This article is intended for those people who are considering SAFe because it has a laid-out method. While SAFe does help many companies at the start it has some gaps and is overly complex. This is why many companies start well with SAFe only to stagnate after a while. Amplio@MidScale can provide a SAFe-like start if desired or a more tailored one.

A Background on what’s needed by looking at SAFe

Many organizations are attracted to SAFe because it purports to enable multiple teams to work together. However, if you have 400 or fewer people on those teams SAFe, while introducing some useful concepts, misses many others and is significantly more complicated than necessary. What’s needed is:

  1. A quick start as provided by SAFe.
  2. A value stream perspective to enable quick creation and delivery of value.
  3. Some missing concepts greatly simplify portfolio management.
  4. A decision framework that enables continued learning after initial adoption

SAFe is attractive to many because it provides some needed concepts:

  1. Product manager with a cross-team product view.
  2. A person who looks across multiple teams (RTE).
  3. An intake process to coordinate multiple teams and set up planning.
  4. A planning event across teams.
  5. Lean-thinking
  6. A role for management
  7. DevOps
  8. How to manage shared services.
  9. Quality technical practices

Two concepts are missing, however:

The minimum business increment (MBI). An artifact that states what’s needed to enhance an existing product and who needs to do it. This is different from an MVP which is about discovering if a new product will be useful.
Focused Solution Teams and other value creation structures. Agile Release Trains are way to big for medium-sized organizations. These methods enable smaller, focused teams to work on products with fewer dependencies across teams.

SAFe also is typically adopted at the team level (“Essential SAFe”). But this leaves out Agile budgeting and portfolio management which is needed by all organizations. By being organized around the value stream Amplio@MidScale enables full Lean-Agile methods across the entire value stream from the start. It enables a much simpler model than SAFe’s.

The Amplio@MidScale Quick Start

Many people want an out-of-the-box solution and Amplio@MidScale can provide one. However, it can also be tailored by simply taking a few options that are easy to determine which ones are best. All of the concepts mentioned earlier are provided. Let’s look at how they can be easily tailored by examining the planning event – which is often considered the heart of SAFe.

Using the Planning Event as an example of how to Tailor Amplio@MidScale

There are, of course, many options for tailoring. But quickstarts are available by mostly adjusting the planning event. An illustration of this is to discuss the planning event. We start, of course, with whether we want to have a planning event or just use flow. There are essentially four variables to adjust:

  1. What’s the length of the planning iteration. This can be for 2 weeks to 3 months.
  2. After the first planning event, do we continue doing them or shift to a flow model? We can often decide this well into the first planned increment.
  3. Do teams implement the plan with a flow or timeboxed model? As long as teams agree to work within the cadence agreed to, they can decide whether to use flow or timeboxing.
  4. Do we have small groups working on new products or enhancements that are focused on just those products? When we do, we can have these groups work at their own pace. No need for them to have long planning cycles.

Determining how to make these choices is fairly straightforward. Additional options are present if people desire to investigate them.

Why We Expose the Decision Framework of Amplio@Scale

All approaches have a decision framework in them. This is how their creators decided on what practices to use. Most approaches offer a working framework that is mostly fixed and is what the practitioners use. Amplio@MidScale provides practitioners with its decision framework so people can use it to continue to improve after starting.

Having a decision framework creates an execution framework that provides a clear understanding of what you are doing has several advantages:

  1. Less risk because the execution framework is tailored for your situation. This also results in less resistance from people using it.
  2. Provides an understanding of how to improve your process by continuing to use it after starting.
  3. Choice on how to start. Preset execution frameworks that are easily tailorable to your needs provide an (almost) out of the box execution framework for a fast start.

All frameworks have both of these. It’s just that most only provide you with just an execution framework with little explanation as to how or why it was created. When questioned about there not being any universal, one-size-fits-all, proponents often respond that you can tailor it after you use it a while – ignoring that they don’t provide any way for doing this. The result is the execution frameworks followed by most organizations don’t fit well resulting in their people struggling to apply them. We find that providing both is useful when people need the decision framework.

The Bottom Line

SAFe provides lots of good options. But it is overly complex for organizations with less than 1000 people. Amplio@MidScale was designed by a former SPC Trainer and contributor to SAFe. This has resulted in a system that is more flexible and easier to use than SAFe.