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Easy Agile Podcast Ep.22 The Scaled Agile Framework: Challenges and Opportunities

08, Aug 2022
Jasmin Iordanidis
Written by Jasmin Iordanidis, Product Marketing Manager

Jasmin Iordanidis

"Rebecca is an absolute gold mine of knowledge when it comes to SAFe, can't wait to continue the conversation at SAFe Summit 2022!"" - Tenille Hoppo

In this episode, Rebecca and Jasmin are talking:

๐Ÿ“Œ The value of the Scaled Agile Framework, who itโ€™s for & who would benefit

๐Ÿ“Œ The Importance of having a common language for organizations to scale effectively

๐Ÿ“Œ When to connect the Scaled Agile Framework with your agile transformation

๐Ÿ“Œ Is there ever really an end state?

+ more!

๐Ÿ“ฒ Subscribe/Listen on your favourite podcasting app.

Thanks, Jasmin and Rebecca!

Transcript

Jasmin Iordandis:

Hello, and welcome to the Easy Agile podcast, where today we're chatting all things Scaled Agile with Rebecca Davis, SAFe Fellow, SPCT, principle consultant and member of the SAFe framework team. Rebecca is passionate about teamwork, integrity, communication, and dedication to quality. And she's coached organizations on building competitive market-changing products at scale while also bringing joy to the work, for what is work without joy. Today, we've chatted all things Scaled Agile implementations, challenges, opportunities, and also the idea around optimizing flow, which Rebecca is hosting a workshop at the SAFe Summit in Denver in August this year. Hope you enjoy the podcast.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Easy Agile podcast. I'm your host Jasmin Lordandis, product marketing manager here at Easy Agile. And today, we are delighted to welcome Rebecca Davis from the Scaled Agile framework. Welcome, Rebecca, and thanks for joining us.

Rebecca Davis:

Thanks. I appreciate being here. I'm excited.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Me too, especially because we are counting down the days before we get to meet you face to face, in person, at the SAFe Summit over in Denver, Colorado. And before we kick off our conversation, I just want to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land from which we broadcast our podcast today. The people of the Djadjawurrung speaking country. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging, and extend that same respect to all Aboriginal Torres Strait Islanders and First Nations' people joining us today. So before we kick off, Rebecca, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role within Scaled Agile?

Rebecca Davis:

Sure. I'm actually relatively new to working for Scaled Agile. So I've been there a little over 90 days now, and I'm a member of the framework team, which means I help actually create the Scaled Agile framework and future versions of it. Prior to that, I led LACE at a company called CVS Health, and I've worked at a bunch of different kind of healthcare organizations across my years implementing or organizing agile transformation and digital transformation. And I think one of the reasons that Scaled Agile was interested in me joining the team is just a lot of different experiences across business agility as a whole outside of technology, in addition to within technology. So marketing transformations and HR transformations, legal transformations. But I love being at Scaled Agile and being part of the framework team. It's really exciting to help more organizations, and just the one I'm at, really understand how to bring joy to their workplace and bring value out to the world.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah, cool. And you've given a little bit of information there around why Scaled Agile was interested in you. What attracted you to Scaled Agile, and did you use the Scaled Agile framework in these previous roles that you've just described?

Rebecca Davis:


Yeah. Those are great questions. I think I'm going to try to answer both of them together. But the reason I have always been drawn to the Scaled Agile framework is I ran a few different organizations, both as owning my own company and then also working in startups and working with larger organizations, where I knew that agility was important. But I was struggling as a change leader to find a way to really bring connectedness across large amounts of people. And to me, that's what Scaled Agile does for us, is after a certain size, it's a lot easier to create this common language and this common way to move forward and produce value with the framework. I also really enjoy it because there's a lot of thought that's already kind of done for you.

Rebecca Davis:

So if you're in an organization and you're trying to create change or change leadership, I'd much rather be leading the conversations and my context and making sure that I have a pulse on my particular cultural environment and pull from all these pieces, from the framework, where the thought's already been done about what are the right words and what do we do next, and what's the next step. So I've just found it an invaluable toolkit as a change leader.

Rebecca Davis:

I joined the framework team for a few reasons. One, I'd led so much change in so many different areas that, it's not that I wasn't challenged anymore, but I was really looking for something larger and different, and I've always had a belief that I really want to be the change that I want to see in the world. And I think being part of the framework team gives me access to things like this and all over the world to really help connect the humanness of people alongside with all the great techniques that we've learned, and hopefully expand it and just create a better place to be in.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. Cool. And you kind of touched on that in your response, but if we had to say, who is the Scaled Agile framework for and who would it most benefit, what would you say to that?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. I guess my opinion on that is I believe the Scaled Agile framework is for people who believe that their organizations have it in them to be better, both internally inside of themselves, as well as have this gigantic potential to go help the customers they serve and may be struggling right now, to really realize that potential. So I don't really see the framework as it's for a specific role necessarily. I think it's for people who believe in betterness. And those people, I found, live across an organization and across multiple different roles, and the framework just really helps you align that.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. And I think one thing that's evident from SAFe, once you learn how all the different practices and ceremonies work together, is exactly as you've said around connectiveness. And you also touched on having a common language. How important is that, when we're talking really large organizations with multiple different functions who, let's be honest, it's quite common for different functions to fall into different silos and things to break down. So how important is that connectivity and that common language, so that an organization as a whole can scale together?


Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. I don't even know how to state the amount of importance that is. I guess, specifically the organization I just came from, had over 400,000 people that worked there. And the last thing I want to is to debate what the word feature means, because that doesn't actually end up within a conversation where we have an understanding of why we want to feature or why we want this particular outcome, or how this outcome relates to this other outcome, if we're spending so much time just choosing word choice and having a conversation instead about what does the word even mean.

Rebecca Davis:

So I like it mostly because it gives us all this common framework to debate, and we need to be able to do that in really transparent and open ways across all of our different layers. So I don't even know how to quantify how much value it brings just to have this ability to bring stability, and the same language across the board, same word choice, same meaning behind those word choice, so that we can have all those debates that we need to have about what's the best possible thing we could be doing, since everything that we can do is valuable, but some things we have to decide are more valuable than others.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. And I think that really talks to what you were saying about helping an organization to reach its potential. It sounds like getting bogged down in what you call things or how you discuss things. And to be able to align on a common meaning in the end, you kind of need that common structure or that common language. And you're only going to get in your own way if you don't have it. So it makes total sense that the framework could really enable organizations on that journey. And in your experience, because it's implied in the name, it's about scaling agile. And I guess when we think of the Scaled Agile framework, we think of all those organizations of such a large size as the one you just mentioned, 400,000 employees. In your experience, what's a good time to introduce the Scaled Agile framework? Does it need to be right from the beginning? Does it need to be those organizations that are 400,000 people strong? Where is the right time to intersect the framework with an agile transformation?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. I think that's a really fascinating question, and my answer has changed over the years. I originally started researching Scaled Agile, because it was my first big transformation alongside of a large organization, and I knew there had to be some solutions out there to the problems I was seeing, and I discovered SAFe. But thinking back, I started my own startup company right out of high school actually. And I really wish that I would've had something to pull from, that gave me information about lean business cases, and speaking with my customer and getting tests and getting feedback. So I feel like the principles and the practices and the values are something that could be used at any size.

Rebecca Davis:

I think the part about scaling, the part about deciding like, "Hey, I'm going to do PI planning," I don't personally feel like you need to do PI planning if you have four people at your organization, because the point is to get teams across different groups to talk. You should definitely plan things 100%. So I think part of the idea is like, "When do I implement a train," or, "When do I have a solution train," or, "When do I officially call something LPM," versus just having discussions because my company is so small that we can all have discussions about things. I think those are a different part of implementing the Scaled Agile framework than just living and believing in the principles and the values and the mindset from whatever size or get-go you're at. Does that make sense at all?

Jasmin Iordandis:

That does make sense. And I guess then the question becomes, where do you begin and what would the first step be in implementing SAFe? And taking from your own experience, where do you start with this framework?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. I love that you asked that, as I've honestly seen this happen to me as well as some other change agents, where Scaled Agile gives us this thing called the implementation roadmap, and it has all the steps that you can start with. And it's proven, and companies use it and it works. And what I've found in my own change leadership is when I skip a step or I don't follow that because I get pressure to launch a train, instead of starting with getting my leaders at the right tipping point or having that executive buy in, it causes me so much pain downstream.

Rebecca Davis:

So if I were to give advice to somebody, it's, "Look, pull that map down the implementation roadmap from the SAFe site and follow it. And keep following it. And if you find that you..." I think that, back when I look back and do my own retrospective, the moments where I've decided to launch a train without training my people or launch or start doing more product management practices without actually training my people, it causes me a world to hurt later on with coaching and with communication, with feedback. So it's there for that reason. Just follow it. It's proven.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. And that's really good advice. And I think when people look at the roadmap for SAFe, there's a lot on there. But when we are talking agile transformations, necessarily there is going to be a lot that could get you there. So it kind of makes sense when all the thinking is been done for you and all those steps have been done. Just trust the process, I guess, is the message there, and following through on all of that. And I think it's really interesting, because the first step with SAFe is, as you say, getting your leaders on board. And often, we might be attracted to doing the work better. So let's start with those ceremonies. Let's start with all those things that make the day to day work better. How important it starting with the leaders of an organization?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. I've run the grassroots SAFe implementations where you start with the bottom and then you kind of move up. And personally, and this is a personal opinion, I'd much rather take the time and the efforts to get the communication right with the leaders and get the full leadership buy-in than be in that place again, where I'm trying to grassroot to move up and I hit the ceiling. The one thing I used to kind of tell the coaches that reported to me, and something I believe in deeply, is what we're trying to do with transformation is a journey. It's not a destination. So because we want to start that journey healthy and with a full pack of food and all those things, we need to take the time to really go and be bold and have conversations with our leaders, get their buy-in to go to Leading SAFe.


Rebecca Davis:

If they're not bought in to coming to a two-day course, then why would we believe that they're going to come to PI plannings and speak the way that we hope they will and create the change that they need to really lead? So I think that's one of the most important things, if not the most important thing from the very beginning, is be bold as that first change leader in your organization, go make those connections.

Rebecca Davis:

It may take a while. I've been in implementations or transformations where it started with just me discovering issues that senior leaders or executives were having, and going and solving some of those, so that there was trust built that I was a problem solver. So I could ask for the one hour executive workshop, which really should be a four to six-hour executive workshop, to get to the point where I could do the four to six-hour executive workshop, to get to the point where I could do PI Leading SAFe. And if that's what it takes to gain you that street cred to go do it, then, man, go do it, because that's where you get full business agility, I think, is getting that really senior buy-in and getting that excitement.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. That's really interesting. And I think building that level of understanding and building that foundation, we can't go past that. And I guess on that as well, from your experience, you've kind of hinted at one there, but what have been some of the challenges that you've experienced in implementing SAFe or even just in agile transformations more broadly, and as well as some of those opportunities that the framework has helped to unlock? So let's start with the challenges. What's some of the hard things you've experienced about an agile transformation and even implementing the framework?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah, I'll give some real examples, and this first thing is going to sound a little wishy washy, but I also believe it, is the biggest challenge to transformation is you. So what I've discovered over the years, is I needed to step up. I needed to change. I think it's really easy to be in an organization and say, "My leaders don't get it," or, "Some won't understand," or, "It's been this way and I can't change it." And I think that the first thing you have to decide is that that's not actually acceptable to you as a person. And so you as a person are going to go fight. Not you're going to go try to convince somebody else to fight, but you are going to go fight. So I think that personal accountability is probably the biggest challenge to wake up every single day and say, "I'm going to get back in there."

Rebecca Davis:

I think from an example point of view, I've definitely seen huge challenges when the executive team shifts. So when we've got a set of leaders that we did the tipping point, we've gone through Leading SAFe, we've launched our trains. And then the organization, because every organization is going through a lot of change right now, and people are finding new roles and retiring and all that, there's a whole new set of executive leaders. And I think one of the things to discover there is there are going to be moments where it sucks, but you have to go and restart that implementation roadmap again, and reach that tipping point again, because there are new leaders. And that's hard. It really is, and it drains you a little bit, but you've just got to do it.

Rebecca Davis:


I think other challenges I've run into is there's a point after you've launched the trains and after you have been running for a while, where if you don't pay attention, people will stop learning, because you're not actively saying like, "Here's the next thing to learn. Here's the next new thing to try." So I do think it's the responsibility of a change leader, no matter if you're a LACE leader or not, to pay attention to maintaining excitement, pay attention to the continuous learning culture and really motivate people to get excited about learning and trialing and trying.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. That's an interesting point. How have you done that?

Rebecca Davis:

Hmm. So I think a few things. One, I had big lessons learned that there's a point inside of a transformation where, as an SPBC or as a change leader, that transformation is not yours anymore. So I had kind of a painful realization at one point that I had in my head the best next thing for the organization, and I was losing pulse of the people who are actually doing the work. So I think what I've discovered after that is, to me, there's a point where your LACE members and your change leaders and your SPCs need to start coming from a lot more areas. And honestly start to be made up of people who are not, at the moment, excited about the SAFe implementation, so you can hear from the pulse of the people.

Rebecca Davis:

And then I think if you can get those people and invite in and say like, "I'm inviting you to share it with me what's frustrating, what's good, what's bad, what's great, as well as I'm inviting you to tell me all the things that you're discovering out there in webcasts or videos that seem you'd like to try them, but we're not trying yet, and start giving back the ability to try new things and try things that you feel are probably going to be anti-patterns, but they need to try them anyway." So kind of a scrum master would do with a team of like, "Yeah, go try and then we'll retrospect." I think you have to do that at scale and let people get excited about owning their own transformation.

Jasmin Iordandis:

And what's the balance there between implementing the framework and taking all the good stuff that the framework says is good to do, and then letting people experiment and try those things, as you say, that may be anti-patents? Where's that sweet spot to allow that autonomy and that flexibility and that experimentation with still maintaining the integrity of the framework?

Rebecca Davis:

So I think the interesting thing is they are not actually different. So in the framework, we say hypothesis first, test first. So what I found is a layered kind of brain path where there're the steps in the framework and make sure we have teams and balance trains and all the principles and the values, and if you can live those principles and values all the time, while you're testing new things. So you test first like, "Hey, I want to try having my train off cadence from the other trains. I think it would be helpful for us." "Cool. Test that." And what we have to test it against is are we still living our principles? Are we still applying our values? Are we still applying the core fundamentals of agility and lean throughout that test and also as proof points?


Rebecca Davis:

So do we have an outcome where," Hey, I just made my train into a silo," or do we have an outcome where, "Well, now we have two different PI plannings within the overall PI cadence that one of them we merge with all the other trains and the other one is shorter because our market cadence is faster." Well, that's a beautiful win. So I think the key is it's not different, but one of the test points is make sure to check in on those principles and values.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. Have you ever seen that work well? The example that you just provided with the PI cadence, that makes complete sense, and it doesn't seem like it's going against the grain with anything that SAFe is there to help you achieve.

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah, I think that. This was kind of a little bit of what my summit talk was on last year, is during COVID, there were some trains. We had, I don't know, 30 trains. Two of them were having daily new requirements emerging from all the different states across the United States and emerging from the government and emerging from everything. Those trains were making sure everybody could get vaccinated across the United States. That's really darn important. And they needed to re-plan sometimes daily. It just didn't make sense to say, "Now we're just going to stop and go into PI planning for three days," when there wasn't any way that they could even think about what the next day's requirements could be. Since then, they still have a faster market rhythm. Then there are other trains that are working on, have a set unknown. There are trains that know that these holidays are when we need to release something or end of year is when we need to make sure that we've got something ready.

Rebecca Davis:

COVID is still in a reactive state. So what they've emerged into this year is those trains are still doing PI planning from my knowledge, I'm not there anymore, but from my knowledge. But they do eight a year instead of four a year. And four a year are on the same cadence and the other four are not, and it meets both needs. So I do think that key is test, and don't test just for the sake of it just because something feels dry or you get a new leader, and they haven't gone through Leading SAFe, but test because something actually doesn't feel right about, "We're not meeting our principles or values right now. We think that we could meet them better in this way. We think we could accelerate the flow of value in this way. Let's try it."

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah, cool. And on that, what are some of the red flags that you've seen in practice where those values aren't being met to be able to say, "Hang on a sec. This isn't working. We need to switch course"?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. Some of the things I've seen are the whole fun around when people are prioritizing their hierarchy or their piece of the organization over the enterprise value. So I've definitely seen people come to me and say, "Hey, I'd like to do his test." And when I ask the reasons why, a lot of the reasons are like a thinly veiled, "Because I would like more control."


Rebecca Davis:

So I think back to the values piece is that, "Okay, what's your why? Let's start with why. Why would you like to try something? What does that trial outcome achieve?" And, A, if it's really hard to articulate, probably there might be a bad thing going on, or if it is articulated and it actually goes against agility or lean practice and or diminishes flow or creates a silo, that's an initial gut. I think throughout testing, it's important to, the same way that we would do with iterations, have check-ins and demos, not just of what's the product being produced, but what is the change producing? So figuring out what those leading indicators would be and treat it the same way as we would treat a feature hypothesis or an epic hypothesis. We have some outcome we believe we could achieve. We're 100% open to being proven wrong. These are the things that we want to see as leading indicators as success and be really open with each other.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah, cool. And it sounds like what's key to that though is having some concept of what that intended outcome is as a result of that experiment. It's not just going in for, as you say, the sake of doing an experiment. You want to have an idea of where you want to end up, so you can see if we're actually getting there or not.

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah.

Jasmin Iordandis:

That's really fascinating. And I think experimentation and iterative improvement, it kind of goes together. It's not just blindly following something because that's what you are supposed to do. It's preserving the values. That's a really interesting concept. And I think in that, would also come enormous opportunity. So in your experience as well, going back to the times where you've brought SAFe to an organization, or you've been going through an agile transformation, what are some of those opportunities that you've seen the framework unlock for enterprises or organizations that you've been leading those transformations within?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. I always was drawn to this idea of true value flow and business agility. So for me, what Scaled Agile helped unlock in a few of my organizations is, I always targeted that, like I'm not trying to make my thing better, I'm trying to make everything better. And with that mindset, really pushing for anybody should be able to take a class. Anybody should be able to take any of the classes. And these days, the enterprise subscription helps with that a lot. When I first started, we didn't have that. So it was also like anybody can take a class, and there should be creative ways of getting it paid for it.

Rebecca Davis:

But through that kind of invite model of really anybody, I had a nurse come take one of my SAFer teams classes, just because she was curious and she saw something about it on my blog, which ended up with her being more excited and getting to do agile team coaching for a set of nurses who were highly frustrated because their work on an individual basis was ebbing and flowing so much, and they felt like they weren't giving good patient care to coaching them on Kanban and having them all get really excited because they got to nurse as a team and whoever was available took the next patient case, and the patients were happier, and just being able to invite in and then say yes to coaching all of these roles that are so meaningful and they're so excited and they're something different.

Rebecca Davis:

And that same model ended up going from nothing to having a marketing person randomly take one of my Leading SAFe classes, which then turned into them talking to the VPs of marketing, which then turned into an 800-person marketing implementation. So I think the key is be open and spend time with the curious. And it doesn't matter if they're in your org. It's not like that's what I was paid to do, it's just really fun. So why not? If somebody wants to talk to you about agile, talk to them about agile. It's really cool.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah, cool. And I think what I love about that is often agile may be associated just as software development teams. But as someone who's in marketing myself, I love the benefit and the way of thinking that it can provide to very traditional challenges, but the way that it can unlock those challenges in ways that not have not been approached before. And I think that there's something to be said in that too, around what you were saying earlier around maintaining excitement. And I feel like this question's already been answered, because often it's discussed, "Okay, we are scaling agile, we're going through a transformation." And it implies that there's this end state where it's done. It's transformed or we've scaled agile, but it doesn't sound like that's the case at all.

Rebecca Davis:

No, I don't think at all. I think mostly the opposite of... If you look at even yourself as a human, your whole life, you're transforming in different ways. Everything's impacting you. The environment's impacting you, whatever happens in your life is just this whole backpack that you carry around and you're transforming all the time. And the exact same thing, I think, for an organization and company. Today's age is nuts. There're updates all the time, there's new technology all the time. You and I are doing a talk from completely different countries, and there's change literally everywhere.

Rebecca Davis:

So yeah, I think part of transformation is helping your organization feel comfortable or as comfortable as possible with the rate of change happening and all the people within it, and not see change as a bad word, but as a positive thing where we can make betterness out there. And it's forever. It's a journey. It's not done. I really like Simon Sinek when he talks about that infinite game. I just feel really close to that of, we're not in it to win this moment or this year, we're in it to make a better future for ourselves and our children, and that's going to take forever. The people are in it right now and they've got to be excited about that.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. And I think that's that balance of delayed gratification, but constant improvement. So you'll feel and experience the improvement along the way. It's not like it'll be way out in the future where you won't feel the benefit of what you're doing, but it's something that's going to be built up and happen over time.


Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. And I think you reminded me just from saying that. I did that marketing transformation, and I just deeply remember a call with one of the marketing VPs who, after four or five iterations, I did a check in with her. And she's like, "My team is so happy. Is this because of agile? Is this what agile is, is happy with [inaudible 00:32:17]?" "Yes."

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah, joy at work, right?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Isn't that what it's all about? That is so cool. And yet the goal initially is never to go out and make people happy. It's just one of those bonus kind of side effects, a happy side effect.

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Awesome. And I think I really want to talk about this idea, because you've mentioned it a couple times, you've even just mentioned then marketing, nursing. But then when you're in these larger organizations, you've got all these different functions. And I think it raises this idea around organizing around value. So I want to make sure we talk a bit about that, because value doesn't just happen from one function, or it's not delivered from just one function or one team. It's something that many people across an organization may have a hand in delivering. But I really want to get your take around this concept of organizing around value. What does that mean and what does that look like?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. I think there's a base concept that is also in that implementation roadmap around what happens first. So how do we first organize around value, because organizations tend to be organized around hierarchy. I am a VP of marketing and I have marketing all the way down. And so there's that first step of identifying what the value is that you produce as an organization. So being able to articulate it to begin with, which is not always an easy conversation. Sometimes it takes a bit of time, and then organizing all the different types of roles around what that value is. So I think that's your first thing in what most organizations implementing scaled agile start with, is just identifying it, forming around it, which ends up being what your trains end up being.

Rebecca Davis:

My experience is, because of that same rapid market change, the world changing so far, it's really important to re-evaluate how you've organized around value over time. So in my experience, one of the really healthy things that we used to do is, at the end of each year, give a chance to look at the different train structures and look at how we've organized and say, "Is this still right? And what's our strategy for next year? Where are we trying to head for our consumers and our users? And is there a different way to organize, that helps us with that?" And I say give a chance because in some years, we'd be like, "No. 80% of our portfolio is actually good to go. Things are flowing. We're doing okay." 20% of it has an entirely new strategic shift that's going to hit them, or, "Last year felt not good. We had too many dependencies. We didn't have the right people on the right trains," all those things.

Rebecca Davis:

And so at least take a pause and look at it, and see if our value still mean the same thing as it did a year ago or two years ago. Do we need to reorganize? What does that mean? What does the change leadership around it if we do need to, so that we're always focused on value, and it's not a definition that we gave ourselves five years ago and just stopped realizing that the world has changed.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. A living definition because it changes depending on what's going on in the world, but also what's going on within the organization and coming back to that idea of experimenting as well, like if you've tried out a new way of working, and that's gotten in the way. But even something that you said there really stood out is, "Okay, it didn't feel good. We might have had too many dependencies." And that brings up the idea of, "Well, how does that flow of value happen?" Oh, that sounds like there's a stifle to the delivery of value. So how do you optimize that flow particularly when there may be multiple people delivering that value?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. And I think Scaled Agile gives us some tools for that. So I think one of them is that first session I talked about, value stream and down vacation, so that you can really do a process for talking and discussing with the right blend of people. What is the value and how can we organize around that? I think past that point, there's another tool that I see used far less than I would think it would be, which is value stream mapping. So after we've identified it, now can we actually map what's happening? From concept to cash, which teams are doing pass offs? How long does it take to get an answer on an email? How long is it taking from testing to all the way to release?

Rebecca Davis:

So doing a lot of intentional measurement. Not measurement because we're judging people, but intentional measurement of, we organize this way, this is where all the pieces are connecting, and how long things are taking, as well as how people feel inside of their steps, like does it feel silo? Does it have an outcome? Did we put all of the designers and HR people and engineers on a train, but we made them separate teams, and so it still doesn't feel connected? That's what mapping's for. And those maps and also the program boards that actually visualize like, "Here's the dependencies," versus, "At the end of the PI, this is what those dependencies actually ended up being."

Rebecca Davis:

It's not that dependencies are bad, but they should be adding value, not restricting flow. So I think those connected stories as well as things like employee survey scores and just employee happiness are really good inputs, to, are we delivering flow. And it is a blended view. Some of it's qualitative and some of it's quantitative. But are our own internal things showing us good, bad and different, as well as how are our customers. So do they feel like they're receiving value or that they're receiving bits and pieces and they're unsure about the connected value? I think all of those are indicators.


Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. And would you say you'd need to have an idea of what those indicators are beforehand, so you can keep an eye on them as the PI progresses? So for example, you've done your value stream mapping, you've built your art. At that point, do you identify what those measurements of flow ought to be and keep an eye on them, or is it more retrospectively where you see these kind of things getting a little bit stuck?

Rebecca Davis:

I think there's both. So definitely those metrics that we indicate inside of the framework are healthy, good for teams and trains and solution trains and portfolio. So I think there is a set of metrics that you should and can utilize. Retrospectives are key, because retrospectives create action. So while we measure, then what's the conversation we have about them? Because what we don't want is vanity metrics. And my personal way of defining vanity metrics is any metric that you do nothing with.

Rebecca Davis:

So I think a key is use them to hold conversations and create outcomes, and create actions and make sure that you're prioritizing those actions. I think there's another piece of just understanding that this is not just about team and train. So teams and trains definitely do need to improve and measure themselves, but so does the portfolio, so does the enterprise, so do the pieces that connect to each other across different trains. So I do think if you over focus on, "Let's just make our teams go faster," you may be missing the whole point of how do we make our organization flow better, which may or may not equate to moving faster right away.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. Yeah. And team and train don't exist in a vacuuming within that organization like whole bunch of-

Rebecca Davis:

No, [inaudible 00:40:43].

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. Well, I think we've touched on some really, really interesting concepts, and just I can't wait to hit the SAFe Summit, which is a really good segue to the fact that the next time we meet, Rebecca, it will be in person. And you're hosting a workshop at SAFe. Can you give us any sneak peek of what we can expect to be excited about at the summit?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. First of all, when we meet each other in person, I'm very short. So I think I'm maybe five foot. So that'll be exciting. So Harry, on the framework team and I, are running a workshop about flow. So we'll be doing a flow workshop. I can't talk about all of it yet, because some of it we're going to announce inside the summit, but I'm really excited. So I think if you do sign up for our workshop, you're going to get active advice, and be able to work also alongside other organizations and other people, really understanding flow, and how to apply improvements to flow and how to identify blockers to flow and what to do about it. So we're really focusing on why do certain things matter and what can you specifically do about it, whether you're at the team level or the train level or solution level or the portfolio level.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Cool. That sounds exciting.

Rebecca Davis:

And we [inaudible 00:42:08] a lot of other workshops, but definitely come to ours.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Well, we've just spoken about the importance of flow, so it makes sense. Right?

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Awesome. Well, I personally am really looking forward to coming to SAFe and coming to Colorado and to get to chat with you a little bit more. But thank you so much for your time and joining us and sharing your expertise and experience on agile transformations, scaling agile and the SAFe framework itself. Thank you so much for your time, Rebecca.

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah, I appreciate it. And I look forward to maybe one day being able to do this in person with you in your own country. So that'll be really awesome.

Jasmin Iordandis:

Yeah. Cool. That would definitely be awesome. Thanks a lot.

Rebecca Davis:

Yeah. Thanks.

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