Alex Yakyma wrote a great book “The Rollout: A Novel about Leadership and Building a Lean-Agile Enterprise with SAFe”. It’s a business novel in the style of The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt or The Phoenix Project by Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, and George Spafford.
This book gives you a good understanding what it means to implement SAFe in an organization. It’s a fictional story but on the other hand it is based on a broad range of real-life implementations and the pitfalls you can make or have to overcome.
In this novel we will follow Ethan, the newly appointed Transformation Team Leader at VeraComm System, a large product development organization. He is facing an organization who can’t deliver anymore what they are promising. They are rapidly losing market share due to increasing complexity of their communications solutions, they are over promising and underperforming. The organization has implemented half-baked agile methods at the team level but failed to scale up to the program and portfolio level.
Ethan desperately searches for a solution to help his organization find a way out. At a conference he attends a session by Adi, a SAFe consultant explaining what it means to really build large systems. Ethan was very impressed by the presentation and thought that this approach could be the solution to the problems he was facing.
In the story we see Nathan implementing SAFe. He wants to start as soon as possible with the implementation of a release train and here we see why, in SAFe, we say that management must be in the lead in the rollout. Reading the novel, we understand what it means if we think we can do without this involvement. It’s the company’s culture and the mindset which are the key to success or disaster.
With help of Adi, Ethan is capable to implement the first release train. We see what it costs to prepare and run a Program Increment Planning event and the value of real alignment between the teams. We follow him with his struggle to make this a success and we see what problems he is facing with the first program iteration and what the success is of real integration and management commitment.
To survive, the organization wants to copy the success of the first Agile Release Train, but they understand at a certain moment that this is not that simple. After a lot of brainstorming the concept of value streams and their ARTs becomes clear. Problem solved?
Not really. The new trains are not delivering. They are overloaded. What is lacking is the mechanisms of epics, their owners and a portfolio Kanban system including WIP limits for each process step. The story ends when Ethan presents his own SAFe success story during a conference.
Conclusion. A great book for senior management to understand the concept of SAFe. A little jigsaw piece, a give-away, in your road to convince senior management to lead the change towards enterprise agility.