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You have probably heard about the ScrumBut. It means “we are doing scrum, but..”. This is the answer you will most likely get, when the agile team or project is not delivering results. Scrum works, when you do it right, and it does not work when you have the “but’s”. Of course doing stuff right way is not enough, you also need to do the right stuff, but that’s another story.

SAFe is a framework. You can select the parts you need. Best way not to achieve benefits from SAFe, is to go for SAFeBut.

Are your valuable team members involved with everything, also outside the agile release train / value stream? If they have only small allocation to ART, then the time is spent purely on switching tasks. Nobody benefits from that.

Are all the teams working in different ways? Is the ART (Agile release train) having hiccup’s?  My first question is if you did remember to train everybody. SAFe can be quite a big change to culture, terminology and ways of working, you want all to understand SAFe the same way, and only way to achieve that is training.

The most important metrics in SAFe is the value delivered within PI. If you do not set the business value for team PI objectives, how can you measure how much value they delivered? Also, if your teams are nor creating SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound), and have hard time measuring value created during PI, it soon starts to influence the team morale.

Is 100% utilization your target? New (and old) studies tells productivity is not highest with 100% utilization. It also leaves zero time for innovation or learning.

Are your features and stories 100% ready prior to the PI-planning? What do you do in PI-planning then? Having plans clear before planning event, leaves the PI-planning no value (and still is not a good practice, as the communication and alignment happens when teams work together).

Here were some examples on how you can yourself build obstacles for your success.

But, no need to fall into despair! SAFe is merciful. You can improve relentlessly. Use the self-assessment tools SAFe provides, and find the areas to improve. Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can best help identify the “but’s”

See also this checklist to see if you can say you are doing SAFe:

If you don’t get all 10 checked, you still have some work to do to be SAFe.

To learn how SAFe is done right, take a look at our training offering:
Leading SAFe 4.5 – SAFe Agilist -sertifiointi (2.0 pv)


Raija Harle

The author has a 20 years history in the development of information systems in the IT, Telecommunication, Aviation and Banking sector. She has started as waterfall project / program manager and seen the problems with big upfront design and freezing scope early. Now she’s consulting and training agile methods, specializing in SAFe.