focus on creating high-value increments by removing impediments Helping the team deliver within the timeframe of the sprint Service to the Product Owner: The Scrum Master is a servant leader not just for the development team but also the Product Owner. While the Product Owner is primarily responsible for the product backlog, they cannot do this alone. The Scrum Master aids the development team and the Product Owner with effective product backlog management.The Scrum Master is involved at every stage of the product backlog grooming, helping the product owner with Scrum events, product planning and to identify backlog items along with the development team. The Scrum Master helps the Product Owner define the product vision to the team.   According to the Scrum Guide, the Scrum Master helps the Product Owner by: Helping in Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management Helping the Scrum Team understand manage the Product Backlog items Setting up empirical product planning in complex environments and, Managing and facilitating stakeholder collaboration.Service to the Organization: The Scrum Master is a coach and motivator not just for the development team but goes beyond the team to spread the awareness of Scrum in the entire organization. Scrum Masters coach and help teams and departments understand Scrum and develop an Agile mind-set. Besides servant leadership to the team a Scrum Master is also involved in promoting the ideas and values of Scrum. An organization can get an agile mind-set only if the entire organization adopts Scrum and not just a few teams. This is where the Scrum Master comes in, helping other teams not involved with Scum to gain the Agile mind-set, through training and coaching. The Scrum Master is an Agile evangelist and promotes Scrum enterprise-wide.According to Scrum.org the Scrum Master serves the organization by: Leading, training, and coaching the organization in adopting Scrum Planning and advising Scrum implementations within the organization Coaching employees and stakeholders in the way Scrum works Helping stakeholders work with Scrum TeamsSome Servant-Leader Behaviours for every Scrum MasterBeing empathetic: This is the foremost personality trait required for anyone wanting to become a Scrum Master. Your empathy will shine through in your interactions with the team members and your dealings with the stakeholders. You should be able to see problems from the point of view of each party and work towards solving these problems. Caring: As a caring and empathetic Scrum Master, your team will feel free to approach you and share their concerns. Providing a listening ear will make you more approachable. You will be able to more clearly understand the impediments that are stopping project progress and work towards providing a solution.  Managing Conflicts: Not all team members will get along with each other and this can cause disruptions and problems within the team, lowering their productivity. As a Scrum Master you need to be great at conflict management, help others solve their problems, work with each other and create a high performing and harmonious team. Building relationships: You need to build a rapport with your team, the product owner and the stakeholders. This will help you communicate freely and help others approach you with their problems and issues. You need to build that relationship of trust and take everyone along on the journey of success.  Being ethical: Ethics play an important role in software development, especially since software now controls every aspect of our lives. The product created should be free of malice and fraud. The Scrum Master should guide the team in delivering the product at a value and standard that is expected and agreed upon with the stakeholder. There should not be any shortcuts or concessions made on the quality of the product delivered as this will affect not just the Scrum Master and the team’s reputation but will cause a dent in the reputation of the organization.   Conclusion  Servant leadership and the Scrum Master’s role is the backbone of Scrum. The Scrum Master as a servant leader re-emphasizes the values of Scrum and helps to enhance teamwork, collaboration, motivation and value. Under the able servant leadership of the Scrum Master, individual members and the team will grow, become more confident and help in delivering value.  
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Scrum Master – The Scrum Team’s Servan...

The term servant leader is synonymous with a Scrum... Read More

A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small teams. But the true benefits of Agile can only be reaped if Agile and Scrum are scaled at the enterprise level. However, this is easier said than done. According to statistics, 47% of Agile transformations are not successful. While this is a worrying trend, there are still hundreds of organizations who have got it right and are able to survive the competition by innovating faster, delivering value and adapting to changing markets. How are they doing it? By using scaled Scrum.There are several tools and frameworks available for scaling Scrum at the enterprise level. In this blog, we attempt to look at a few of these.  Scaling Scrum with NexusNexus is among the most popular frameworks for scaling Scrum. According to the Nexus Guide, “Nexus is a framework for developing and sustaining scaled product delivery initiatives. It builds upon Scrum, extending it only where absolutely necessary to minimize and manage dependencies between multiple Scrum Teams while promoting empiricism and the Scrum Values.” How is Nexus different from Scrum? Scrum defines three primary roles: The Product Owner, the Scrum Master and the development team. These three roles work together in one team.The Nexus framework consists of several Scrum teams that work together toward a common product goal and defines the Nexus Integration Team as an additional accountability.  Nexus helps to build on the values of Scrum and also solves the collaboration and dependency challenges that tend to occur between teams in Scrum.Benefits of using Nexus Nexus extends Scrum in the following ways:  Accountabilities: Nexus introduces the Nexus Integration Team, which consists of the Scrum Master, Product Owner, and members. This team is accountable for delivering a workable product at the end of each sprint.  Events: Nexus events aim to add to or supplement Scrum events and serve not just individual teams but also the Nexus Integration Team. The objective of a sprint is to achieve the Nexus sprint goal. Artifacts: Although the teams are different, within the Nexus framework they all work towards a single goal and follow a single product backlog. There’s a high amount of transparency and work is allocated to each team. The Nexus Integration TeamAccording to the Nexus Guide, “the Nexus Integration Team exists to coordinate, coach, and supervise the application of Nexus and the operation of Scrum so the best outcomes are derived.” The Nexus Integration Team or NIT comprises of the Scrum Master, the Product Owner and Nexus integration team members. There are generally three to nine Scrum teams working together in Nexus. All of them follow a single product backlog and work towards delivering a single product. The Nexus Integration Team forms an essential role within Nexus and is tasked with providing transparent accountability among the teams in Nexus.Product OwnerThe Product Owner is accountable for maximizing the product value and the work carried out in Nexus. Their primary task is to order and refine the product backlog. Being a member of the Nexus Integration Team, the product owner will work with all the Scrum teams in the Nexus Integration team. The product owner and the teams work towards better defining and refining the product backlog.Scrum MasterJust like in regular Scrum, the Scrum Master in the Nexus Integration Team is also responsible for ensuring that the Nexus framework is understood by everyone on the team as prescribed by the Nexus Guide.   MembersThe members of the Nexus Integration Team are the Scrum team members who aid the Scrum teams in adoption of tools and practices that will help the team and members deliver value at the end of each sprint that meets the definition of done. Nexus Integration Team membership should be considered more important than the individual Scrum Team membership and members should work towards first fulfilling their Nexus team responsibilities.What are the Events in Nexus?Nexus adds or augments the events as defined by Scrum. The Nexus event durations are like Scrum event durations and are guided by the Scrum Guide.  Nexus events consist of: Sprint- A Nexus sprint is the same as in Scrum, at the end of which a single increment is delivered.  Cross team refinement- The aim of Nexus is to enhance collaboration and reduce cross team dependencies. Cross team refinement helps to make dependencies and responsibilities more transparent. This makes it easier for Scrum teams within the Nexus to clearly identify and deliver their allocated tasks.  Nexus Sprint Planning- Nexus sprint planning will involve the participation of the Product Owner and concerned teams' members from each team. The purpose of the Nexus Sprint Planning is to assign and co-ordinate activities for a single sprint.  Nexus Daily Scrum- This is like the daily stand up in Scrum. Nexus daily scrum is used to identify any issues and track progress. Any issues are immediately prioritized and solved so that they do not hinder the work of the developers.  Nexus Sprint Review- This event is held at the end of sprints to provide feedback on the increment that has been built and on any future updates that have to be made. Nexus Sprint Retrospective- Like in Scrum, Nexus retrospectives are an important part of the project and are used to reflect on how quality and consistency can be improved.  Some Nexus ArtifactsNexus artifacts are the same as Scrum artifacts and when implemented correctly ensure transparency and value maximization. Every artifact is designed to give a commitment. For example, the product backlog is the artifact and its commitment is the product goal. Other artifacts and their commitments include: Nexus Sprint Backlog-Nexus Sprint Goal Integrated Increment-Definition of Done Along with Nexus, LeSS is another popular framework for scaling agile.  Scaling Scrum with LeSS The Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) framework is an offering from Atlassian and is a framework for scaling Scrum to multiple teams that are working on the same product. The idea behind LeSS is to start with a single Scrum team as defined in the Scrum Guide and then replicate it to multiple teams who are working on a single product. LeSS has earned the label of being “barely sufficient” as it is a simple framework to apply and uses the basic concepts of Scrum to scale.  How do Sprint Planning meetings in LeSS work?  LeSS generally carries out sprint planning in two stages. Sprint Planning One focuses on selecting items that are of topmost priority, solving unanswered issues and defining the sprint goal. The Sprint Planning Two is like the sprint plan of regular Scrum and focuses on creating a plan of action for getting things done.  Daily meeting  The daily Scrum meeting in LeSS is similar to how it is done in normal single Scrum teams and involves team members discussing the work accomplished and the work to be done during the day. It is a time-boxed meeting and helps teams address any issues that may be hindering work.   Sprint Delivery Meeting (Review) The sprint review meeting is an essential part of LeSS and helps teams and stakeholders review the product built during the sprint and suggest changes and new ideas.   Retrospective The retrospective for LeSS is similar to one team Scrum. These retrospectives held at the end of the sprint will help teams to reflect on the progress of tasks, and identify the obstacles that may hinder or impede the overall project.  Let’s take a look at some of the other frameworks that are used for scaling agile. Scaling Scrum with SAFe®The Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe in short, follows the principles of lean and agile and helps in scaling Scrum to the enterprise. It helps to manage alignment, collaboration, and delivery from multiple agile teams to ensure enterprise success. It systematically focuses on applying Scrum at each level of the enterprise, to maximize value and ensure a successful agile transformation.A successful SAFe adoption ensures end-to-end business agility with significant improvements in strategy, delivery, execution and business competencies. It helps organizations overcome competition and ensure innovative business solutions to gain customer trust and partnership. The SAFe framework is continuously improvised in order to help organizations cope with the digital age and ensure that business outcomes are delivered.Scaling Scrum with the Scrum@Scale frameworkAnother framework that allows organizations to implement Scrum at scale is the Scrum@Scale framework. This framework expands on the core principles of Scrum and helps to scale Scrum over a wide range of industries and sectors, ensuring customer satisfaction and creation of successful products. It promotes communication across all teams and departments, and optimizes resources, removes roadblocks and ensures creation of innovative products.A Final Word By driving Agile at the organizational level, companies can gain all the benefits of team-level Scrum at scale. More often than not the principles of team level Scrum are not sustainable at the enterprise level and the transformation fails. Tested and proven Agile scaling frameworks are now able to turn this around, and help organizations scale up the principles and practices of Scrum to become more adaptable, flexible and responsive. Professionals can master these frameworks and help their organization adopt the culture, mind-set and principles of Scrum and agile.  
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A Guide to Scaling Scrum

Scrum has been proven to work well for small tea... Read More