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Q&A with Dean Leffingwell on Leading SAFe LiveLessons

| Posted by Savita Pahuja Follow 3 Followers on Jun 20, 2015. Estimated reading time: 5 minutes |

Dean Leffingwell’s “Leading SAFe LiveLessons” - training videos are based on Lean-Agile transformation concepts at enterprise level. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) provides practices, roles, activities and artifacts for applying Lean and Agile development at enterprise scale. SAFe is defined in a big picture as:

The videos run more than eight hours, broadly cover high level overview of the Scaled Agile Framework, Lean, systems thinking, SAFe principles, Agile release train, program increments, Agile portfolio and scaling leadership.

LiveLessons consist of following eight chapters:

  • Lesson 1: Introducing the Scaled Agile Framework
  • Lesson 2: Thinking Lean and Embracing Agility
  • Lesson 3: Applying SAFe Principles
  • Lesson 4: Implementing an Agile Release Train
  • Lesson 5: Plan a Program Increment
  • Lesson 6: Execute a Program Increment
  • Lesson 7: Implementing the Agile Portfolio
  • Lesson 8: Scaling Leadership—A Learning Journey

As per LiveLessons - SAFe synchronizes alignment, collaboration, and delivery for large number of teams. It is based on immutable Lean and Agile principles. Dean explains the implementation of SAFe in organizations. In simple words implementation should start with the SAFe training to everyone followed by the launch of Agile release trains.

The LiveLessons then continues to explain SAFe Lean-Agile principles as follows:

  1. Take an economic view
  2. Apply systems thinking
  3. Assume variability; preserve alternatives
  4. Manage risk and efficacy with fast, synchronous learning cycles
  5. Develop systems incrementally; integrate and test frequently
  6. Facilitate flow by reducing batch sizes, managing queue lengths, and limiting WIP
  7. Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
  8. Synchronize with cross-domain planning and collaboration
  9. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
  10. Decentralize decision making

Lessons then talk about Agile release train and program increments. The final section of the lessons, covers the concept of SAFe leadership skills. Dean talks about how to develop people, how to motivate them and align them with mission.

Leading SAFe LiveLessons provide an in-depth exploration of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) and how to lead a Lean-Agile transformation by leveraging SAFe and its underlying principles of lean systems thinking, agile development, and product development flow.

These LiveLessons are helpful for executives, managers, consultants, leaders, program managers, and Agile change agents; anyone in an enterprise level software development environment looking to achieve the business benefits of advancing agile beyond a few teams or projects.

InfoQ interviewed Dean Leffingwell about these video lessons and discussed his viewpoints.

InfoQ: Your Leading SAFe LiveLessons are very informative and easily understandable. Please share your goal corresponding to these LiveLessons and how these lessons are helpful for the readers to implement SAFe?

Dean: We have a large and growing set of SAFe adopters in the marketplace. But SAFe is a new way of working, and it isn’t possible for an enterprise to activate a new way of working without the appropriate training in the values, principles and practices of the new way. LiveLessons provides a mean to educate those who may not have the ability to get to instructor-led training.

InfoQ: SAFe supports Lean and Agile principles at enterprise level. So are there any prerequisites for the readers to better understand the lessons?

Dean: We assume some level of competence, or at least awareness, of team level agile development, be it Scrum, XP, Kanban, or whatever.

InfoQ: Is your video tutorial based on the latest version of SAFe i.e SAFe 3.0

Dean: Yes, LiveLessons is based on SAFe3.0, which will be supported in the marketplace through calendar 2016.

InfoQ: Centralized and decentralized decision making is very well explained in your lessons. Please put some light on this for the readers and why is it important?

Dean: Two answers. Speed and empowerment. Speed: Decisions not made are decisions deferred. They increase the cost of delay. Empowerment: When a decision cannot be made locally, that means that person is not empowered to make the decisions necessary to do their job effectively. No one wants a job like that.

InfoQ. SAFe framework consists of three levels – portfolio, program and team level. Please share the main focus or key responsibilities of people at various levels.

Dean: Portfolio level personnel are responsible for managing the investment spend and governance necessary for the execution of the business strategy.

The Program level consists of Agile Release Trains—people and teams who execute the strategy by building effective solutions.

The Team level contains cross-functional Agile teams who define, develop and test all the valuable code that is necessary for the enterprise to realize its objectives.

InfoQ: Why Synchronization at various levels is important to assure delivery?

Dean: Synchronization points control product development. The faster the synchronization points, the faster the learning, and the faster the time to market. Unsynchronized development is “assumption- based development”, and many assumptions are proven wrong during system integration. Integrate early and often, at least at the two-week boundaries. Cadence based synchronization points drive the right behavior at all levels.

InfoQ. Release train is the heart of SAFe framework. Please explain cross functional agile release train.

Dean: Each Agile Release Train is a self-organizing, self-managing team-of-agile teams, dedicated to delivering enterprise level as often as possible. Each ART contains all the resources they need to define, build, test and deliver enterprise-level value. Each ART develops on cadence, but releases on demand.

InfoQ. You talked about the leadership skills in your lessons. Please tell us the role of a good leader in SAFe implementation.

Dean: In summary: Lean leaders lead, rather than follow, a Lean-Agile transformation. Such a responsibility cannot be delegated.

InfoQ: Though SAFe implementation case studies are available on SAFe website but you didn’t explain any of these in your LiveLessons. Do you have any plans to release any similar kind of video lessons on practical implementation, success stories and challenges?

Dean: Check out the case studies on SAFe website. No such immediate plans for new videos, but we are just learning this new medium of delivery, and expect to exploit it more fully over time.

InfoQ: Do you want share any message to the readers?

Dean: Lean-Agile development via SAFe works at scale, and it delivers substantial benefits in time-to market, solution quality, employee engagement and productivity. What enterprise can afford to wait for such outcomes? Start now.

About the Interviewee

Dean Leffingwell is an author, serial entrepreneur, and software development methodologist. He is the creator of the Scaled Agile Framework, and author of numerous books on software development. His most recent books Leading SAFe Live Lessons (Video book), Agile Software Requirements, and Scaling Software Agility, form much of the basis of modern thinking on Lean-Agile software development at enterprise scale. Founder of five successful startups, including Scaled Agile, Inc., Requisite, Inc., (makers of RequisitePro , later acquired by Rational Software), Mr. Leffingwell also served as Chief Methodologist to Rally Software, and prior to that, as a Sr. Vice President at Rational Software. He currently serves as Chief Methodologist and CEO at Scaled Agile, Inc., which he co-founded in 2011.

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