Someone who claims expertise in and loves to play the agile game of thrones recently posted an article on Forbes.com about the Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises (SAFe). Of particular interest the author took the time to denigrate the SAFe by knocking it for not having a focus on the customer. In fact, the author, Denning, specifically states that he is worried because, “the customer is almost absent.” Denning even went through the effort to point out that the SAFe “only” has the customer represented by this little icon in the Large Solution space.
I even had some SAFe competitors, Scrum Alliance loyalists, and others focused purely on their dogma use this picture to assault ideas about the SAFe’s attention to customers.
Then I remembered the competition thing. And I thought, hey I will go and look at the top contenders in the scaling agile world’s “big pictures” and see what they have to say about customers.
It turns out, not much. Err. Nothing, actually.
As you can see in the pictures below the top competitors to the SAFe do not recognize the customer at all in their overview pictures. Isn’t that interesting! Queue hate speech comments now.
The fact is that all the frameworks discuss and pay attention to customers. But only one puts the customer on their big picture.
Keep an eye out for an article in the future how great SAFe Program Consultant coaches know how to use the SAFe to descale an organization into small, focused Agile Release Trains and teams bent on the shortest sustainable lead time to build and transport value to the customer. Picking on the name of a framework to denigrate it is petty and foolish. Really, the mark of a bully.
The challenge is usually presented as one of “scaling up agile.” The issue here is that if the firm is thinking about ” scaling up agile”, it is already on the wrong track. The challenge of genuine Agile is how to descale big monolithic, internally-focused systems into tasks that can be run by small self-managing customer-focused teams.– Steve Denning, Forbes
A particularly worrying variant is the Scaled Agile Framework or SAFe. Essentially this is codified bureaucracy, in which the customer is almost totally absent. It is now pervasive in large firms because it gives the management a mandate to call themselves agile and keep doing what they have always done. Essentially it subordinates the agile teams to the bureaucracy, rather than doing what is necessary to achieve business agility, namely, namely, transform the big monolithic internally-focused systems into arrangements where the budgets, HR, Finance and so on are flexible and externally focused in support the Agile teams in operations. The insignificant role of the customer in the chart above is indicative of the problem.