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SAFe Greatest Practices | Toptal®

This text is an element two of Toptal’s Agile scaling collection, designed to information venture managers of their crew enlargement efforts. Learn the primary installment, “5 Agile Scaling Frameworks In contrast: Which One Ought to You Use?” for an in-depth overview of the most well-liked choices.
Within the last article on this collection, “SAFe Case Research: Transformation Notes From the Subject,” Toptal specialists and SAFe inventor Dean Leffingwell focus on scaled transitions.

As merchandise develop and grow to be extra advanced, so do the groups that produce them. When it’s time to scale, many firms transition from Scrum to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), a system that’s carried out on the enterprise degree and permits companies to handle a number of, advanced merchandise that require groups of groups to develop.

A Scrum grasp shifting into a SAFe framework will step into an surroundings that’s directly acquainted and new. The artifacts, roles, and ceremonies are primarily based on Scrum. However working at the next scale comes with some further duties, particularly for Scrum masters who decide to maneuver into the position of a launch prepare engineer (RTE), a typical trajectory. The RTE acts because the Scrum grasp of the complete launch prepare. As an alternative of main a Scrum crew of 9 to 11 folks, RTEs grow to be servant-leaders to groups of groups that straddle a number of departments, they usually manage occasions of better dimension and scope.

The Fundamentals: Scrum to SAFe

SAFe permits an organization to use Agile approaches, values, and rules throughout a number of groups. The ensuing “crew of groups” is called the agile launch prepare (ART). Particular person groups proceed to make use of a Scrum grasp to do enterprise as typical, whereas the Scrum master-like position on an ART is finished by an RTE. The RTE applies the final mechanisms and governance of Scrum however at an organizational, relatively than crew, degree. Different conventional team-level Scrum roles and artifacts change accordingly, too. For instance, the ART “product proprietor” turns into a product supervisor; a “product backlog” turns into this system backlog; a “dash backlog” is an iteration backlog; and the “product increment” is now this system increment (PI).

There are 4 configurations of SAFe—Important, Giant Resolution, Portfolio, and Full—and the one you employ is dependent upon how extensively your organization adopts the framework. The configurations permit implementation at a number of ranges, starting from a number of groups working collectively to full portfolio integration and enterprisewide enterprise agility. However at each degree, the objective stays to scale Agile and Scrum practices, not exchange them.

Scrum Masters in SAFe

Scrum masters working in a SAFe framework on the crew degree will discover that their jobs will not be considerably completely different. They are going to stay a servant-leader for an Agile crew, answerable for teaching and schooling, eradicating impediments, and fostering an surroundings the place crew members really feel secure to carry out their greatest and constantly enhance.

Nonetheless, there will probably be some new duties. A SAFe Scrum grasp helps the RTE within the PI planning occasion and in program execution, and represents their crew in ART sync conferences. When there are impediments which are past the crew’s functionality to take away, the Scrum grasp escalates them to the RTE.

A Scrum grasp who decides to grow to be an RTE will discover that their position comes with decidedly extra issues. The ART could embrace groups which are new to you or new to Agile, like enterprise evaluation, {hardware}, or compliance. And since the upper configurations of SAFe embrace program or portfolio operations, administration will probably be immediately and frequently concerned in methods they might not be in Scrum, ensuring all the things is aligned with enterprise- and/or portfolio-level targets.

The RTE is answerable for eradicating impediments which are past a single crew’s capability. They convey with stakeholders and drive steady enchancment on the ART degree. The RTE coaches not solely groups but in addition the leaders of these groups, serving to all ranges of the ART transfer towards self-organization and self-management.

SAFe Occasions

Simply as a Scrum grasp facilitates team-level occasions, an RTE facilitates ART-level occasions—the PI planning, the ART sync, the system demo, and the examine and adapt. As an RTE, you’ll be participating with a greater diversity of stakeholders than you had been as a Scrum grasp and dealing with a number of groups with competing pursuits. There are extra—and extra diversified—attendees at each occasion, and it’s worthwhile to align priorities and get buy-in for initiatives effectively prematurely.

A circle with five points, labeled "Daily Stand-up," "Iteration Review," "Backlog Refinement," "Iteration Retrospective," and "Iteration Planning." This circle is contained inside a larger circle; there are six points on the larger circle. Two points labeled "Scrum of Scrums" and "PO Sync," each with an icon of three people, are opposite "Daily Stand-up." These points are connected by a label, "ART Sync." The point opposite "Iteration Review" is labeled "System Demo" with an icon of a box. The point opposite "Backlog Refinement" is labeled "Prepare for PI Planning" and has an icon of three Kanban columns. The point opposite "Iteration Retrospective" has a point labeled "Inspect and Adapt" and has an icon of a diamond with "I&A" written inside. The point opposite "Iteration Planning" is labeled "PI Planning" and has an icon of a parallelogram with "PI Planning" written inside in italics. There is also a legend that color-codes ART Events and Team Events.
The SAFe occasions and their relation to their Scrum counterparts. Though not an occasion, the Backlog Refinement additionally has a SAFe counterpart within the type of preparation for PI planning.

PI Planning

The PI planning occasion is a vital ceremony for SAFe, a big two-day session to align the targets of all groups inside the ART for the subsequent eight to 12 weeks by creating the PI plan. It’s like a dash planning occasion, but it surely spans a number of sprints throughout a number of groups.


  • Enterprise imaginative and prescient
  • Listing of prime 10 to fifteen options to be carried out
  • Particulars on every crew’s capability


  • PI plan (a supply plan for the subsequent 5 to 6 sprints)
  • PI goals
  • Listing of potential dangers

Basic Suggestions for the PI Planning Occasion

  • Receive stakeholder buy-in. Previous to the assembly, RTEs ought to set up who the important thing stakeholders are and share their inputs with the group.
  • Align priorities. Earlier than the session, schedule a daylong assembly with the product administration crew to agree on a high-level view of what options ought to be delivered, in addition to future priorities. There will probably be a lot to work out on the occasion, like dangers and dependencies, and it’s good to have primary directional settlement in place.
  • Rehearse! The PI planning is a large occasion. It won’t be helpful to spend two full days rehearsing, however a two- to four-hour session with the ART’s crew leaders that creates an as-close-as-possible expertise will assist immensely. Create a simplified model of the occasion’s agenda and share it previous to the rehearsal in order that observe can begin from a well-informed place.
  • Be ready for mission creep. The objective of the PI planning is to ship a long-term plan in a relatively brief time frame. Typically folks will wish to go into intensive element on all the things, which isn’t what the occasion is for. Clarify this to the crew leaders on the rehearsal and within the session; remind the groups that the purpose is to ship high-level plans and create alignment, to not plan each minute of the subsequent three months.
  • Put together team-capacity data. Ask your Scrum masters to supply capability calculations for the subsequent eight to 12 weeks. Count on some pushback or questions; as an illustration, a Scrum grasp could not know exactly what number of absences their crew could have over the subsequent two months. In such circumstances, ask for estimates, and be versatile when responding to capability limits through the PI itself.
  • Share the PI planning agenda. Distribute the schedule a minimum of two weeks earlier than the occasion, and be ready to reply plenty of questions. There will probably be many attendees, and if SAFe is new to you and your organization, it’s most likely additionally new to many different crew members. In my expertise, by the second or third PI planning occasion, the strain on the facilitators turns into a lot much less intense because the groups get conversant in the occasion and know what to anticipate.
  • Safe administration attendance. It’s usually troublesome for managers or senior managers to attend a two-day occasion, however administration attendance is a should to make sure high-level alignment. Verify their attendance a minimum of two weeks earlier than the PI planning, and organize for any help they’ll require. The identical applies to enterprise homeowners, who must log out on PI goals.

ART Sync

The ART sync occasion is a weekly assembly the place the RTE can achieve insights into the groups’ progress and determine program dangers and roadblocks. Whereas in no way the one event for an RTE to judge impediments and decide whether or not they require escalation, it’s an essential occasion that gives an everyday venue for these issues to be raised.


  • Groups’ progress
  • Impediments log
  • The PI plan (to determine any main deviations between the plan and precise progress)


  • Escalations (if required)
  • Selections about any adjustments to the PI plan

Basic Suggestions for the ART Sync Occasion

  • Encourage common communication. As a result of the ART Sync is weekly, as an alternative of each day like Scrum stand-ups, the RTE ought to make it clear that groups can elevate pressing points instantly and shouldn’t watch for the subsequent ART sync.
  • Be ready with information. Ask Scrum masters and product homeowners to carry quantifiable progress metrics, corresponding to burndown or cumulative stream, with a view to have an knowledgeable dialog about progress.
  • Transcend a weekly standing overview. The ART sync is supposed to be an occasion the place priorities are aligned and issues are resolved, not a easy check-in.

System Demo

The system demo is meant to showcase the total scope of labor created throughout a previous iteration. At this occasion, the product supervisor and their crew present enterprise homeowners and different stakeholders the ART’s built-in progress in its present type.


  • The present state of labor primarily based on the output of all Agile crew members over the course of the previous iteration


Basic Suggestions for the System Demo Occasion

  • Rehearse! Commit 30 to 45 minutes each different week to working with presenters to nail down their segments.
  • Ditch the slides. Current the precise built-in work. In case you’re engaged on a software program product, have the presenters present the stakeholders a working product increment relatively than a slide deck. If attainable, reveal your product in a staging surroundings. You need the demo to precisely resemble the end-user expertise. If you’re unable to current an built-in system each two weeks, have a look at your supply pipeline and brainstorm with the groups on how one can undertake CI/CD and DevOps tradition.
  • Deal with enterprise worth. Your presentation is for enterprise homeowners and stakeholders; share what’s most essential to them.
  • Maintain the suggestions targeted. The stakeholder suggestions you obtain will probably be essential, however this occasion just isn’t the time for drastic adjustments to the product imaginative and prescient or roadmap. Be able to steer the dialog again to high-level suggestions that the groups can flip into motion gadgets at a later time.
  • Maintain it brief. Stakeholders are busy folks; a 45- to 60-minute assembly will end in extra frequent and engaged attendance.
  • Permit time for Q&A. Be clear in your solutions. Do not forget that typically “I don’t know, however we will discover out” is the perfect reply.

Examine and Adapt

The examine and adapt is a mega-retrospective session that takes place on the finish of a PI. The session is split into three elements:

  • The PI system demo: a showcase for the complete PI’s built-in output. It’s much like the primary system demo, however as an alternative of 1 iteration, this occasion showcases the built-in work throughout the complete PI.
  • Quantitative and qualitative measurements: a chance for the RTE to current metrics gathered over the course of the PI. These metrics embrace (however will not be restricted to) crew velocity, person tales accepted, unit take a look at protection, or open defects.
  • Retrospective and problem-solving workshop: an opportunity for members to look again on the PI, replicate on what did and didn’t work, determine systematic points, and suggest methods to resolve them.


  • Groups’ progress
  • The present state of the ART’s built-in work, together with the entire program increment’s output


  • Listing of potential enhancements

Basic Suggestions for the Examine and Adapt Occasion

  • Give enterprise homeowners advance discover. Present a minimum of two weeks’ discover earlier than the occasion. Meet with any attending product managers and enterprise homeowners earlier than the session to align on the qualitative outcomes presentation.
  • Safe the attendance of senior stakeholders. Their presence is most essential on the PI system demo while you showcase the crew’s work and the evolving product. Most of the pointers for the common system demo apply right here: rehearse beforehand, keep away from presentation slides, and showcase precise deliverables.
  • Keep away from blame. All through the session, guarantee that no person feels threatened by the information introduced or the issues recognized within the retrospective. Some groups could really feel jealous or defensive if one other crew’s numbers are larger or really feel singled out if an issue originated with their crew. Embrace a whole-team tradition to preempt such issues.
  • Deal with systematic points. Strive to not give an excessive amount of consideration to sporadic issues, present your crew with the area they should brainstorm, and let imaginations run free for the proposed options.
  • Create actionable proposals. On the finish of the occasion, you must have backlog gadgets for the groups to implement. Figuring out issues doesn’t assist if you happen to don’t take steps to unravel them.

The desk under compares the SAFe occasions with their Scrum equivalents, and describes the frequency and execution of ceremonies on the enterprise degree:

SAFe Occasion Scrum Equal Frequency Description Attendees
PI Planning Dash Planning Each eight to 12 weeks – This occasion goals to determine potential dangers that the groups would possibly face.

– This occasion ensures alignment and garners dedication from attendees.

– Enterprise homeowners

– Product supervisor

– Product homeowners

– Total agile launch prepare

– Scrum masters


ART Sync Each day Stand-up Weekly or as wanted – This occasion goals to garner insights into the groups’ progress, in addition to program dangers and impediments.

– Attendees maintain discussions and spotlight alternatives.

– Product supervisor

– Product homeowners

– Scrum masters


System Demo Dash Evaluate On the finish of each iteration – This occasion is carried out to reveal to stakeholders what progress was made within the PI. – Product supervisor

– Product homeowners

– Enterprise homeowners

– Scrum masters


Examine and Adapt Dash Retrospective On the finish of every PI – This assembly is held on the finish of every PI, permitting the crew to judge the present standing of the PI.

– Attendees replicate on progress and determine enhancements to backlog gadgets with a structured problem-solving method.

– All PI planning occasion members

Stepping Up and Scaling Up

The transition from Scrum to SAFe might be an intimidating one. Working at the next scale will all the time current new challenges and new methods of interested by even probably the most acquainted practices. In case you select to grow to be an RTE, you’ll discover that the job relies upon most on the talents you have already got. An RTE is a change agent and a servant-leader, similar to a Scrum grasp, and the job provides you the prospect to carry out this position at an enterprise degree, elevating your expertise alongside your merchandise.

Learn the subsequent installment of Toptal’s Agile scaling collection, “SAFe Case Research: Transformation Notes From the Subject.”

Additional Studying on the Toptal Tasks Weblog:



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