This is a response to the discussion with Martin Burns on Joshua Arnold’s blog about WSJF and SAFE. Martin tweeted “real SAFe talk is Program & up. By defn only 1% of people impacted”
And there you have it. By definition, According to SAFE, only 1% of people are involved in Program and Portfolio level.
Tony Grout and I worked with a large number of people at Skype to create something that Dan North and I now call “Delivery Mapping” (Part of “Business Mapping”). It is a collaborative framework that allows large or small groups of product owners to collaborate on the creation of an organisational level backlog. Rather than tell people what to do it provides some minimal constraints in order to force collaboration and ensure that the right conversations are happening. The outcomes of “Delivery Mapping” are a strategic organisational level backlog based on the team level constraints, and a map showing which teams are constraints, or have no work on the strategic backlog (i.e. Team level utilisation).
To create the organisational backlog, every product owner was involved, along with all of product owner management team. The ideal sweet spot was that tech leads and test leads worked with the product owner in this process. This means that about 20% of the organisation collaborated to create the backlog. Even more are needed to address the team rebalancing effort. It meant that a significant portion of the organisation were involved in strategic decisions, all playing a small part and aware of the bigger picture. Compare that to SAFE where only 1% of the organisation are expected to make all the decisions.
I actually advocate SAFE. They have an interesting story at the program level with the Agile Release Train (ART). It exists on a continuum at the extreme end to LeSS with its self organised feature team creation. That said, the fact that SAFE thinks only 1% of people are needed for the Portfolio and Program indicates that its creators (SAI) do not appreciate that the constraint exists at the team level. They still think that the constraint is the budget (with associated plug compatible programming units). It also indicates that they think some elite group should be solely responsible for creating the portfolio. Our experience shows otherwise.