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What is SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)

Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a rich body of knowledge that provides organizational workflows for Business Agility. SAFe builds on top of team level frameworks like Scrum and XP and integrates Lean patterns into the organization with the objective of Business Agility as opposed to team agility. Business Agility is the ultimate outcome for a business and team agility is a component of the larger picture.Origin of SAFeThe Agile mindset was codified in 2001 in Snowbird, Utah when some of the greatest thought leaders in software industry got together and created the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto through its 4 values and 12 principles provided a common language for software developers (as well as others). The industry was quick to lap up the guidance provided by the Agile Manifesto and frameworks like Scrum and XP which provided actionable practices and principles to “implement” the Agile mindset became popular. As Scrum started to take roots, organizations started to realize that the guidance worked well for small, independent teams. When it comes to large enterprises, it is unlikely that one team can deliver value to the customer directly. There are fundamental issues around the way enterprises are structured and organized which inhibits their agility. Even if such issues are resolved, it would still take several teams to come together to create real customer value. Hence, organizations started to look for a solution on how to “scale” the agile principles and values across the enterprise. Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe was developed as a guidance for solving this problem. SAFe Core ValuesSAFe is built on learnings from Lean Thinking in addition to agile. SAFe relies on mindset shifts on some of the fundamental aspects of an organization. The 4 core values of SAFe are: Alignment-> Everyone in the organization needs to be aligned on the vision and mission. Built in Quality->Quality is built into the product throughout and not “added” later. Transparency-> There should be trust and openness in the organisation. Transparency helps in building trust. Program Execution->Teams and “Teams of Teams” should be able to execute and deliver value continuously. Image SourceSAFe Principles SAFe principles guide the thinking process and philosophy behind SAFe’s practices and patterns. There are a total of 10 SAFe Lean Agile Principles. They are based on the principles of the Agile Manifesto as well as learnings from Lean.  Very often people get bogged down by practices without understanding the reason why the practice was created in the first place. As a result, they start feeling “process overhead”.     The 10 Lean Agile Principles of SAFe are Take an economic view-> Create an economic framework that guides your decisions. Decisions taken without considering economics are neither helpful for the producer nor the consumer.  Apply Systems Thinking-> Instead of optimizing local parts of a system, focus on the whole. Quite often the major issues in a large organization are the way different parts of it interact inhibiting fast turnaround times of customer value. Addressing the challenges associated with these inter connections will result in more improvements from a value perspective.  Assume variability, preserve options-> Requirements and solution approaches, both need to be flexible in the rapidly changing world. Avoid the sense of gratification received by locking in designs and requirements.  Take a set-based approach to solution discovery as opposed to a point solution.  Build incrementally with fast integrated learning cycles -> Apply Plan Do Check Adjust cycle not just at team level but also at train and solution level. We harbour considerable risk if we do not integrate frequently across teams and solutions. Base milestones of objective evaluation of working systems -> Status reports are not a true measure of progress on our goals. They are rooted in the project management mindset of task completion. Instead, evaluate systems continuously through demonstrations(demos) and use objective feedback to understand the true progress towards our goal. Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes and manage queue lengths -> Smaller batch sizes flow through the system faster. Smaller queue lengths ensure that you can reprioritize the backlog more frequently. Visualizing the work and making it transparent is the first step towards it. Apply Cadence and Synchronize with cross domain planning -> At scale, individual team cadence is not sufficient as a single team rarely delivers end customer value. To ensure that the system works smoothly under development, across sprints and not just individual teams, synchronizing the cadence of all teams in an Agile Release Train is critical. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers -> Money is not the ultimate motivator for knowledge workers. In SAFe, we try to create an environment where people have autonomy, mastery and purpose which are the key motivators for knowledge workers. Decentralize Decision Making -> We need to decentralize most decisions. Decisions which are infrequent, are long lasting and have economies of scale should be centralized. Organize Around Value -> Organizations are built around silos. Value delivery requires us to overcome these silos and operate effectively such that we are optimized for value creation and not hand offs from one department to the other.  With the 10 Lean Agile Principles of SAFe, we can understand that even if everyone’s problems are unique, the underlying principles of solving them are the same. SAFe configurationsSAFe is not a rigid framework. You do not need to implement the framework in its entirety from the very beginning. It provides guidance on how to operate as “Team of Teams” construct through its Essential SAFe configuration. This configuration provides patterns like how to organize around value through agile release trains and how to get to customer centricity through design thinking, apart from DevSecOps and the notion of Develop on Cadence while Releasing on Demand. The Large Solution SAFe configuration introduces the enterprise solution delivery competency, which supports those building the largest and most complex solutions that require multiple Agile release trains and suppliers, but do not require portfolio-level considerations. The Portfolio SAFe configuration provides the lean portfolio management competency, which aligns portfolio execution to enterprise strategy. It organizes development around the flow of value through one or more value streams.The Full SAFe configuration includes all seven core competencies of the Lean enterprise. It is the most comprehensive version of the Framework and supports enterprises that build and maintain a portfolio of large and complex solutions. Enterprises typically start with Essential SAFe as their first stepping stone into SAFe and gradually implement Portfolio practices.Key Roles in SAFeSAFe has a “troika” of roles at every level. At the team level, the roles are the same as in Scrum – Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers. At the Program level, the troika consists of the Product Manager, System Architect and Release Train Engineer(RTE). The Product Manager is a customer facing role and has the content authority on the program backlog while the Product Owner(Team Level) is an internal facing role and has content authority on the team backlog. The System Architect is the technical authority at the program level and helps in creating the architectural runway. They collaborate closely with the Product Manager to prioritise the program backlog.  The Release Train Engineer is the facilitator and coach for the Agile Release Train. The Release Train Engineer is to an Agile Release Train what a Scrum Master is to a team.  Every Agile Release Train also has a Business Owner who is the key stakeholder to the train. They are the key decision makers and their active participation is critical to the success of the train.In the case of Large Solution Layers, we have a  Solution Architect which is basically the same role as System Architect but at the level of a Solution Train. The Solution Management is a role similar to that of the Product Management but at the level of a Solution Train.  The Solution Train Engineer(STE) is to the Solution Train what an RTE is to an Agile Release Train.At the Portfolio Level, SAFe talks about the Enterprise Architect, which is typically someone like a CTO and can provide technical leadership across value streams. The Epic Owner is someone who shepherds an Epic through Portfolio Kanban and prioritisation process. Once approved, the discovery and execution of Epic becomes the local context of Agile Release Trains through Features(Epics are decomposed into features)Value Streams and Agile Release TrainsThe basic construct in SAFe is a Team of Teams which is referred to as Agile Release Train. An Agile Release Train is not just a random collection of teams. Rather, it is a self-contained “team of teams” which creates value. It is a cross functional “virtual” unit of people who may be a part of different parts of the organisation, hierarchically.However, they come together as per SAFe Lean Agile Principle #10(Organise Around Value) in a way that they can collaborate fast in a decentralised decision-making arrangement(SAFe principle #9) to create value.  A Value stream may consist of one or more Agile Release Trains. The recommended size of an Agile Release Train is 50-125 people. An Agile Release Train is governed by a single backlog, referred to as “Program Backlog”. The Program Vision and roadmap guides the Agile Release Train. SAFe Trainings and CertificationSAFe has a rich gamut of trainings. It offers courses for teams, for Scrum Masters, for Product Owners, for Architects, for Portfolio Managers amongst others. Most trainings are 2 full day courses with immersive learning experiences.  These courses are highly sought after as they offer a wonderful learning experience as well as provide participants an opportunity to earn an industry recognised certification. SAFe certifications are valid for a year and participants can renew them by paying a renewal fee.  More details about SAFe trainings can be found here. SAFe’s Strengths and WeaknessesSAFe’s strength lies in its focus on Business Agility. It focusses on orchestrating an enterprise in its entirety towards a common business goal and suggests workflows and patterns for this purpose. It is a well thought and researched framework that gets regularly updated as new ideas and concepts emerge in the industry. For this reason, SAFe undergoes regular version updates. The current version of SAFe is 5.1. The current version talks about seven competencies of Business Agility. These 7 competencies are the pillars which pave the way to a mindset shift which ultimately helps them achieve Business Agility. Some people consider SAFe as too prescriptive due to the level of details that it provides. For example, they find too many roles in SAFe. Further, some people feel that SAFe complicates the agile transformation by adding “codified bureaucracy”.  In reality, SAFe is more “descriptive” than prescriptive. You may not need to follow it exactly but tailor parts of it as per your need. For example, most organisations start with Essential SAFe configuration as the starting point and then explore Large Solution and Portfolio constructs depending on their maturity.  People need to understand the underlying principles and choose practices and roles accordingly, to succeed with SAFe. SAFe Implementation RoadmapSAFe provides a proven set of activities and steps that must be implemented across an organisation. This includes getting leadership on board through workshops and trainings as they need to understand the concept first.  Value Stream identification workshop is a key activity that helps in identifying the right set of steps in value creation along with the people and processes involved. Post that  classes like Leading SAFe, SAFe PO/PM, SAFe Scrum Master, etc are helpful to train the people about their roles and responsibilities. This culminates in the launch of an Agile Release Train. Once an Agile Release Train has been launched, the journey can be accelerated by launching more trains and by extending to the Portfolio by bringing in Lean Portfolio Management practices. Image SourceIs SAFe the right framework for me?SAFe is a great choice for you if you have at least fifty people in your organisation. It provides a mechanism for several teams to align on value creation. Fifty is suggested as a minimum number to launch an Agile Release Train. If there are less than 3-4 teams, some of the guidance that SAFe provides could be an overhead and using simple Scrum of Scrums technique might be helpful. However, the principles that SAFe espouses around Lean Portfolio Management are universal in nature and can be used irrespective of the size of the organisation. In addition to Agile principles, SAFe is heavily rooted in Lean Thinking which helps in reducing waste and focuses on overall Systems Thinking. These concepts can be applied irrespective of the size of the organisation.  Conclusion In today’s world where enterprises need to be nimble to respond to the changing business and technology landscape, you need a framework which guides you through the journey. Expecting software development to use frameworks like Scrum alone is not sufficient. The enterprise as a whole needs to have a strong footing on agile principles and a mindset shift is required to have Business Agility. Scaled Agile Framework is one such framework which can help enterprises on their journey to Business Agility.

What is SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)

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What is SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)

Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a rich body of knowledge that provides organizational workflows for Business Agility. SAFe builds on top of team level frameworks like Scrum and XP and integrates Lean patterns into the organization with the objective of Business Agility as opposed to team agility. Business Agility is the ultimate outcome for a business and team agility is a component of the larger picture.

Origin of SAFe

The Agile mindset was codified in 2001 in Snowbird, Utah when some of the greatest thought leaders in software industry got together and created the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto through its 4 values and 12 principles provided a common language for software developers (as well as others). The industry was quick to lap up the guidance provided by the Agile Manifesto and frameworks like Scrum and XP which provided actionable practices and principles to “implement” the Agile mindset became popular. 

As Scrum started to take roots, organizations started to realize that the guidance worked well for small, independent teams. When it comes to large enterprises, it is unlikely that one team can deliver value to the customer directly. There are fundamental issues around the way enterprises are structured and organized which inhibits their agility. Even if such issues are resolved, it would still take several teams to come together to create real customer value. Hence, organizations started to look for a solution on how to “scale” the agile principles and values across the enterprise. Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe was developed as a guidance for solving this problem. 

SAFe Core Values

SAFe is built on learnings from Lean Thinking in addition to agile. SAFe relies on mindset shifts on some of the fundamental aspects of an organization. The 4 core values of SAFe are: 

  1. Alignment-> Everyone in the organization needs to be aligned on the vision and mission. 
  2. Built in Quality->Quality is built into the product throughout and not “added” later. 
  3. Transparency-> There should be trust and openness in the organisation. Transparency helps in building trust. 
  4. Program Execution->Teams and “Teams of Teams” should be able to execute and deliver value continuously. 

SAFe Core Values

Image Source

SAFe Principles

 SAFe principles guide the thinking process and philosophy behind SAFe’s practices and patterns. There are a total of 10 SAFe Lean Agile Principles. They are based on the principles of the Agile Manifesto as well as learnings from Lean.  

Very often people get bogged down by practices without understanding the reason why the practice was created in the first place. As a result, they start feeling “process overhead”.  

   The 10 Lean Agile Principles of SAFe are 

  1. Take an economic view-> Create an economic framework that guides your decisions. Decisions taken without considering economics are neither helpful for the producer nor the consumer. 
  2.  Apply Systems Thinking-> Instead of optimizing local parts of a system, focus on the whole. Quite often the major issues in a large organization are the way different parts of it interact inhibiting fast turnaround times of customer value. Addressing the challenges associated with these inter connections will result in more improvements from a value perspective. 
  3.  Assume variability, preserve options-> Requirements and solution approaches, both need to be flexible in the rapidly changing world. Avoid the sense of gratification received by locking in designs and requirements.  Take a set-based approach to solution discovery as opposed to a point solution.  
  4. Build incrementally with fast integrated learning cycles -> Apply Plan Do Check Adjust cycle not just at team level but also at train and solution level. We harbour considerable risk if we do not integrate frequently across teams and solutions. 
  5. Base milestones of objective evaluation of working systems -> Status reports are not true measure of progress on our goals. They are rooted in the project management mindset of task completion. Instead, evaluate systems continuously through demonstrations(demos) and use objective feedback to understand the true progress towards our goal. 
  6. Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes and manage queue lengths -> Smaller batch sizes flow through the system faster. Smaller queue lengths ensure that you can reprioritize the backlog more frequently. Visualizing the work and making it transparent is the first step towards it. 
  7. Apply Cadence and Synchronize with cross domain planning -> At scale, individual team cadence is not sufficient as a single team rarely delivers end customer value. To ensure that the system works smoothly under developmentacross sprints and not just individual teams, synchronizing the cadence of all teams in an Agile Release Train is critical. 
  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers -> Money is not the ultimate motivator for knowledge workers. In SAFe, we try to create an environment where people have autonomy, mastery and purpose which are the key motivators for knowledge workers. 
  9. Decentralize Decision Making -> We need to decentralize most decisions. Decisions which are infrequent, are long lasting and have economies of scale should be centralized. 
  10. Organize Around Value -Organizations are built around silos. Value delivery requires us to overcome these silos and operate effectively such that we are optimized for value creation and not hand offs from one department to the other.  

With the 10 Lean Agile Principles of SAFe, we can understand that even if everyone’s problems are unique, the underlying principles of solving them are the same. 

SAFe configurations

SAFe is not a rigid framework. You do not need to implement the framework in its entirety from the very beginning. It provides guidance on how to operate as “Team of Teams” construct through its Essential SAFe configuration. This configuration provides patterns like how to organize around value through agile release trains and how to get to customer centricity through design thinking, apart from DevSecOps and the notion of Develop on Cadence while Releasing on Demand. 

The Large Solution SAFe configuration introduces the enterprise solution delivery competency, which supports those building the largest and most complex solutions that require multiple Agile release trains and suppliers, but do not require portfolio-level considerations. 

The Portfolio SAFe configuration provides the lean portfolio management competency, which aligns portfolio execution to enterprise strategy. It organizes development around the flow of value through one or more value streams.

The Full SAFe configuration includes all seven core competencies of the Lean enterprise. It is the most comprehensive version of the Framework and supports enterprises that build and maintain a portfolio of large and complex solutions. 

Enterprises typically start with Essential SAFe as their first stepping stone into SAFe and gradually implement Portfolio practices.

Key Roles in SAFe

SAFe has a “troika” of roles at every level. At the team level, the roles are the same as in Scrum – Product Owner, Scrum Master and Developers. 

At the Program level, the troika consists of the Product ManagerSystem Architect and Release Train Engineer(RTE)The Product Manager is a customer facing role and has the content authority on the program backlog while the Product Owner(Team Level) is an internal facing role and has content authority on the team backlog

The System Architect is the technical authority at the program level and helps in creating the architectural runway. They collaborate closely with the Product Manager to prioritise the program backlog.  

The Release Train Engineer is the facilitator and coach for the Agile Release Train. The Release Train Engineer is to an Agile Release Train what a Scrum Master is to a team.  

Every Agile Release Train also has a Business Owner who is the key stakeholder to the train. They are the key decision makers and their active participation is critical to the success of the train.

In the case of Large Solution Layerswe have  Solution Architect which is basically the same role as System Architect but at the level of a Solution Train. The Solution Management is a role similar to that of the Product Management but at the level of a Solution Train.  The Solution Train Engineer(STE) is to the Solution Train what an RTE is to an Agile Release Train.

At the Portfolio Level, SAFe talks about the Enterprise Architect, which is typically someone like a CTO and can provide technical leadership across value streams. The Epic Owner is someone who shepherds an Epic through Portfolio Kanban and prioritisation process. Once approved, the discovery and execution of Epic becomes the local context of Agile Release Trains through Features(Epics are decomposed into features)

Value Streams and Agile Release TrainsValue Streams and Agile Release Trains​​​​

The basic construct in SAFe is a Team of Teams which is referred to as Agile Release Train. An Agile Release Train is not just a random collection of teams. Rather, it is a self-contained “team of teams” which creates value. It is a cross functional “virtual” unit of people who may be a part of different parts of the organisation, hierarchically.

However, they come together as per SAFe Lean Agile Principle #10(Organise Around Value) in a way that they can collaborate fast in a decentralised decision-making arrangement(SAFe principle #9) to create value.  

A Value stream may consist of one or more Agile Release Trains. The recommended size of an Agile Release Train is 50-125 people. An Agile Release Train is governed by a single backlog, referred to as “Program BacklogThe Program Vision and roadmap guides the Agile Release Train. 

SAFe Trainings and Certification

SAFe has a rich gamut of trainings. It offers courses for teams, for Scrum Masters, for Product Owners, for Architects, for Portfolio Managers amongst others. Most trainings are 2 full day courses with immersive learning experiences.  

These courses are highly sought after as they offer a wonderful learning experience as well as provide participants an opportunity to earn an industry recognised certification. SAFe certifications are valid for a year and participants can renew them by paying a renewal fee.  

More details about SAFe trainings can be found here. 

SAFe’s Strengths and Weaknesses

SAFe’s strength lies in its focus on Business Agility. It focusses on orchestrating an enterprise in its entirety towards a common business goal and suggests workflows and patterns for this purpose. 

It is a well thought and researched framework that gets regularly updated as new ideas and concepts emerge in the industry. For this reason, SAFe undergoes regular version updates. The current version of SAFe is 5.1

The current version talks about seven competencies of Business Agility. These 7 competencies are the pillars which pave the way to a mindset shift which ultimately helps them achieve Business Agility. 

Some people consider SAFe as too prescriptive due to the level of details that it provides. For example, they find too many roles in SAFe. Further, some people feel that SAFe complicates the agile transformation by adding “codified bureaucracy”.  

In reality, SAFe is more “descriptive” than prescriptive. You may not need to follow it exactly but tailor parts of it as per your need. For example, most organisations start with Essential SAFe configuration as the starting point and then explore Large Solution and Portfolio constructs depending on their maturity.  

People need to understand the underlying principles and choose practices and roles accordingly, to succeed with SAFe. 

SAFe Implementation Roadmap

SAFe provides a proven set of activities and steps that must be implemented across an organisation. This includes getting leadership on board through workshops and trainings as they need to understand the concept first.  

Value Stream identification workshop is a key activity that helps in identifying the right set of steps in value creation along with the people and processes involved. Post that  classes like Leading SAFeSAFe PO/PMSAFe Scrum Master, etc are helpful to train the people about their roles and responsibilities. This culminates in the launch of an Agile Release Train. Once an Agile Release Train has been launched, the journey can be accelerated by launching more trains and by extending to the Portfolio by bringing in Lean Portfolio Management practices.

SAFe Implementation Roadmap

Image Source

Is SAFe the right framework for me?

SAFe is a great choice for you if you have at least fifty people in your organisation. It provides a mechanism for several teams to align on value creation. Fifty is suggested as a minimum number to launch an Agile Release Train

If there are less than 3-4 teams, some of the guidance that SAFe provides could be an overhead and using simple Scrum of Scrums technique might be helpful. However, the principles that SAFe espouses around Lean Portfolio Management are universal in nature and can be used irrespective of the size of the organisation. 

In addition to Agile principles, SAFe is heavily rooted in Lean Thinking which helps in reducing waste and focuses on overall Systems Thinking. These concepts can be applied irrespective of the size of the organisation.  

Conclusion 

In today’s world where enterprises need to be nimble to respond to the changing business and technology landscape, you need a framework which guides you through the journey. Expecting software development to use frameworks like Scrum alone is not sufficient. The enterprise as a whole needs to have a strong footing on agile principles and a mindset shift is required to have Business Agility. Scaled Agile Framework is one such framework which can help enterprises on their journey to Business Agility.

Prateek

Prateek Verma

Author

Prateek is an Agile and DevOps Enthusiast, Coach and Trainer. He is passionate about Continuous Value delivery and focuses on mindset shift towards agility at every level of an Enterprise including and beyond software development. Prateek has been a part of Transformation journeys at leading Fortune 100 Companies. He has consulted and coached teams and leaders on principles of business agility. A passionate speaker and blogger, Prateek has spoken at multiple conferences and has trained over a thousand people across the globe on Lean Agile Thinking and associated practices.

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In this blog we attempt to decipher this statement and understand how Scrum Masters can help make Scrum projects or implementations successful.Where to start?So, what makes Scrum so popular? That it is better suited to the changing market conditions of the present times is well known, but how is it able to do it?  Scrum is an adaptable, iterative framework that helps Scrum teams break down large projects into small chunks called epics and sprints. Goals are defined and timeboxed. Teams are small, self-organized and with a high degree of cross-function. A goal or functionality has to be delivered at the end of each sprint. 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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