Tag Archives: SAFe

SAFe 4.0 Advanced Scrum Master

sasm_cover_lrg_logo_course_pg_270To prepare myself to give SAFe 4.0 Advanced Scrum Master training classes with ASM certification I used the Scaled Agile offered material (downloads, video’s and ASM examination) to prepare myself as a trainer.

This Advanced training offers, like the Scrum Master training much more than many of the Scrum Master training classes I have seen.

Of course the training will explore the Scrum Master role in the SAFe enterprise and what it really means to facilitate Program Execution. Key parts of the training are focussing on internal, external, structural or behavioural anti-patterns* associated with the Product Owner role, user stories and your environment, and how can you improve the flow in your team by using Kanban and/or XP, and what is the impact of batch or User Story sizes on the throughput of the team.

A next topic will help you to understand what it takes to build a high performing team (team and cross-team collaboration, stakeholder management, team skill set development, improvement roadmap). The training class ends with the inspect and adapt process to improve program performance by applying the problem-solving workshop.

The two-day training will help you to achieve the following learning objectives:

  • Apply SAFe principles to facilitation, enablement, and coaching in the multi-team environment
  • Build a high-performing team and foster relentless improvement at the team and program levels
  • Address Agile and Scrum anti-patterns
  • Support the adoption of engineering practices, DevOps, and Agile architecture
  • Apply Kanban and flow to optimize the team’s work
  • Facilitate program planning, execution, and delivery of end-to-end systems value
  • Support learning through participation in Communities of Practice and innovation cycles

The exam is an on-line time-bound exam with fact-based but also scenario driven questions to ask for your advice how to proceed in that specific situation.

As you can see this is definitely much more than you will find in the Scrum guide but really important if you want to play a role as Scrum Master (in a SAFe enterprise).

*An anti-patern is something that looks like a good idea but which backfires badly when applied (referencing Shane Hastie and James Coplien). See also a previous blog post: Agile anti-patern card deck

Review: Agile Software Requirements

9780321635846-480x600In the Scaled Agile (SAfe) material you can find many references to “Agile Software Requirements. Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise” by Dean Leffingwell. The book was written in 2011 and uses/describes the Agile Enterprise Big Picture: Scaled Agile Delivery Model which can be seen as the predecessor or one of the first versions of SAFe. So you can ask yourself does it still makes sense to read this book, or is it outdated?

The book is divided in four parts. In part I you get the big picture showing the organization, process, and artefact that the teams could use. You could say that the used Big Picture is outdated in comparison with SAFe 4.0, but what is written about this picture still makes sense.

In part II the focus is on the team level. What are User Stories and Spikes (both inventions of XP), and how to split them? Who are their stakeholders, how can we use personas and user experience? What does it mean to estimate and what’s the velocity? The importance of the iteration, the heartbeat of agility, the usage of a backlog and Kanban to create a cadence. The lasts chapters explain the role of the Product Owner, testing and a requirements discovery toolkit with many techniques.

Part III puts the practices and techniques that teams of teams can use to manage the requirements at the program level in the spotlights. Specific roles are explained as well as the vision, features, and the roadmap. The Agile Release Train is introduced as well as release planning, the usage of non-functional requirements, use cases and a requirements analysis toolkit.

The last part discusses the highest level with their management and the change of a traditional portfolio management towards a more agile portfolio management view. How to cope with investment themes, epics and portfolio planning and what’s the role of architecture?9780134510545-480x600

Conclusion: As a SAFe trainer it’s good to have a view how SAFe developed in the last 5-6 years. The book will not bring you new insights, it’s the starting point for SAFe. The ScaledAgile website or the SAFe Reference Guide will now give you all the details and even more, too.

To order: Agile Software Requirements


SAFe 4.0 Product Manager / Product Owner

course_cover_pmpoTo prepare myself for the SAFe 4.0 Product Manager / Product Owner training classes with  PMPO certification, I used the Scaled Agile offered material for SAFe SPC4 certified consultants (downloads, videos and PMPO examination). Fully comparable with the SAFe Scrum Master material and also here a lot of valuable material.

The two-day training will help you to achieve the following learning objectives:

  • Identify the major components of the Scaled Agile Framework
  • Connect the Scaled Agile Framework to core Lean-Agile principles and values
  • Identify key roles and responsibilities within a SAFe implementation
  • Contribute to Portfolio content using epics and the Portfolio Kanban
  • Apply Value Stream strategies to define and manage solution value
  • Engage in Product Manager strategies
  • Operate as a SAFe Product Owner
  • Develop a stakeholder engagement plan
  • Build and grow communities of practice

In this course you will:

  • Embrace the Lean-Agile mindset
  • Explore Product Manager and Product Owner roles and the differences between them
  • Explore Epic Owner role
  • Explore the Business Owner role
  • Contribute to Portfolio content
  • Define and manage solution value
  • Understand patterns for splitting work: Capabilities into Features, Features into User Stories
  • Be an effective SAFe Product Manager
  • Be an effective SAFe Product Owner
  • Develop the vision, roadmap, features and user stories
  • Estimate Features and User Stories in story points
  • Engage stakeholders (using a stakeholder map, develop a communication/engagement plan
  • Build your Communities of Practice (role- or topic-based, CoP lifecycle)

As you can see this is much more than you will find in the scrum guide but the training will definitely help you to understand the role of Product Manager or Product Owner (in a Safe enterprise).

Book review: The rollout

rolloutAlex 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.dia1

SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master

ssmTo prepare myself to give SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master training classes with SSM certification, I used the ScaledAgile offered material for SAFe SPC4 certified consultants (downloads, videos and the SSM examination) to prepare myself as a trainer.

This Scrum Master training offers much more than many of the traditional Scrum Master training classes I have seen. The ones I have seen uses the Scrum Guide as the leading material and as a consequence you get a good understanding of Scrum at team level but I have my doubt if you really get the right picture of all Scrum Master’s responsibilities.

The two-day training will help you to achieve the following learning objectives:

  • Describe Scrum in a SAFe enterprise
  • Perform the role of the Scrum Master in SAFe
  • Facilitate Iteration Planning and effective Iteration execution
  • Support effective Program Increment execution
  • Build high performing teams by becoming a servant leader and coach.

In this course you will:

  • Identify the key components of Agile development
  • Identify the key elements of Scrum
  • Explore Scrum in the context of a SAFe enterprise
  • Describe the roles and responsibilities of the Scrum Master
  • Identify the characteristics of an effective Scrum Master
  • Experience PI planning and explore how to facilitate this event
  • Experience a complete iteration
  • Explore how to facilitate iteration planning, backlog refinement, team and system demos, and the iteration retrospective
  • Identify ways to track iteration progress and foster collaboration and synchronization between the teams in the program
  • Explore improvement at the Program level with the Inspect and Adapt workshop
  • Identify the characteristics of a servant leader
  • Experience coaching with powerful questions
  • Identify ways to facilitate better meetings, foster team member collaboration, and manage conflicts.

As you can see this is definitely much more than you will find in the Scrum guide but really important if you want to play a role as Scrum Master (in a SAFe enterprise).

Book review: The Lean Machine

1001004008192950The lean machine. How Harley-Davidson drove top-line growth and profitability with revolutionary lean product development by Dantar P. Oosterwal. In SAFe you can find several references to this book. For me a reason to review this book.

The book is divided in three parts. The first part, the first chapter, explains the current state of product development and shows how many organizations have structured their product development. The second part, the chapters two through seven, gives insights how Harley-Davidson’s learning environment looks like. The last part, chapters eight through sixteen focusses on the learning and discovery journey in the application of lean principles, which resulted in knowledge-based product development which helps to increase new product throughput, to reduce time to market and to improve quality.

In the first chapter we get insights in a traditional command and control product development organization using very detailed standards for product development, controlled by stage gates and where problems only show up at the end of the development cycle during testing.

In the second part we focus on Harley-Davidson’s learning environment.

Chapter two describes the history of Harley-Davidson and how Harley-Davidson made a transformation towards lean manufacturing. As a result, the organization was divided into three business areas (circles) focussing on manufacturing customers, manufacturing products, and providing the required support. At the intersection of these three circles was the Leadership and Strategy Council. This circle organization structure requires trust and unpredicted levels of collaboration, a lot of coaching and investments in personnel. The traditional command-and-control was transformed in a consensus-driven organization with decision taking by individuals, shared or group and mechanisms for managing conflicts.

To complement this circle organization a formal business process was created to empower the entire organization and fully harness the energy of the workforce. This business process is anchored with three overarching “umbrella” constants: values, issues and stakeholders. The process can be visualised with the following flow: Constants – Vision – Mission and Operating Philosophies – Objectives – Strategies – Work Unit Plans – Work Group Goals.

Chapters three and four put the Product Development Leadership Learning Team (PDL2T) central. This team embraces Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline to build and maintain a learning organization (Systems thinking, Personal mastery, Mental models, Building shared vision and Collective team learning).

We get insights in the set-up of the meeting room and agenda, a code-of-conduct to enable dialogue and establishing learning conversations so the attendees will balance between advocacy and inquiry and know where they are on the ladder of inference in conversation. Based on the conversations we see the creation of a system model example.

Chapter five is all about firefighting and the tipping point. The tipping point refers to that point at which a minor change ‘tips’ the system into a new and irreversible condition. Think about a delay in one of the projects or a new project that will put the whole portfolio at risk. To solve (firefight) the problem we will use some of the resources of another project resulting in an issue for that project too and before you know you are only firefighting issues in many projects in your portfolio without delivering as was promised. Consequences of this are analysed by using a system model the PDL2T created. Based on analysis of the system model and the data two critical elements were identified. cadence and flow are necessary to establish effective and efficient multi-project product development.

Chapter 6 goes into the details of having a cadence and flow. Many organizations use a phase and gate development model. Will this bring execution certainty? Probably not, it will maintain financial control, brings discipline but on the other hand it will throttle development and flow and instil bureaucracy. Having a cadence, the rhythm and the heartbeat that drives effective product development, to pace the work is much more beneficiary to deliver more or with other words to increase the flow of delivered products (or projects). Within Harley Davidson this cadence and flow was translated in standardized pieces of work called bins representing small, medium and large projects. For every bin the scope, schedule and resources was clear. This resulted in a standard portfolio were the sequence of large, small and medium size projects was clear as well as what could be managed in parallel. In the portfolio it became clear for everybody how much could be delivered (flow) and when (cadence).

Chapter 7 goes into supply and demand. Based on data analysis it became clear that improvement of throughput of new products will result in increased customer demand.

Part III: knowledge-based product development

Chapter 8 looks into possibilities to apply lean principles in product development. Is it possible to use lean principles to create cadence and flow? You get an explanation how the Wright brothers took a systems approach to their study of flight focussing first on solving the three primary obstacles preventing successful flight (wings, power and craft dynamics).

Chapter 9 gives you a first understanding of the product development learning curve. Chapter 6 already gave some cons of a phased or stage gate development process. Here you will get some more insights. Every phase builds on the previous one and each phase has specific criteria that need to be met to continue with the next phase. This life cycle is A linear ‘design and validate’ process which promotes ‘point-based’ solutions. Key is the phenomenon that is termed “false positive feasibility”. Based on this we pass tollgates and use redesign loops to fix design problems during testing with delays as a result. See the animation.

In chapter 10 we get an explanation of product development design loops. Every design loop ends/starts with an integration point. At those integration points you control product development. And chapter 11 emphasized on learning cycles. A traditional phase gate methodology promotes progression of product development linearly through stages of development. These decision gates are intended to control risk by stopping the flow of work. As a result, this methodology encourages a linear, point-based development mind-set. Only in the last phase we have the possibility to learn and find out whether the design is truly feasible. This point-based mind-set results in false positive feasibility. Examples of learning cycles are Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) or Look Ask Model Dialogue Act (LAMDA). In linear point-based development, the learning cycles occur as unplanned rework loops to fix the problems. To avoid this, we have to follow a set-based product development.

Chapter 12 gives more insights in set-based development by explaining the usage of the limit curve. Set-based design doesn’t mean that you have to develop in parallel several options but in your design you work with bandwidths (see the limit curve) and use the data to turn it into visible knowledge. Based on this knowledge you will reduce your options to move forward in the right direction. Combining set-based development with cadence and flow through experimental learning cycles results in a knowledge-based development system.

In chapter 13 the leadership learning and pull events are highlighted. The objective of a pull event is to focus the development organization on a tangible event to force completion of a learning cycle to physically demonstrate it.

Chapter 14 gives some best practices to quickening product development. We get an explanation of combat planning. Combat planning is suited to turbulent and ever-changing conditions and relies on sound aggregate objectives where alternatives are developed by individuals in order to ensure achieving shared goals. We get insights in the usage of help chains and visual management as well as After Action Reviews (AARs) as learning tools.

In chapter 15 Oobea stands in the spotlights. The Oobea process and room is explained. This Oobea is all about collaboration and sharing. Oobea is the Japanese word for “big, open office”.

The last chapter shows that Harley Davidson made an enormous step forward by developing and using this knowledge-based product development cycle.


After reading this book I can now see why there are several references to this book in SAFe. Also the usage of set-based development is now much clearer to me as well as the negative side of stage gate development cycles and the “false positive feasibility”. A must read when you want to apply lean in product development!

For more information, see: www.theleanmachine.org