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Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning, we recreate ourselves. Through learning, we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning, we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning, we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us a deep hunger for this type of learning. —Peter M. Senge, The Fifth Discipline
Continuous Learning Culture
It is one of the seven core competencies of the Lean Enterprise, each of which is essential to achieving Business Agility. Each core competency is supported by a specific assessment, which enables the enterprise to assess their proficiency. These core competency assessments, along with recommended improvement opportunities, are available from the Measure and Grow article.
Why Continuous Learning Culture?
Organizations today face an onslaught of forces that create both uncertainty and opportunity. The pace of technology innovation is beyond exponential. Startup companies challenge the status quo by transforming, disrupting, and in some cases eliminating entire markets. Juggernaut companies like Amazon and Google are entering entirely new markets such as banking and healthcare. At any moment, political, economic, and environmental turmoil threaten to change the rules. Expectations from new generations of workers, customers, and society as a whole challenges companies to think and act beyond balance sheets and quarterly earnings reports. Due to all of these factors and more, one thing is certain: organizations in the digital age must be able to adapt rapidly and continuously or face decline—and ultimately extinction.
What’s the solution? In order to thrive in the current climate, organizations must evolve into adaptive engines of change, powered by a culture of fast and effective learning at all levels. Learning organizations leverage the collective knowledge, experience, and creativity of their workforce, customers, supply chain, and the broader ecosystem. They harness the forces of change to their advantage. In these enterprises, curiosity, exploration, invention, entrepreneurship, and informed risk-taking replace commitment to the status quo while providing stability and predictability. Rigid, siloed top-down structures give way to fluid organizational constructs that can shift as needed to optimize the flow of value. Decentralized decision-making becomes the norm as leaders focus on vision and strategy along with enabling organization members to achieve their fullest potential.
Any organization can begin the journey to a continuous learning culture by focusing its transformation along three critical dimensions, as shown in Figure 1.
The three dimensions are:
- Learning Organization – Employees at every level are learning and growing so that the organization can transform and adapt to an ever-changing world.
- Innovation Culture – Employees are encouraged and empowered to explore and implement creative ideas that enable future value delivery.
- Relentless Improvement – Every part of the enterprise focuses on continuously improving its solutions, products, and processes.
Each is described in the sections below.
Learning organizations invest in and facilitate the ongoing growth of their employees. When everyone in the organization is continuously learning, it fuels the enterprise’s ability to dynamically transform itself as needed to anticipate and exploit opportunities that create a competitive advantage. Learning organizations excel at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge while modifying practices to integrate the new insights [1,2]. These organizations understand and foster the intrinsic nature of people to learn and gain mastery, harnessing that impulse for the benefit of the enterprise .
The transformation into a learning organization requires five distinct disciplines, as described by Senge. The best practices for developing these disciplines include:
Personal Mastery – Employees develop as ‘T-shaped people’. They build a breadth of knowledge in multiple disciplines for efficient collaboration and deep expertise aligned with their interests and skills. T-shaped employees are a critical foundation of Agile teams.
Shared Vision – Forward-looking leaders envision, align with, and articulate exciting possibilities. Then, they invite others to share in and contribute to a common view of the future. The vision is compelling and motivates employees to contribute to achieving it.
Team Learning – Teams work collectively to achieve common objectives by sharing knowledge, suspending assumptions, and ‘thinking together’. They complement each other’s skills for group problem solving and learning.
Mental Models – Teams surface their existing assumptions and generalizations while working with an open mind to create new models based on a shared understanding of the Lean-Agile way of working and their customer domains. These models make complex concepts easy to understand and apply.
Systems Thinking – The organization sees the larger picture and recognizes that optimizing individual components does not optimize the system. Instead, the business takes a holistic approach to learning, problem-solving, and solution development. This optimization extends to business practices such as Lean Portfolio Management (LPM), which ensures that the enterprise is making investments in experimentation and learning to drive the system forward.
Many of SAFe’s principles and practices directly support these efforts, as illustrated in Figure 2.
Here are some of the ways SAFe promotes a learning organization:
- Lean-Agile leaders who are insatiable learners use both successes and failures in SAFe practices as learning moments to build mastery.
- A shared vision is iteratively refined during each PI Planning period. This influences Business Owners, the teams on each Agile Release Train (ART), and the entire organization.
- Teams learn continuously through daily collaboration and problem solving, supported by events such as team retrospectives and Inspect & Adapt.
- The Scaled Agile Framework provides a set of powerful guidelines for teams to use as they apply Lean and Agile principles and practices.
- Systems Thinking is a cornerstone of Lean-Agile and one of the ten SAFe principles.
- SAFe also provides regular dedicated time and space for learning through the Innovation and Planning (IP) iteration that occurs every Program Increment.
Innovation is one of the four pillars of the SAFe House of Lean . But the kind of innovation needed to compete in the digital age cannot be infrequent or random. It requires an innovation culture . An innovation culture exists when leaders create an environment that supports creative thinking, curiosity, and challenging the status quo. When an organization has an innovation culture, employees are encouraged and enabled to:
- Explore ideas for enhancements to existing products
- Experiment with ideas for new products
- Pursue fixes to chronic defects
- Create improvements to processes that reduce waste
- Remove impediments to productivity
Some organizations support innovation with paid time for exploring and experimenting, intrapreneurship programs, and innovation labs. SAFe goes further by providing consistent time each PI for all members of the Agile Release Train (ART) to pursue innovation activities during the Innovation and Planning iteration. Innovation is also integral to Agile Product Delivery and the Continuous Delivery Pipeline.
The following sections provide practical guidance for initiating and continuously improving an innovation culture.
The foundation of an innovation culture is the recognition that systems and cultures don’t innovate: people innovate. Instilling innovation as a core organizational capability requires a commitment to cultivating the courage and aptitude for innovation and encouraging risk-taking among employees. For existing organization members, this may necessitate coaching, mentoring, and formal training in the skills and behaviors of entrepreneurship and innovation. Individual goals and learning plans should include language that enables and empowers growth as an innovator. Rewards and recognition that balance intrinsic and extrinsic motivation reinforce the importance of everyone as an innovator. Criteria for hiring new employees should include evaluating how candidates will fit in an innovation culture. Opportunities and paths for advancement should be clear and available for people who demonstrate exceptional talent and performance as innovation agents and champions .
Time and Space for Innovation
Building time and space for innovation includes providing work areas conducive to creative activities, as well as setting aside dedicated time from routine work to explore and experiment. Innovation space can also include:
- Broad cross-domain interactions involving customers, the supply chain, and even the physical or professional communities connected to the organization
- Temporary and limited suspension of norms, policies, and systems (within legal, ethical, and safety boundaries) to challenge existing assumptions and explore what’s possible
- Systematic activities (IP iteration, hackathons, dojos, etc.) and opportunistic innovation activities (continuous, accidental, unplanned)
- Perpetual innovation forums on collaboration platforms and Communities of Practice (CoPs) that create the opportunity for ongoing conversations across the organization
Often, the best innovation ideas are sparked by seeing the problems to be solved first-hand—witnessing how customers interact with products or the challenges they face using existing processes and systems. Gemba is a Lean term and practice from Japan meaning ‘the real place,’ as in where the customers’ work is actually performed. SAFe explicitly supports this concept through Continuous Exploration. Making first-hand observations and hypotheses visible channels the creative energy of the entire organization toward conceiving innovative solutions. Leaders should also openly share their views on the opportunities and challenges the organization faces to focus innovation efforts on the things that have the highest potential to benefit the enterprise.
Experimentation and Feedback
Innovation cultures embrace the idea that conducting experiments designed to progress iteratively towards a goal is the most effective path to learning that creates successful breakthroughs. Regarding his many unsuccessful experiments to create an incandescent light bulb, Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” In the scientific method, experiments don’t fail; they simply produce the data needed to accept or reject a hypothesis. Many companies don’t innovate sufficiently due to a culture that includes fear of failure. Such fear cripples innovation.
In contrast, innovation cultures depend on learning from experiments and incorporating those insights into future exploration. When leaders create the psychological safety described in the Lean-Agile Leadership article, people are encouraged to experiment (within guardrails). They feel permission to solve big problems, to seize opportunities, and to do so without fear of blame, even when the results of the experiments suggest moving in a different direction.
Pivot Without Mercy or Guilt
Every innovation begins as a hypothesis – a set of assumptions and beliefs regarding how a new or improved product will delight customers and help the organization achieve its business objectives. However, hypotheses are just informed guesses until they are supported by validated feedback from real customers. As Eric Ries promotes in The Startup Way , the fastest way to accept or reject a product development hypothesis is to experiment by building a Minimum Viable Product or MVP . An MVP is the simplest thing that can possibly work to test the proposed innovation to see if it leads to the desired results. MVPs must be tested by customers in the target market or by intended users of the system for fast feedback. In many cases, the feedback is positive and further investment to bring the innovation to market or into production is warranted. In other instances, the feedback dictates a change in direction. This could be as simple as a set of modifications to the product followed by additional experiments for feedback, or it could prompt a ‘pivot’ to an entirely different product or strategy. When the fact-based evidence indicates that a pivot is required, the shift in direction should occur as quickly as possible without blame, and without consideration of sunk costs in the initial experiments.
To create an innovation culture, organizations have to go beyond catchy slogans, ‘innovation teams,’ and popular techniques like hackathons and dojos. A fundamental rewiring of the enterprise’s DNA is needed to fully leverage the innovation mindset and create the processes and systems that promote sustained innovation. As shown in Figure 3, SAFe provides these needed structures.
The continuous flow of innovation is built on the foundation of SAFe principle #9 which promotes decentralized decision-making. Some innovation starts as strategic portfolio concerns that are realized through Epics and Lean Budgets applied to value streams. In the course of building the solution to realize Epics, teams, suppliers, customers and business leaders all identify opportunities for improving the solution. The potential innovations that result can be considered an ‘innovation riptide’ that flows back into the structures that SAFe provides for building solutions. Smaller, less expensive innovations flow into the Program Kanban as Features while larger, more expensive innovations result in the creation of an Epic and Lean Business Case and flow into the Portfolio Kanban.
Since its inception in the Toyota Production System, kaizen , or the relentless pursuit of perfection, has been one of the core tenets of Lean. It is illustrated in various ‘house of Lean’ models including the SAFe House of Lean .
While unattainable, the act of striving for perfection leads to continuous improvements to products and services. In the process, companies have created more and better products for less money and with happier customers, all leading to higher revenues and greater profitability. Taiichi Ohno, the creator of Lean, emphasized that the only way to achieve kaizen is for every employee at all times to have a mindset of continuous improvement. The entire enterprise as a system—executives, product development, accounting, finance, and sales—is continuously being challenged to improve .
But improvement requires learning. Rarely are the causes and solutions for problems that organizations face clear and easily identified. The Lean model for continuous improvement is based on a series of small iterative and incremental improvements and experiments that enable the organization to learn its way to the most promising answer to a problem.
The sections that follow further illustrate how a continuous learning culture is a critical component of relentless improvement.
Constant Sense of Danger
SAFe uses the term relentless improvement in its House of Lean to convey that improvement activities are essential to the survival of an organization and should be given priority, visibility, and resources. This closely aligns with another core tenet of Lean, which is an intense focus on delivering value to customers by providing products and services that solve their problems in a way that’s preferred over the organization’s competitors. SAFe promotes both ongoing and planned improvement efforts through team retrospectives, the problem-solving workshop during Inspect & Adapt (I&A), as well as the use of the Innovation & Planning (IP) iteration to conduct improvement work. Improvement Features and Stories that emerge from the I&A are also incorporated into team plans and integrated into the work planned for the following Program Increment.
Optimize the Whole
“Optimize the whole” suggests that improvements should be designed to increase the effectiveness of the entire system that produces the sustainable flow of value, as opposed to optimizing individual teams, silos, or subsystems. Everyone at all levels should embrace improvement thinking, but improvements in one area, team, or domain should not be made to the detriment of the overall system. Organizing around value in ARTs, Solution Trains, and value streams create opportunities for people in all domains to have regular and holistic conversations about how to enhance overall quality, the flow of value, and customer satisfaction.
Problem Solving Culture
In Lean, problem-solving is the driver for continuous improvement. It recognizes that a gap exists between the current state and the desired state, requiring an iterative process to achieve the target state. The steps of problem-solving are both fractal and scalable. They apply to teams trying to optimize response time in a software system and to enterprises trying to reverse a steady decline in market share. Iterative Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) cycles, as shown in Figure 4, provide the process for iterative problem solving on small adjustments as well as breakthrough innovations. The entire process is repeated until the target state is achieved. This model treats problems as opportunities for improvement in a blameless process, and employees at all levels are empowered and equipped with the time and resources to identify and solve problems. As part of the ART and Solution Train Inspect & Adapt events, SAFe builds problem-solving into Agile team retrospectives, and into the problem-solving workshop.
Reflect at Key Milestones
Improvement activities are often deferred in favor of ‘more urgent’ work such as new feature development, fixing defects, and responding to the latest outage. Relentless improvement requires a disciplined structure to avoid neglecting this critical activity. For individual teams, SAFe encourages retrospectives at iteration boundaries at a minimum and in real-time when possible. ARTs and Solution Trains reflect every Program Increment as part of the Inspect & Adapt event. This cadence based milestone provides predictability, consistency, and rigor to the process of relentless improvement in large product development efforts.
Fact-based improvement leads to changes guided by the data surrounding the problem and informed solutions, not by opinions and conjecture. Improvement results are objectively measured, focusing on empirical evidence. This helps an organization concentrate more on the work needed to solve problems and less on assigning blame.
Too often organizations fall into the trap of assuming that the culture, processes, and products that led to today’s success will also guarantee future results. That mindset increases the risk of decline and failure. The enterprises that will dominate their markets going forward will be adaptive learning organizations, with the ability to learn, innovate, and relentlessly improve more effectively and faster than their competition.
Competing in the digital age requires investment in both time and resources for innovation, built upon a culture of creative thinking and curiosity—an environment where norms can be challenged, and new products and processes emerge. Alongside this, relentless improvement acknowledges that the survival of an organization is never guar anteed. Everyone in the organization will be challenged to find and make incremental improvements, and priority and visibility is given to this work.
A continuous learning culture will likely be the most effective way for this next generation of workers to relentlessly improve, and the successful companies that employ them.
Last update: 27 September 2021
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Topic: Culture Transformation
Safe® enterprise as your agile learning platform.
Events > Webinars > SAFe® Enterprise as Your Agile Learning Platform
SAFe® Enterprise as Your Agile Learning Platform
Attend this deep dive into SAFe® Enterprise – our platform for enterprises with special services and support – and learn how the SAFe® Enterprise Platform helps you scale and sustain your agile transformation within your enterprise.
September 29, 2022, 4:00 pm – September 14, 2022, 5:00 pm ECT
Agile Coach, Director, Change Agent
SAFe® Fellow & Product Management Director (Scaled Agile Inc.)
Draws on a Startup background and an MBA from Kellogg Deema helps established enterprises create the environment to shape disruption with business agility and Lean Portfolio Management (LPM). Started her Agile journey in the early 2000’s as a Product Manager, Director of Strategy, and pre-IPO turnaround specialist. Deema transitioned to advisory, where she led some of the largest transformations to Lean-Agile with SAFe in Financial Services and Insurance. Deema currently serves as a Scaled Agile Product Manager focused on LPM and Leadership. Co-founder of the Women in Agile, a non-profit organization focused on breaking barriers and inclusivity in the agile community.
NTT DATA – Adopting SAFe for Business Agility Improvement
Customer Story – NTT DATA: Japanese Payment Services Leader Transforms Organizational Culture and Improves Business Agility with SAFe
NTT DATA brings the first Japanese customer story to the SAFe Summit audience. Headquartered in Tokyo and operating in more than 50 countries as a top 10 global IT services provider, NTT Data turned to SAFe to improve its ability to respond to market demands and stay ahead of a growing number of competitors. In his presentation, Product Manager Takenori Osada describes the difficulty of introducing Agile in Japan, how their culture transformed, and how they applied SAFe in their Payments Services Division and were able to see significant improvements in employee Net Promoter Scores, time-to-market, productivity, and quality.
SAFe is essential for us to be able to compete in the payment market. This resulted in an investment cost advantage.” —Director (Business owner)
Presented at the Global SAFe Summit, October, 2020.
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Next: aegon asset management customer story, lockheed martin – adopting safe for agile transformation in f-16 product development.
Lockheed Flying the F-16 into the Future with SAFe: Evolving the Falcon Factory
Presented at the 2019 Global SAFe Summit, San Diego Oct. 2, 2019, The F-16 Fighting Falcon is the world’s most successful, combat-proven multirole fighter with approximately 3,000 operational F-16s in service today in 25 countries. In 2014, new production orders were drying out, and the F-16 production line was in danger of shutting down. Our solution to that problem was the adoption of SAFe to streamline the F-16 Product Development and Engineering in 2015. We overcame a lot of challenges along the way, and made rapid progress initially, but have plateaued. That should come as no surprise though. Our limited SAFe implementation showed us limited results. But we are turning this ship around! This year we have really taken stock of our Agile Transformation and implemented several ground-breaking initiatives that are changing our landscape. Lockheed has now started a new F-16 production facility in Greenville, South Carolina that is producing F-16s expected to operate to 2070 and beyond!
Next: Bosch/ETAS Customer Story
Edgeverve systems – agile business transformation using safe.
“SAFe was the right fit because of the dynamics and goals at EdgeVerve. It helps bring the alignment and cultural change needed to deliver faster results in an organization with many dependencies across products.”
— Dr. Ronen Barnahor , Head of Agile Business Transformation, EdgeVerve Systems
With releases every 6-18 months, the company set a goal of further improving time-to-market, quality, flexibility, and predictability.
- Release time improved by 50 – 66%
- Planning every 10 weeks sharpens predictability
- Feature cycle time went down by 50 percent
- The cost per feature point dropped by eight percent from one PI to the next
- Reduction in escaped defects and increased customer satisfaction
- Managers first – By beginning training with managers, EdgeVerve gained essential buy-in that helped influence the C-level and team level
- Merging Testing and Engineering – Bringing these groups together reduced what were distinct silos
- Common cadence – EdgeVerve kept everyone on a common cadence, even before bringing all teams into the Framework
- Hybrid model of implementation – ARTs and managers of non-ARTs aligned on the same cadence and planning activities
Banks across 94 countries, serving 848 million consumers, rely on Finacle, an industry-leading universal banking suite from EdgeVerve Systems Ltd. A wholly-owned subsidiary of the global IT company, Infosys, EdgeVerve develops software products that enable businesses across multiple industries to innovate, accelerate growth, and have deeper connections with stakeholders. Gartner and Forrester consistently name EdgeVerve at the top of their rankings for banking platforms.
In 2015, the company set an aggressive goal of improving time-to-market, quality, flexibility, and predictability.
SAFe: a framework for faster results
For guidance, the management brought on Dr. Ronen Barnahor, now Head of Agile Business Transformation. Barnahor recommended the Scaled Agile Framework ® (SAFe ® ) to help instigate real change, quickly.
“Our mission is to adopt a Lean and Agile mindset and practices, and become a learning organization focused on continuous improvement to provide better value to our customers,” Barnahor says. “SAFe was the right fit because of the dynamics and goals at EdgeVerve. It helps bring the alignment and cultural change needed to deliver faster results in an organization with many dependencies across products.”
Prior to adopting SAFe, the teams at EdgeVerve were working in cadence, however, their approach wasn’t effective in meeting new organizational goals.
Building a coalition from the ground up
To bolster internal buy-in, EdgeVerve appointed Jasdeep Singh Kaler, an AVP and 20-year veteran of the company, to help Barnahor lead the effort. Through a contest, the transformation earned the name “Mach 1”—a nod to the importance of speed.
In alignment with SAFe, EdgeVerve began with training, choosing first to focus specifically on managers. VPs and directors, and about 30 leads across all functional areas attended two days of Leading SAFe® . The SAFe training created a buzz about the agile transformation and gave the C-level confidence that moving to SAFe was accepted by internal leaders. By the end of the class, participants signaled they were ready to move forward with SAFe, with confidence scores of 4 and 5.
With positive feedback from leaders, C-level executives attended a one-day management workshop that included principles from Leading SAFe. There, they set implementation goals and approved the new direction. Knowing they would begin with the Finacle banking solution, they identified dependencies, defined all Value Streams and established who would join in the first two Agile Release Trains (ARTs).
“This was a crucial meeting with leads from product strategy, delivery, architecture, and testing, to help them embrace the concepts of the Value Stream and the ART, optimize the whole process, gain a systems view, decentralize decisions, and more,” Barnahor says.
In April 2016, EdgeVerve kicked off the first Program Increment (PI) using SAFe with a 2-day planning meeting in Bangalore, India. The event brought together 60 individuals from multiple locations across India. The CTO attended, sending a message about the importance of the change for EdgeVerve.
In subsequent ART launches and PI planning events, the heads of engineering, product strategy, product management and other senior leaders participated with great commitment—bolstering the adoption at a grassroots level.
The event itself excited and motivated team members: “We had fun as a team in PI planning and that enabled us to do better work,” says one team member.
Hybrid implementation model—ARTs + Non-ARTs
As the company launched two ARTs, it did so with just two coaches. For that reason, EdgeVerve continued running non-SAFe teams on the same cadence—in what it calls a “hybrid model.”
“We didn’t have the coaching capacity to structure everyone into SAFe, but they all aligned on the same cadence with a centralized backlog,” Barnahor explains.
While EdgeVerve began implementing SAFe, managers of other products outside of ARTs were trained concurrently in Program-level activities. Under the hybrid approach, all product teams (ARTs and non-ARTs) aligned in several ways:
- The same cadence (sprints and PI)
- Working in IBM Rational Team Concert
- Pre-planning + PI Planning (For non-ARTs, only managers joined in PI planning)
- Execution (For non-ARTs, there was no coaching. Leads managed the work as previously but with a focus on demos in cadence with ARTs.)
- Product and solution-level demos
- Retrospectives (In non-ARTs, only managers joined.)
“The hybrid model of implementation of a full ART plus managers first in non-ART teams contributed to faster alignment and predictability across products within the integrated banking solution,” Barnahor says.
Very quickly, teams began delivering on cadence, demonstrating early value to management. SAFe also sharpened visibility, enabling them to predict more accurately. As a result, the Product Management Organization began to understand the power of “velocity” as a prediction metric and began using the Agile dashboard that EdgeVerve developed.
Changing the Culture
As EdgeVerve launched trains, the company concurrently focused heavily on changing the culture, with the belief that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” According to Kaler, since EdgeVerve focused on ‘managers first,’ these individuals became key influencers in the cultural change. The main focus was around breaking the silos, establishing common ownership on quality, managing and improving through data, and an emphasis on outcome and business value instead of on utilization.
The new, common terminology of SAFe (ARTs, ceremonies, and cadence) ensured everyone spoke the same language. With a common language, they could more easily understand expectations and minimize misunderstandings.
“From a change management perspective, everyone understood that EdgeVerve had embarked on something important at the organizational level that is based on a proven industry framework,” Barnahor says. “We had fewer arguments on definitions. I told them, ‘Let’s adapt SAFe definitions and practices, observe the impact on the ground during execution, and then change. Why reinvent the wheel?’”
The company also altered its success measures to help influence behavior, asking questions such as…
- Are we delivering desired value to customers?
- Are we on time? If not, when can we deliver the committed scope?
- Are we on scope? If not, what we will not deliver on due date?
- Are we on top of quality?
- Are we on flow? Any bottlenecks? Starvation? Backlog readiness for the next PI? What is the average cycle time?
- Can we predict well?
- How do employees feel about the change?
As attitudes changed, EdgeVerve collected feedback from the field and shared positive comments from team members and managers widely on posters and in videos—with the goal of spreading enthusiasm.
Additionally, the company adjusted the organizational structure to support the change. From developer to head of engineering, EdgeVerve reduced the number of organizational layers from seven layers to just four layers.
Perhaps the biggest difference came in moving the distinct testing organization, which was under delivery, into engineering—a decision that quickly improved relations between developers and testers. In line with SAFe, testing also now happens concurrently with development with greater focus on acceptance automation.
Reducing cycle time, increasing quality
Today, the company runs eight ARTs with approximately 800 people across three value streams and one portfolio. They launch a new ART every six weeks. At the same time, they run five teams of teams that are not part of the SAFe transformation.
Less than a year after deploying SAFe, EdgeVerve reported significant gains:
- Reduced time-to-market – For large enterprise products, release time dropped from 12 – 18 months to six months, and for small products, from six months to three months
- Improved predictability – The company plans consistently every 10 weeks, which increases flexibility for changing scope with minimal cost
- Expedited feature speed – Feature cycle time went down by 50 percent
- Elevated efficiency – The cost per feature point dropped by eight percent from one PI to the next
- Fewer defects – The company significantly improved early detection of defects, leading to fewer escaped defects and increased customer satisfaction
As the PIs progressed, team members could clearly see the advantages of the new approach. Most notably, communication and collaboration improved, with evidence that silos were dissolving.
“The way teams were working, even a minor downtime was clearly a cascading effect in the team’s progress,” says one team member. “Teams identified it, they came up with solutions, and they worked together.
“If code was not working, we got the right contacts, spoke to the code team and got the issue resolved,” says another team member. “This is a big change from the software developer’s perspective on how they approach their work.”
“The developer-tester relationship was better,” says another. “You can directly check with them for the issues you’re facing.” Additionally, anonymous participant surveys reflected progress. The company asked approximately 300 people about the impact of SAFe. Most notably, there was an 89% improvement in trust and communication across different functions while 73% believe that SAFe helped increase productivity/throughput.
Even as EdgeVerve sees positive results and culture shifts, transformation leaders find it is an ongoing process. With demonstrated results, they gained backing to hire more coaches. Looking ahead, the main challenge, Barnahor says, is middle management’s mind-set—transforming managers to act as Agile leaders and mentors to the teams by focusing on an Agile leadership program.
“It’s a transformation of hearts and minds,” Kaler says. “We made sure that managers believed in what we’re doing and slowly the culture is changing.”
Back to: All Case Studies
Suggested case study:, playstation network, lic – implementing safe successfully in agriculture.
“The fact that we delivered for the biggest industry event of the year was hugely motivating and moved us from a negative to a positive spiral. The business was a bit surprised and shocked that we did what we said we would do on something that was quite big and complicated. There’s no way we could have done it without SAFe.”
— Paul Littlefair , CIO, Livestock Improvement Corp.
Six months before the biggest annual industry event, IT leadership recognized that it would likely not deliver a new release as planned.
- Time to market – A 75% reduction in the time to get features to market
- Customer value – With more frequent releases, customers see value much faster
- Quality – A 25% reduction in defects in production
- Predictability – 98% accuracy on the delivery predictability
- Morale – A 60% jump in employee engagement survey results
- Deploy SAFe by the book – “Adopting an industry best-practices system like SAFe off the shelf has forced us to transition and change in the way we needed to,” Littlefair says.
- Be lean with SAFe – To implement quickly ahead of an industry event, LIC used only what was essential.
- Focus on the business outcome – Look beyond the implementation at the objectives for implementing SAFe/Agile. “This will then allow the business to be ruthless in getting early wins, and shift from a cost-driven culture to one of value,” Clark says.
In New Zealand, Fieldays is billed as “the biggest agricultural trade show in the Southern Hemisphere.” Every June, more than 115,000 farming industry visitors come to purchase equipment and learn about the latest in farming advances.
For Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC), it’s a can’t-miss opportunity to connect with current and prospective customers—farmers. One of the oldest farming co-operatives in the country, LIC provides a range of services and solutions to help farmers be more prosperous and productive: genetics and information to create superior livestock; information to improve farmer decision-making; and hardware and systems to improve productivity. To achieve those goals, more than 700 employees are based in offices around New Zealand, increasing to around 2,000 for the peak dairy mating season
As Big Data and other technologies begin to heavily influence farming practices, LIC is riding a wave of growth. As LIC prepared for Fieldays 2016, the co-op planned a new release of MINDA Live, the company’s proprietary herd management system. Yet the organization’s IT leadership lacked confidence about delivering as planned—and with good reason. Historically, IT had rarely delivered on time or budget.
“Every time we failed to deliver we did a post-mortem, but didn’t learn from our mistakes, and it would happen again a few months later,” says Paul Littlefair, CIO.
Deploying Essential SAFe®
LIC was an early adopter of Lean-Agile team practices . However, they still performed most IT work with a waterfall governance process.
“We still had incredibly large, multi-year projects, and detailed analysis to write business cases,” Littlefair says. “In typical waterfall fashion, we didn’t test until the end or consider quality from the beginning. It took a lot of rework to get it right, leading to overruns.”
With the Fieldays deadline looming, Littlefair decided to call in Gillian Clark for an assessment of their readiness. To Clark, it was unclear whether teams would deliver as needed for the big event.
To expedite progress, Clark recommended that LIC implement the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). Given the short timeframe and the team’s unfamiliarity with the Framework, they chose to deploy Essential SAFe, a subset of SAFe that includes 10 major elements necessary for a successful SAFe implementation.
“The approach was, get everyone into a room, align teams into a single Agile Release Train (ART) with a focus on integration, and focus on delivery of the program with a single program backlog, with one person coordinating the project managers and pooled budgets. Up to that point they had three project managers fighting for budget and resources, so we merged them,” Clark says.
Given the approaching deadline—just six months out—Littlefair and Clark encountered some resistance to trying something new. They asked everyone to participate in the PI planning, including Operations, which had not participated in planning previously. The CEO likewise attended, which set the tone for the importance of the launch.
“Putting everyone in a room together to talk about stuff—instead of building it—was seen as something we should not do,” Littlefair says. “But we made it mandatory for everyone to attend.”
In spite of initial misgivings, some of those who had been unsure began to recognize the value of face-to-face collaboration during the first day of Program Increment (PI) planning. Specifically, they saw how their roles and their work tied to others.
“It slowly dawned on them that they were on the same critical path as everyone else in the room,” Clark says. “They also began to realize the project outcomes were at risk and that SAFe practices were providing more understanding of what needed to happen to be successful.”
For the first time, teams were working on the same cadence, an essential step in synchronizing everyone across the organization. Soon, they fell into a flow and started to self manage. Communication and transparency improved; instead of making assumptions, individuals started identifying dependencies with others, and making sure those dependencies were discussed and accepted.
Delivering for Fieldays and Beyond
When Cerno first introduced DevOps practices, the company lacked a SAFe DevOps Practitioner. Still, they made progress on a delivery pipeline and staging environment, supported a grayscale release of a product, and shortened the time to release future versions.
Beyond that release, LIC notes improvements across multiple areas:
- Time-to-market – A 75% reduction in the time to get features to market (from 12 to 24 months down to three to six months). Features are now released twice a week for COBOL and legacy solutions.
- Customer value – With more frequent releases, customers now see value much faster. “Customers have absolutely noticed,” Littlefair says. “Whenever something goes out, we post it on social media and we’re seeing a lot more engagement and real-time feedback there.”
- Predictability – 98% accuracy on delivery predictability
- Morale – A 60% improvement in employee engagement survey results
LIC’s SAFe journey has led to numerous changes across the organization. For one, meetings look quite different than they did before SAFe was adopted. Initially, some leaders preferred not to include all teams in planning meetings. Now, everyone joins, and Littlefair notes, teams hold each other more accountable and ask more insightful questions.
Before, analysts would write involved business cases and ‘push’ them on teams. These days, product owners make sure work is properly sized and teams ‘pull’ the work.
On the Path of Value-Stream Funding
Currently, LIC runs three ARTs and has extended SAFe across the entire technical landscape. Having moved beyond Essential SAFe, the co-op is now on a course to fund projects at the value stream level. Business leaders now clearly see the value of their investments, and discussions center on priorities in terms of features and benefits.
“SAFe has succeeded in a culture and mindset change,” Littlefair says. “We have a set of processes, rules, and practices that work extremely well, and that have led a cultural shift.”
Suggested Case Study: Amdocs
Fannie mae – adopting agility in business using safe.
“SAFe provided the agility, visibility, and transparency needed to ensure we could integrate with numerous other efforts, get predictable in our delivery, and ensure timelines are met.”
– David McMunn , Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile COE
Within three years, the organization would need to stand-up an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines.
Financial Services, Government
- Releases now happen every month, instead of once or twice a year.
- They integrate reliably every two weeks.
- Fannie Mae reduced delivery risks.
- The organization reduced the defect rate substantially.
- Teams now deliver more than 30 attributes per sprint compared to 2-5 before.
- Velocity increased from 10 story points to more than 30.
- Sync cadence – Establishing a common cadence was critical to success. Engineering practices must evolve in order to comply with bimodal governance.
- Work on database modeling upfront – For any data-heavy effort, perform advance work on database modeling to avoid the impact of changes identified later in the sprint.
- Develop a playbook – Such guidance reduces rework for multiple teams working in parallel.
Fannie Mae is the leading provider of mortgage financing in the United States. Operating under a congressional charter, Fannie Mae—and its sibling organization Freddie Mac—play an important role in the nation’s housing finance system; they provide liquidity, stability, and affordability to the mortgage market.
Coming out of the housing crisis in 2013, Fannie Mae recognized that the lending environment it was moving into required it to be even more responsive to meet rapidly changing customer needs. Further, Fannie Mae recognized that agility was critical to achieving this objective—not just in technology, but across the organization.
In January 2015, Fannie Mae was preparing to align with guidance provided by the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and Congress, under a new joint venture named Common Securitization Solutions (CSS). As part of this effort, Fannie Mae undertook an initiative to transform some of their key internal business processes to align with CSS to build a universal securitization platform for the issuance and management of mortgage-backed securities.
Within three years, Fannie Mae planned to develop an entirely new business model that would change the way securities are issued to the market—and do so within aggressive timelines. More than 20 development teams, encompassing over 300 individuals, were needed to integrate development and testing efforts across 30 assets. As Fannie Mae prepared to implement this change, the organization encountered several challenges as the new model was being defined based on continuously evolving requirements.
“When you’re doing a large-scale integration with a lot of data, the number-one factor for success is early integration and early testing,” says Atif Salam, Director of Enterprise Data at Fannie Mae. “The federal mandate required us to mitigate risk from the get-go, and we realized early on it would not be possible following a waterfall approach. There was no better way for us to mitigate that risk than to adopt Agile.”
Overcoming Initial Roadblocks
Enterprise Data’s efforts to adopt Agile uncovered several challenges, both internal and external:
Challenge #1: No Agile capability evident for the initial two teams at the outset of the Enterprise Data initiative.
The first Enterprise Data teams were brand new to Agile, the Scrum methodology and, having been formed specifically for this initiative, working with each other.
Prior to adopting SAFe, Enterprise Data developed a standard on-boarding approach and entrance criteria for standing up new teams. Additionally, external Agile subject matter expertise was brought in to train and work with the teams, and an Agile Mature Model (AMM) was created to baseline behaviors and practices, as well as identify areas for optimization.
Thereafter, once the decision had been made to adopt SAFe, the program began to work through the SAFe Readiness Checklist. The AMM was used to set target benchmarks that all program teams were required to meet in order to ensure there was sufficient capability in place from which to scale.
Challenge #2: At the outset of the Enterprise Data initiative, a Scrum team could only complete a single user story due to inflexible architecture, end-to-end testing challenges, and numerous build constraints. Further, it was typical for the work to be gated by subject matter expertise between developers who viewed data attributes as a data point, comprised of both sourcing and vending complexities, that could only be implemented sequentially.
In response, technical leads focused on eliminating constraints, reducing complexity, and optimizing workflow. Specifically, Technical Leads worked with the teams to leverage cross-functional team/paired programming constructs to augment technical expertise. As a result, the teams began to view data attributes not as a data point, comprised of both sourcing and vending complexities, but rather as having two distinct pieces of business value, specifically sourcing and vending.
Additionally, they made the effort to move system integration testing (SIT), as well as user acceptance testing (UAT), left into the Scrum team. As a result, and over time, each team began to complete multiple user stories within a given sprint. Additionally, the organization adopted an emergent design mindset, formed cross-functional Agile feature teams, and aligned to a common cadence that synchronized their activities (e.g. sprint planning, Scrum-of-Scrums, sprint reviews).
Challenge #3: At the outset of Enterprise Data’s journey, complexity was further complicated by the fact that teams were required to develop and integrate their code in the same mainline, thereby replacing branching as an accepted technical practice. Additionally, Fannie Mae required new release traceability management that would satisfy corporate and federal governance requirements.
To address these challenges, technical leads and shared services focused on building a continuous integration capability, across all teams, using the same codebase. The organization had always had application lifecycle management (ALM), however, it needed to rethink continuous integration to realize true efficiencies. Over the course of 10 months, the organization focused on leveraging automation to reduce the time to implement builds from once every six months to multiple times a day.
Additionally, Enterprise Data adopted behavior-driven development engineering practices for traceability, automated testing, and prototyping.
Challenge #4: Upstream technical dependencies specific to architecture, database design/modeling, and test data provisioning prevented the teams from completing a single user story within the two-week sprint cadence.
In addition to the technical challenges the teams were facing, there were also multiple upstream dependencies on architecture, data modeling, and test data management that they had to resolve before a User Story could be implemented by a team working in a two-week cadence.
Initially, working ahead of the teams, a group of business analysts were assembled and assigned to groom the program backlog sufficiently so that User Stories met, or exceeded, 80% of the sprint team’s Definition of Ready. Despite this focus, however, there was barely enough ready work in the program backlog for the teams to bring into their respective sprint planning. This was due to the lead times required to resolve upstream dependencies as well as the need to respond to continually changing requirements.
In preparation for scaling, Enterprise Data worked with their business stakeholders to create a roadmap of features spanning one business quarter. Simultaneously, they focused on optimizing backlog health, sufficient in depth to support the Agile teams, for at least two consecutive sprints. Additionally, adopting a system perspective, the entire value stream was analyzed to better anticipate, and mitigate for, internal/external technical dependencies.
Challenge #5: The organization’s culture was accustomed to working within a traditional implementation methodology.
At the outset, Fannie Mae had a traditional command and control culture, supported by a broader ecosystem of corporate functions that had to change to support Agile. Those leading the change made a significant effort to work with leadership and management to pivot from the traditional role of directing delivery to becoming Lean-Agile leaders and critical change agents, both supporting the teams as well as modeling the values and principles of the Agile Manifesto.
As already noted, leadership and management changed their focus to clearing impediments impacting the teams. Additionally, they influenced corporate functions to align in support of Agile, get the business integrated and involved, as well as to put the pieces in place to create an environment focused on continuous learning. “Historically we would have seen challenges as failures in requirements or development rather than opportunities to fail fast and learn, and improve,” Salam explains.
While still new to their roles, the Lean-Agile leaders infused a sense of purpose in the teams and gave them autonomy to implement the work while decentralizing decision-making and minimizing constraints.
SAFe: Agility. Visibility. Transparency.
Although Fannie Mae had pockets of Agile capability up to this point, leadership understood that a scaled Agile methodology was required to achieve their objectives. Fortunately, individuals within the company had prior success with large- scale Agile deployments using the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®).
Fannie Mae teamed up with an external Scaled Agile Gold partner to develop and mature its Scrum capability and then deploy SAFe. As the first to make the SAFe transition, the Enterprise Data division became the torch bearer.
“We had multiple waterfall efforts, third-party integration, and a hard regulatory mandate that made coordination and execution exceptionally difficult,” explains David McMunn, the Director of Fannie Mae’s Agile Center of Excellence (COE). “ SAFe provided the agility , visibility, and transparency needed to ensure we could integrate with the numerous other efforts, get predictable in our delivery, and ensure timelines are met.”
Fannie Mae applied a dogmatic approach to ensure the organization was developing a consistent set of practices across multiple teams at the outset. External coaches delivered Agile, Scrum Master , Product Owner, Leading SAFe (SA), and SAFe for Teams (SP) training. The SAFe training was then mandatory for every new team joining the effort.
Fannie Mae launched its first Agile Release Train (ART) encompassing six programs, across 12 teams, with more than 130 people, in June of 2015. Admittedly, that first Program Increment (PI) offered some learning experiences.
“In spite of all the preparation that went into the backlog, setting expectations, confirming attendance from stakeholders, and the training prior to planning, the first PI was somewhat of a chaotic experience,” says Scott Richardson, Chief Data Officer at Fannie Mae.
Context setting provided by the business, product, and architecture leads took time away from team break-out sessions and, as a result, the teams struggled to resolve all of the open requirements and scope questions to complete their plans.
“But by the end of the second day,” Richardson continues, “we started to see progress.” The teams had mapped out their dependencies on the program board, resolved, owned, accepted, or mitigated (ROAM) all of the known risks in the PI and achieved a Fist of Five confidence score of 3.
“The session offered the very first opportunity for all stakeholders to work together on this multi-million dollar program.” Richardson adds. “A new way of managing large-scale integration efforts at Fannie Mae was emerging that would spread across the technology enterprise.”
Over the next few PIs, the organization knew more clearly how to prepare for the PI planning meeting and confidence scores began averaging 4 and higher.
Modeling Confidence in the New Methodology
During cross-team planning in an early PI, it became clear that several teams were not on track to deliver important capabilities within the targeted timeline. “Some of my best new Agile team leaders offered to throw more people at the problem ‘just this once,’ and crash the schedule like they did in the old days,” Richardson says. “It’s in those moments that you need to model confidence in the Agile method, to be the calm in the eye of the storm.” Instead, the Agile team leaders were encouraged to go back to the Product Owners regarding the change in priorities and empower them to devise a new minimum viable product. “Within a couple of hours, everything was back on track with planning, and ultimately all the teams delivered, and the external customer delivery was on-time,” Richardson says. “Now they carry this story with them, and are empowered to solve problems and make decisions in truly productive ways. It’s part of the culture.”
Gains across the Board
Today, Fannie Mae has come a long way. The Enterprise Data division delivered an integrated solution on time and with much higher quality than was expected for an effort of this size. From a broader perspective, the transformation to SAFe revolutionized how the organization plans for the delivery of large-scale programs.
Fannie Mae has seen improvements on multiple fronts:
- Reduced risk – Fannie Mae reduced delivery risks through the relentless focus on innovation and automation to ship “production ready” code with higher and higher frequency. They significantly mitigated the risk inherent in complex integration between legacy and new architectures/applications, as well as between internal and external systems.
- Faster feedback cycles – Enterprise Data delivers system demos and integrated code every two weeks. Releases now happen every month, instead of once or twice a year, for the largest application across the enterprise, with millions of lines of code.
- Improved predictability – Teams, within the program and across the enterprise, integrate reliably every two weeks.
- Boosted quality – The organization reduced the defect rate substantially.
- Increased business value – Teams now deliver more than 30 attributes per sprint compared to 2-5 attributes when Agile was first adopted within Enterprise Data.
- Better team progress – Teams undergo regular AHR (Agility Health Reviews) cycles and have matured to higher Agile Maturity Model levels.
- Greater efficiency – Fannie Mae realizes significant efficiency through a reduction in technical debt.
After the initial deployment, the division rolled out SAFe to the rest of the organization, training up to 600 people on Leading SAFe, SAFe Advanced Scrum Master , SAFe Scrum Master , SAFe Product Manager/Product Owner, and SAFe for Teams, depending on roles. Several employees went on to achieve their SPC certification.
Currently, Fannie Mae runs three ARTs. The Enterprise Data ART recently completed its 13th PI. Additionally, there are more than 200 Lean-Agile teams across Enterprise IT, encompassing over 3,000 people. Functional and business portfolios are adopting lightweight Lean-Agile values and practices as part of their day-to-day activities.
“This way of working has spread across the organization,” Salam says. “It’s changing the way we deliver for the customer, the way we hire and do our budgeting, and is continuously extending further and further into the business.”
Dutch Tax and Customs Administration
Australia post – implementing safe in delivery services.
“SAFe has really helped bring the organization along its transformation journey. Its real value has been in the way it links strategy with decentralized execution, using metrics to enable a high level of transparency and fact-based decision making to focus on achieving business outcomes.”
– Natalie Field , Head of MyPost Consumer
Effectively deliver solutions that sustain and further enable Australia Post as a trusted services provider, and delight customers with personalized digital products and services.
- 100-fold increase in yearly production deployments with 98% cost reduction, enabling iterative product development
- 400% Agile Release Train productivity increase over 18 months
- Strong overall delivery predictability of 80%+
- First-Time Delivery rate improved by 7 percentage points
- Net Promoter Score rose by 8 points
- Increased employee satisfaction and engagement
- Establish a learning and improvement mindset – Place a primary focus on learning and continuous improvement across all facets of delivery to achieve consistent growth in maturity and effectiveness.
- Measure outcomes – Enabling a metrics and measurement capability links teams to business strategy and is key to ensuring business outcomes are effectively achieved.
- Align to DevOps principles – Building a strong technology delivery platform aligned to DevOps principles enables iterative and innovative product
- Focus on the entire system of work – Build organizational advocacy and sustainability by facilitating change and enablement for shared teams that support and govern Agile Release Trains .
Australia Post is Australia’s iconic postal services provider. For 208 years, the organization has been integral to how people and communities connect across Australia. Through a collective workforce of over 50,000 people, Australia Post serves communities, citizens, and businesses, from large corporations to government departments.
Like many organizations, Australia Post’s business has been disrupted and must transform to adapt to the digital era. Traditional business pillars such as letters are in persistent decline, while the company faces fierce competition, but also immense opportunity with the growth of ecommerce. For Australia Post, that opportunity lies in creating sustainable competitive advantage through trusted relationships between consumers, businesses, and government.
Given these forces, Australia Post needed a new way of working to both sustain and further enable the organization as a trusted services provider, and to delight its customers with personalized digital products and services.
SAFe: Driving Change with Lean Structure and Common Language
Over the past four years, Australia Post has invested in its technology, people, and culture to change the way it works to focus on customer experiences and continuous innovation. To help achieve this agility in business, Australia Post selected and adopted the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) not only as an operating model but as a tool for change. With SAFe, the organization aims to describe, communicate, and build an understanding of how to leverage Lean and Agile principles across the organization.
“The structure and discipline outlined in SAFe have been a powerful way to communicate a different way of working,” says Daniel Fajerman, Head of Digital Engineering. “Using an industry-proven framework offered a strong basis to start the conversation about working differently, providing a common language and consistent base to work off.”
Achieving Sustainable Change
The goal at Australia Post is sustainable, lasting change that fundamentally shifts how the organization approaches and delivers against its strategies. To do so, Australia Post must equip its people with knowledge and the ability to advocate for and be a part of this new way of working.
A broad and comprehensive training and enablement strategy was rolled out across the organization to build experience and maturity. With help from Mark Richards of CoActivation, a Scaled Agile partner, Australia Post trained more than 900 people in Leading SAFe ® and SAFe for Teams ® courses. This included key roles across executive leadership, within business functions such as finance, risk, architecture, security, marketing and sales, and of course technology leadership and teams.
From the beginning, Australia Post applied a persistent focus on cadence and synchronization – keys to building alignment and embedding disciplined delivery practices across diverse teams. With all of Australia Post on the same sprint (and then Program Increment) cadence, scaling teams and ultimately forming these into Agile Release Trains (ARTs) became a natural evolution.
Achieving sustainable change focused on four key interrelated areas of emphasis across the organization:
- Cross-functional, long-running teams – Moving from transient project teams to cross-functional, long-running teams aligned to customer experiences was a foundational, critical change to the way people work.
- Culture – Australia Post invested significantly in evolving the culture of the organization to one where curiosity, innovation, and a learning mindset predominate.
- Technology enablement – Beyond cultural and process changes, improving delivery flow and time-to-value requires an effective build pipeline and deployment infrastructure aligned to DevOps principles.
- System of work – Implementing a new way of working spans well beyond delivery teams to every part of the organization that supports the delivery of business initiatives. The change team worked closely with shared services groups to tailor approaches to enable and meet their needs under the Framework, including new innovative funding and governance models.
This multi-pronged approach formed sustainable building blocks for change and enablement. With the goal of implementing Agile Release Trains (ARTs), the early focus was on long-running teams and culture to allow maturity to build and grow. The greatest traction came with the advocacy and leadership of business sponsors and leads, who understood the increased business opportunity and had confidence in the delivery model.
MyPost Consumer – Creating a Platform for Personalized Services
Today, five ARTs now support Australia Post’s value streams and associated enterprise strategies. One of those trains, the MyPost Consumer ART, sits within Australia Post’s Consumer market segment value stream. Established in 2015 to play a significant role in the shift toward customer centricity, MyPost Consumer is creating an omni-channel platform to offer personalized services to customers. The train’s primary focus: the parcel delivery experience, which sits at the heart of Australia Post’s business.
The train is made up of 110 cross-functional roles, with each team responsible for specific components of the parcel delivery experience. As a multi-channel, multi-technology program, only 30% of features are purely digital. The most impactful features require changes to multiple channels and enterprise technology systems.
“Getting the job done right is about focusing as much on how we work together, as what we are working on,” says Natalie Field, Head of MyPost Consumer. “We know there are many unknowns in achieving our program strategy and we don’t, and won’t, always get it right. However we also know that by respecting each other, and staying committed to rapid learning cycles, we will always come up with great solutions. “
The train has achieved strong outcomes over the past couple of years. Australia Post attributes the success of the train to several pillars:
Create a customer-centric culture Building a customer-centric culture meant creating an environment that empowers the entire team to make fact-based, data-driven decisions and equipping everyone to be advocates for the customer experience.
Focus on metrics to drive business outcomes A strong focus on measurement has resulted in significant positive impact across the organization’s primary success measures. To help achieve this outcome, teams are equipped with technology tools and the ability to collect and report on data. This empowers teams to learn fast about in-market feature performance and make changes when necessary. The result is a data-driven approach to how the train identifies, prioritises, implements, and learns from each Program Increment.
Improve continuously for greater predictability and performance Success of the train hinges on an ability to improve continuously and focus relentlessly on evolving the experience to meet customer needs. The train adapts and responds to market demands, continually improving technology capabilities to advance the business across its digital channel, retail stores, delivery network, and call centre.
Raising Satisfaction and Throughput, with Lower Cost
A strong focus on measurement and learning to maximize business outcomes resulted in significant positive impact:
- Improved first-time delivery – The First-Time Delivery rate jumped by 7 percentage points over 12 months.
- Reduced cost – Australia Post reduced its infrastructure costs by 98%.
- Predictability – The train consistently delivered on 80% or more of its objectives.
- Customer satisfaction – The Net Promoter Score rose by 8 points over the course of one year.
- Employee engagement – Employee satisfaction and engagement increased.
- Industry accolades – The train was voted the Best Customer Centric Project in Australia / New Zealand by the CX Management Conference.
Australia Post continues to evolve and grow to meet the needs of its business. Its focus on continuous improvement means the organization ever challenges itself to create the next wave of trusted services for its customers.
“SAFe has really helped bring the organization along its transformation journey,” Field says. “Its real value has been in the way it links strategy with decentralized execution, using metrics to enable a high level of transparency and fact-based decision making to focus on achieving business outcomes.”
Standard Bank – Successful SAFe Journey to Agile at Scale
Presented at 2017 SAFe Summit by Alex Keyter, Lean-Agile Coach at Standard Bank
Standard Bank embarked on a SAFe transformation journey in 2014 with IT initiating approximately 600 projects annually to help keep the bank at the leading edge. Historically, teams completed only a small percentage of projects within the defined timeframe, budget, and scope.
A visit to Silicon Valley’s top technology companies by our IT executives triggered the start of a number of Lean-Agile proofs-of-concept, showcasing the potential of Agility in the enterprise . However, their efforts stalled when they attempted to expand beyond a few development teams working in isolation.
With a clear IT strategy in place, the Standard Bank turned to the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) and gained support from its executives to forge ahead with deploying the Scaled Agile Framework across the organization. Prior to launching the first Agile Release Train , significant time was spent on designing Portfolios, Programs and SAFe Teams . Standard Bank also initiated programs that focused on transforming management and leadership; developing a culture that fosters autonomy mastery and purpose; and re-skilling individuals to return to the heart of IT as software engineers, quality engineers, and user experience analysts.
With a large number of ARTs already in their third and fourth Program Increment, the value of the SAFe transformation is tangible with the motivated staff producing quality, more frequent, predictable delivery. Coupled with the successes, Standard Bank drives continuous improvement through role maturity, enhanced engineering capability and ART optimization.
Read the full case study .
Next: FedEx Customer Story
Standard bank – implementing safe and devops for agile in business.
“SAFe provided the structure we needed to scale Agile enterprise-wide. It addressed the complexities and gave us the framework for building portfolios, roles, and jobs to achieve our goals for productivity, morale, and quality.”
— Alex Keyter , Lean Agile Transformation Consultant (SPC4), Standard Bank
The bank sought to improve service quality, efficiency, and employee morale, but previous efforts to scale Lean-Agile beyond a few teams had stalled.
- Time-to-market reduced from 700 to 30 days
- Deployments increased from once or twice a year to monthly
- Productivity increased 50%
- Cost decreased by 77%
- Predictability is now at 68%
- Organizational health improved by 12 percentage points from 2013 – 2016, thanks in part to SAFe
- Focus on culture change – Standard Bank moved from individual recognition to team awards and KPIs. The bank increased excitement and engagement through gamification, skills building, and automation.
- Get the business involved early – The bank started the transition with IT. In hindsight, they would have engaged business owners sooner so they understood that the change was not just about IT. A handful of progressive thinkers helped influence the others.
- Don’t forget to focus on engineering – “SAFe, coupled with a focus on engineering, takes it to the next level,” says Mike Murphy, Standard Bank CTO.
Based in South Africa, Standard Bank is the largest African banking group, with total assets of ZAR1.95 trillion (USD143 billion). For more than 152 years, the bank has served the continent and is now present in 20 sub-Saharan countries. Standard Bank operates seven different portfolio offerings across business and personal banking, corporate and investment, and wealth management.
At Standard Bank, the IT team embarks on approximately 600 projects every year to help keep the bank at the leading edge. Yet traditionally, teams have completed only a small percentage of projects within the defined timeframe, budget, and scope.
To improve follow-through, Standard Bank tried a few Lean-Agile pilots. However, their efforts stalled when they attempted to expand beyond a few teams working in isolation.
“We were very much a project-based environment,” explains Alex Keyter, Lean Agile Transformation Consultant (SPC4) at Standard Bank. “We tried waterfall, a combined team approach, and other frameworks, but nothing addressed the challenge of delivering value across organizational silos. Standard Bank has over 2,000 systems in IT, which required tremendous coordination to deliver an initiative successfully.”
Changing Culture and Launching POCs
On the back of a number of benchmarks that the bank set locally and internationally, the company initiated a four-pillar IT strategy:
- Quality of service through brilliant basics, which are defined as IT housekeeping and maintenance; stability of service; and simplifying and reducing complexity
- Responsiveness to market
- Sustainability as the foundation of client excellence
- Affordability through commercial pragmatism
To support its goals, the bank turned to the Scaled Agile Framework ® (SAFe ® ), and gained backing from executives to move ahead with deploying it. “SAFe provided the structure we needed to scale Agile enterprise-wide,” Keyter says. “It addressed the complexities and gave us the framework for building portfolios, programs, and teams to achieve our strategic goals.”
But prior to rolling out SAFe, Standard Bank initiated various culture initiatives to start driving the change in behavior of leaders and teams, and launched proofs of concept.
“To affect culture change is like pulling out a rubber band,” explains Josef Langerman, Head of Engineering and IT Transformation at Standard Bank. “When the band is relaxed, it returns to its previous comfortable state. One has to exert energy again to pull it out. By doing this repeatedly and in different ways, the band gets softer and more stretched out. Similarly, culture needs continued effort and reliance on many techniques to move it to a new comfortable or desired state. There is no silver bullet.”
The bank took a number of steps to stretch out of its comfort zone:
- They pulled cross-functional teams together and began delivering on a cadence
- The Internet Banking and ATM teams modeled breaking work down into smaller, more manageable pieces and demonstrated to stakeholders the work completed during the sprint
- Business and IT stakeholders joined in during these showcases to provide feedback to the teams
- They switched their work attire from suits and ties to jeans
- They began running off-site sessions with IT to define culture themes, change guilds, and more
- They initiated DevOps initiatives prior to the SAFe implementation but were formalized during the roll-out
As part of the SAFe transition, Standard Bank set out to create a fully automated self-provisioning environment with scripting and used an automation challenge to drive interest in skills. Automation pilots yielded significant tangible results:
- 20 minutes – Time to deploy application server stack end-to-end
- 30 seconds – Time to release new code to customers
- 0 percent – Deployment impact to customers
Additionally, the bank set a clear vision for the future of the organization. At the top, leaders aligned around a common understanding of goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) and emulated Silicon Valley tech leaders on the kind of change and coaching culture required.
At lower levels, the development community participated in defining the future state of the bank. Standard Bank also empowered employees to design their own culture as a group—to achieve true ownership.
Implementing SAFe and DevOps
Prior to launching the first Agile Release Train (ART), Standard Bank portfolios embarked on an outside-in model, moving away from the traditional project structures into a SAFe design construct forming cross-functional Teams, Programs, and Portfolios. The bank set a milestone for the first of July 2016 for teams to co-locate, work from a backlog, and establish visual management of work and self-regulated teams.
With the outside-in design taking shape, Human Capital with support from the Group CIO started a program that focused on re-skilling individuals to repurpose them as software engineers, quality engineers, or user experience analysts. Once they passed the aptitude test and went through the program, they were placed in a feature team. As a result, the organization now has more people getting the work done versus managing it.
“We really broke the old business operating model,” explains Adrian Vermooten, Head of Digital for the Africa Regions. “We said, ‘We’re changing our methodology. We’re moving out of this building and you’re giving up your old jobs.’”
In July 2016, two individuals attended SAFe Program Consultant (SPC) training and returned to begin rapidly training hundreds of team members. From July 2016 through February 2017, Standard Bank trained approximately 1,200 people on Leading SAFe in preparation for its first Program Increment (PI) planning meeting in January 2017.
A division CIO set the tone for executive sponsorship by earning certification as a SAFe Agilist prior to the first PI. Then he and other leaders planned heavily for the first event.
The First PI: A Mind-frame Shift
Leading up to the first Program Increment (PI), the bank evaluated the various internal and external teams impacting Agile Release Trains (ARTs) in the Portfolio and extended invitations accordingly. The first PI brought together 300 people from the Card & Emerging Payments group, which depends on more than 32 systems with numerous codependencies. While challenging, the event succeeded in kicking off a major mind-frame shift.
“The way we normally do things, we inherently start with, ‘Why? And we can’t do that,’ as opposed to this process which was, ‘We can do it, and how?’” stated one of the attendees.
Following a successful PI Planning session, the benchmark was set and other Portfolios soon followed with their first PI Planning sessions.
Productivity Up 50 Percent
These days, with more than 2,000 people trained on Leading SAFe , Lean-Agile practices and SAFe are key parts of Standard Bank’s strategic plan. The move to SAFe delivered a number of benefits, both qualitative and quantitative. Standard Bank succeeded in breaking down silos and improving dependency management. They removed complexity and reduced cost—while building more. Business people now prioritize work and budgets to account for IT change.
The bank notes significant gains within some of the more mature Teams or Portfolios:
- Productivity increased 50 percent
- Cost decreased by 77 percent
- Predictability is now at 68 percent
- Organizational health improved by 12 percentage points from 2013 – 2016
As hoped, the benefits have trickled down to the customer. “We put together some teams that much more closely represent the customer value chain,” Vermooten says.
Beyond the numbers, Vermooten sees the changes firsthand every day. Senior staff members get out from behind their desks and interact more with teams, while junior staff feel more free to share ideas.
“We flattened the organization,” he says. “Before, only senior people would speak up in meetings. Now, in every meeting, junior people are leading the conversation. There’s higher energy and intensity in people. It brings out the best in them.”
Suggested Case Study: Westpac
Northwestern mutual – adopting safe for lean-agile it transformation.
“We had been challenged a number of times in changing our underlying CRM platform. After implementing SAFe, our overall effort actually came in $12M less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted.”
— Bryan Kadlec , Director, Client Digital Experience
Market leader Northwestern Mutual sought to apply Lean-Agile practices to remain competitive, though previous efforts had been stymied by a longtime Waterfall culture.
Financial Services, Insurance
- Collection Feature Cycle Time improved 30-50%
- IT delivers requested capabilities 80-90 % of the time
- The overall effort on a project came in $12 million less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted
- Support experimentation —Leadership at NWM fostered an environment, and provided resources, to enable this transformation. “Our forward-thinking leadership knew we needed to bring in some changes so they invested in continuous learning and improvement,” Schindler says.
- Use proxies for offshore teams —NWM pre-plans with offshore teams and then brings proxy representatives to PI planning events.
- Customize SAFe —NWM increased engagement with its own spin on the program board, with the Transformation Railway Station.
In business, staying ahead of the competition inevitably requires taking some risks. But how do you do this, when a key part of your success depends on keeping risk at bay? That’s the question Milwaukee-based Northwestern Mutual (NWM) had to answer while seeking new ways to maintain and build on their 160-year history of helping families and businesses achieve financial security.
To maintain the leadership position NWM has built over nearly 160 years, the organization has taken an innovative, entrepreneurial approach to business. It’s paid off: The past year (2016) was one of the company’s strongest. The company reported record-level revenue ($27.9 billion), was named by FORTUNE® magazine as one of the “World’s Most Admired” life insurance companies, and has maintained the highest financial strength ratings awarded to any U.S. life insurer.*
In 2012, the company reached a turning point. In addition to a company-wide push for continuous learning and improvement, IT needed to move faster.
“It took over 300 days and many instances to deliver value to our customers,” says Jill Schindler, Manager, Client Digital Experience. “We were getting a lot of questions around, ‘Why does it take so long and cost so much?’ We knew we needed to be more flexible, adaptable and responsive, and it didn’t take us long to realize that Agile was a big part of that.”
NWM had tried to adopt Lean-Agile practices before, experimenting with a few Scrum teams in the mid-2000s. However, those efforts ran headfirst into a deeply ingrained Waterfall culture.
“We didn’t start with much training or coaching, and teams worked on the aspects they wanted instead of the aspects that we needed,” says Bryan Kadlec, Director, Client Digital Experience. “We fell woefully behind and then were slammed by a waterfall world to put out the fire.”
A Second Attempt at Agile
Northwestern Mutual shelved its Scrum efforts until 2012, when the company embarked on a more methodical approach to Agile. This time, they set out to train as many people as possible. “We wanted to do this and senior leadership believed in it, so we pushed forward,” Schindler says.
At the time, three or four teams experimented with Agile but the organization simply was not set up to accommodate it.
For next steps, they held their first rapid improvement event (Value Stream mapping). The weeklong event brought together Scrum teams and specialized teams with the goal of addressing the challenges of these distinct groups working together. The end result: a better understanding of the problems and a systematic way of approaching them. Key to that was engaging the IT strategy team to help remove barriers.
The Missing Piece
About that time, NWM found the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) and quickly saw it as the missing piece. “SAFe totally lines up with what we were already trying to do but we just didn’t have a platform for it,” Schindler says. “This was the framework we needed for delivering Agile at scale.”
“In SAFe, we could see Agile and Lean together and had this sense that it was a very powerful thing,” Kadlec adds.
Schindler and Kadlec went back to the leaders of their respective organizations and secured resources to try SAFe—becoming pioneers not just for their own company, but also establishing NWM as the first large company in Wisconsin to take this course. They believed firmly in their chosen path, but it still felt risky to apply new Lean-Agile practices to a large chunk of the company’s portfolio. “It shaved a few years off our lives!” Kadlec quips. “We believed that the path we were taking would deliver high value, but it still felt high risk. But if we’re going to compete, we had to have a quicker response time.”
The First Program Increment (PI)
Schindler and Kadlec trained as SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) and additionally tapped Al Shalloway, CEO, Net Objectives, along with SAFe Fellow Jennifer Fawcett to facilitate the company’s first PI planning event. NWM asked 270 people to come together for the first two-day event—in January in Wisconsin—where they launched their first four Agile Release Trains (ARTs).
The response was heartening. People were engaged and ultimately on board. “At the end of the day, we felt a huge sense of accomplishment,” Schindler says. “Everyone understood what was expected of them.” Northwestern went on to train as many people as possible. In fact, for some team members, training was the first sprint.
Making the shift in the company’s longtime waterfall culture wasn’t easy. Coaching was key, especially at the beginning. As teams went through cycles of Plan, Do, Check and Adjust, old behaviors would emerge—and need to be addressed. In truth, some individuals chose to leave—but most chose to dedicate themselves to the new way of working. The “new era” behaviors the Agile mindset fosters have taken such a firm hold companywide that they are now a factor in performance reviews.
By the second PI event, again with Fawcett facilitating, Release Train Engineers had a sense of ownership.
Transformation Railway Station
Northwestern Mutual took a clever twist on the ART program board, dubbing it Transformation Railway Station. On its board, a tunnel image represents the funnel of new work/ideas and cows represent impediments. The former is particularly apt given that, in 1859, two policy owners were killed when a train hit a cow and derailed. When the new company lacked the full funds to pay out those first life insurance claims (for $3500), NWM’s president at the time personally borrowed the funds.
On the board, laminated trains make their way along the track (the Portfolio level) from the departure station through various stages:
- Identify —Communicate change vision, and determine Value Stream, ARTs, scope, PI planning date and training
- Prep —Perform SAFe training
- Launch —Conduct final prep and first PI planning event
- Mature —Coach and develop the ART
- Inspect and Adapt —Hold Inspect and Adapt workshop, plus second PI planning event
- Aftercare —Complete coach strength, weakness, opportunity and threats (SWOT) assessment; discuss future coaching engagement
Through the PI, all parties keep a close watch on progress and metrics. “Leadership can walk up and know where we are at any time,” says Sarah Scott, Agile Lean Organization Coach at Northwestern Mutual.
Cycle Time Improvement
Since deploying SAFe, and beginning its first earnest Agile efforts, Northwestern Mutual reduced Collection Feature Cycle Time by 30-50%. And surveys of business representatives indicate that IT delivers what they requested 80-90 percent of the time.
Ultimately, the changes affected the bottom-line—for the better. “After implementing SAFe, our overall effort actually came in $12 million less than originally estimated and 18 months sooner than predicted,” Kadlec says.
Now in year three, with 12 PIs behind them, the company has five SAFe instances and 14 ARTs in progress across a wide range of product areas. Northwestern Mutual provides leadership for SAFe in Wisconsin, even hosting a Scaling Agile Meetup Group that draws as many as 300 attendees to its monthly gatherings.
“We’re at a tipping point now, continuing to break down barriers,” Schindler says. “The whole organization is in the heart of a major transformation and we’re leveraging SAFe to accelerate our Lean-Agile IT transformation. We’re at a whole other level that I don’t think would have happened as quickly or with as much impact if we’d just had a handful of Scrum teams.”
* Ratings are for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company, as of the most recent review and report by each rating agency. Northwestern Mutual’s ratings: A.M. Best Company A++ (highest), 5/2016; Fitch Ratings AAA (highest), 11/2016; Moody’s Investors Service Aaa (highest), 1/2017; Standard & Poor’s AA+ (second highest), 6/2016. Ratings are subject to change.
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (NWM), Milwaukee, WI and its subsidiaries.
Suggested Case Study: Fannie Mae
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5 Steps to Transforming your SAFe© Transformation Approach
Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe © ) change agents often face similar challenges when trying to implement SAFe within an organization. A change agent is a person from inside or outside an organization, which is driving a transformation for an organization. Change agents also have useful and creative tools and techniques in their toolkit to try to drive this change within the organization. However, many times transformations fall short.
Why does this happen?
As SAFe change agents, we need to reorganize and repurpose our toolkits to ensure that our tools and techniques for implementing SAFe clearly adhere to the SAFe principles and core values.
Scaled Agile transformations are really hard.
They are massively complex, have significant unknowns, and leaders typically expect results now! On top of that, with SAFe transformation comes the need for a dramatic culture shift within the organization. As a result of this complexity, there are several approaches to implementing SAFe within an organization. But ultimately, the value takes too long to achieve, the uncertainty around culture changes become unmanageable and the transformation loses momentum.
Does this sound familiar? The particular issues that arise when implementing SAFe are some of the same challenges that drive organizations to want to adopt SAFe in the first place: the value of a product takes too long to get to the end consumer, requirements and consumer needs change at an unmanageable pace and the teams lose motivation.
So, if they have similar challenges, can’t they be solved by the same solution? Assuming yes, why not solve transformation challenges by leading the transformation with SAFe principles and values?
There are five concepts from the SAFe principles and values that are critical to ensuring a successful SAFe transformation. By using these concepts, an organization can set its vision for the change, consistently inspecting and adapting yet getting quick value added wins, and can set a foundation for continuous improvement.
Build a Cross Functional Transformation Team
Building a coalition for change is critical to any transformation. When working to put together a transformation team to lead this change, consider what makes up a quality scrum team. Cross-functional teams are the best type of scrum teams as members can make decisions and work through dependencies within the team. So, a scrum team should have developers, testers, user experience experts, hardware, software, etc., so the team can build business value systems within the team.
With a team leading a transformation, the approach needs to be similar: i.e. assemble teams made up of members from all impacted areas of the change – business owners, program / project managers, software developers, infrastructure, human resource and a representative from every area that may be impacted. The key is to have a team with a wide enough perspective to help drive the change and deliver consistent messaging and processes across all areas. This will help to manage the variability in the messaging of the change.
Also, training is critical to ensure the team marches to the same beat. Every member of this transformation team must become a SAFe educated change agent in the organization to help drive the culture change across all layers/areas of the organization. While speed of change is important, we must spend a substantial amount of time on training to build a solid foundation for the transformation. If solid training of the core values and principles of SAFe is not implemented early, when the transformation team starts to drive change, they will fall flat in the organization. This is when you observe organizations doing the motions of agile rather than living the behaviors of strong agile values. Remember to spend time on training, leading agile thinkers and change leaders, to build that solid foundation upon which to move the transformation forward.
Visualize a Transformation Roadmap and Vision
Humans do not do things just for the sake of doing. We all have intrinsic motivation that drives us to change. In a transformation we demand a lot of our organization and team members. The transformation team must build up such intrinsic motivation for team members to change. Within SAFe, we achieve this goal by aligning the scrum team’s backlogs to strategic themes, vision and roadmaps. Theme, visions and roadmap should also set the context around why the organization needs to change, what are the opportunities and proposed solutions that are going to make the organization better. This gives the teams a context for the work and shows them how the work they are doing provides value back to the organization.
In a similar way, we must provide the context as to why we are taking part in specific agile ceremonies or changes in culture. People may see these changes as a waste of time or an attack on them personally, which often results in a negative reaction. People need to understand where they fit and even if they are a part of the change to be motivated to fight with and not against the change. But if the context around the ceremony or process is presented, we can build up that intrinsic motivation and encourage a deeper engagement. Without this context, team members will just go through the motions without getting the true value. The key is unlocking that intrinsic motivation: it will enable the value to emerge behind those changes and build positive reactions toward the changes.
Daily Scrum Example:
- Without intrinsic motivation behind change : If a team member is simply asked to go to the daily scrum, they will show up, give quick answers and move on with their day.
- With intrinsic motivation behind change : The team member comes empower to social decisions made within team and address any blockers that need resolution.
The following are four steps that can help visualize the vision and roadmap to unlock the intrinsic motivation of team members:
- Establish a Vision – After initial training of the transformation team, set some time to establish a vision and context for change. Establish the leading drivers for the change, e.g. faster time to market, high quality, etc.
- Build a backlog of opportunities – The backlog should contain a specific set of tangible challenges within the current state of delivery in the organization. This helps make the changes real and relatable. The benefits behind the changes become tangible.
- Refine the backlog – The refinement process within the SAFe framework helps to reduce complexity and ambiguity around the work at hand. Refining the backlog of opportunities will reap the same benefits for the transformation, as it will help align opportunities around the value to the organization.
- Establish a roadmap – The backlog may seem intangible due to its size or complexity. Understand that a transformation does not happen overnight or over a period of weeks. Establish a six to twelve month rolling roadmap to help manage the amount of change as well as work in progress.
Take a Systems View When Planning
When taking a systems view in the Scaled Agile Framework we arrange backlogs to enable system development of business value over technical component development. A system can be an end-to-end solution, a set of people and a process to build an enterprise or a value stream to an end consumer. A system is only as good as it weakest link so a weak component within the system will tend to drive down the value of the stronger components and therefor hinder the value to the end consumer. The value behind a system is the cross functional slivers of value to the customer. Think of the 7-layer cake analogy, one bad layer and the whole cake is ruined, but if the layers are blended together it is culinary bliss. Without taking a systems approach to planning of the work, the value will always be bottlenecked by the weakest component to the end user.
The same thought process must be taken when looking at a transformation with the Scaled Agile Framework. SAFe is a system and, like any system, if it has weak links, it will fail to provide its maximum intended value. When looking at the backlog of items for a transformation, it is critical to align opportunities around value to the organization. This ensures that as the framework is being integrated in the organization, it is built to maximize value in the system rather than create a weak link in the system. Below is an example of a value added SAFe System and a weak link SAFe System.
Value Added SAFe System : Implementing Kanban refinement processes at the Portfolio, Program and Team level which all align to the strategic themes of the enterprise.
Weak Link SAFe System : Performing a full PI Planning event without conducting an Inspect and Adapt workshop to learn from opportunities that arose.
This approach becomes critical to establish early wins in your transformation. When the transformation takes a systems approach, it provides value directly back to the organization, and any external stakeholder or agile naysayer in the organization will begin to see the light and positives of this approach . When we fail to take this approach, the door is left open for agile naysayers to latch on to the fact that the value is not achieved due to the weak links in the system. Implementing SAFe with systems thinking in mind will aid in getting support and changing those naysayers into change agents.
Take an Economic View of Prioritization
Taking an economic view when implementing in Scaled Agile framework, demands that we ensure maximum business value is delivered in the shortest about of time. Therefore time to market is essential and prioritizing backlog items based on those criteria is critical.
With SAFe transformations, the factor of time is the amount of cultural change that has to take place to implement the change. Transformations often experience severe delays or halt completely because of an organization’s inability to change the culture in a timely manner. Similar to SAFe, when looking at the transformation backlog, time should be factored in as the amount of cultural change a specific item should take over another. Implementing a change with minimal cultural change may become a quick agile win over trying to implement something that requires a significant amount of cultural change to overcome. This becomes critical to the SAFe Transformation providing business value.
An economic view translates into a review of the backlog for items, which would provide the most value and most significant progress in the shortest amount of time. Within the SAFe model, using the formula for Weighted Shorted Job First (WSJF) does this. This formula helps to identify the return on investment upon doing one piece of work over another with the primary focus around Cost of Delay (COD). It compares the COD relative to job size for a subset of the backlog. This formula should be used for the transformation backlog with some modifications. For transformations, the WSJF should be calculated as Value to Organization, Time Criticality, and Risk Reduction/Opportunity Enablement relative to the Degree of Cultural Change.
Since the largest blocker to any transformation is cultural change, it is critical to evaluate this factor when prioritizing. Let’s take two examples to show this,
- As a part of a transformation there may be significant value in establishing the Product Owner role with someone from the Business. This would ensure work is aligned to business value. But in this company the business is an entirely different organization than IT, thus forcing them to establish a Product Owner role would be a giant culture change. Using the transformation WSJF this would score low due to the high impact of the degree of cultural change.
- On the other hand, establishing daily scrums and the scrum of scrum practices within an organization, which already has scrum master in place, would be a high transformation WSJF. This change has value to the organization, high-risk reduction and a low degree of cultural change.
Transform on a Cadence
The complexity behind software development is due to the unknown and variability in development. Technologies change, dependencies evolve, and requirements change quicker than ever. With a SAFe Transformation, similar unknowns and variability will occur around the amount a change an organization is willing to take on at once. People have a tolerance limit to change and in general many people are change adverse. In any given situation within an organization the amount of change an organization can vary based upon that organization and a given situation. Several factors out of the control of the transformation team will limit the amount of change an organization is willing to handle. As a result, a transformation should be conducted on a program increment and iteration cadence. This would include having PI Planning, Iteration Planning, Stand Ups and Inspect and Adapt workshops as a minimal viable product. The purpose of this is control and managing work in process, inspect and adapt on complete transformation work, and line up future work, based on value. A description of how each of the ceremonies should be run to gain this purpose is shown below.
Transformation PI Planning – All members of the transformation team and key sponsors attend. A half day meeting where the vision and roadmap is updated. The outcomes should be a determination of any major milestones, an updated vision and roadmap, commitment of backlog items and resolution of any critical barriers. The team should establish measurements of success of the program increment and commit to their work around those measurements.
Transformation Sprint Planning – Conducted every two weeks with the entire transformation team. Each meeting should last no more than one hour. Outcomes of the meeting include resolving any upcoming issues, monitoring change tolerance, and committing work for the next 2 weeks.
Transformation Stand-Up – Occurs 2 to 3 times a week and follows typical standup ceremonies across the transformation team.
Inspect and Adapt – Conducted every two weeks focusing on the progress made, lessons learned, updating of future backlog items.
Transforming on a cadence allows for constant commitment to change as well as constant feedback. It also creates a sense of urgency around the change, which the transformation team, and rest of the organization, can feel and build on throughout the transformation.
Empowering Changing Agents
At the begin of this journey, I discussed the need for SAFe change agents to reorganize and repurpose their toolkits to transformations with more SAFe values and principles. I have outlined some of my modifications to my toolkit to be better aligned to SAFe principles and values. My hope is that you, as SAFe change agents and leading agile thinkers and organizational leaders, are now empowered to reflect on how you are transforming your organization and ask are we following SAFe principles and values during your transformation.
- Do you have a properly trained transformation team to lead this change?
- Is your Transformation roadmap and vision clear and understood?
- Are you taking a systems view to planning your transformation?
- Does prioritization of your transformation backlog occur with an economic view?
- Are you driving your transformation in a scrum like fashion?
If no to any of these, take time to reflect and take action to allow your transformation to be better aligned to SAFe principles and values.
If yes to all these, then I challenge you to keep true to the SAFe principles and values and look for continuous improvement.
Get help with your SAFe Transformation
You may also be interested in:, how do safe and lean work together.
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In Organizational Agile Change Management , Culture Comes Last
Here at LeadingAgile, we have a specific cycle for achieving organizational Agile change management . In short, to make real substantive organizational change, you need to attack the following dimensions
- Organizational Structure:
- Processes, Practices, Policies
- Cultural Beliefs
…in exactly that order. That’s right, when you strive for organizational Agile change management, you need to do the culture part last.
“But wait, Jesse. Isn’t culture the most important ingredient of an organization? What about the phrase ‘Culture eats strategy for breafast’? Why not do the most important thing first?”
Agile Change Management : Culture Last
I’ve been coaching this to my clients for a while, but in the past few months it has become painfully evident to me that Rule Number Zero for “going agile” is to have stable team rosters. One of my clients has the habit of shuffling people from one project to another, with no notice. When I started talking to them about the mechanics of user stories or other such details, they simply couldn’t care less; they were overwhelmed and tired from getting yanked around. A different client actually KNEW they had to re-organize their teams to be more focused. But while senior management was busy socializing the new org chart for 4 months, the teams were thrashing, fully convinced that management didn’t have the fortitude to effectively pull off any real Agile Change Management.
Some of my colleagues think that if you go straight to modifying the cultural mindset of the leadership team, you will get the momentum you need for lasting results. But the problem is you can’t get there from here. There is a known, methodlical process for changing people’s mental models. Specifically, consider that the same process applies for people struggling with personal dysfunction. Think about it. To achieve behavior modification,
- First, get out of the environment that enables the dysfunction, and get into a support structure
- Then, leverage that support structure to work through a 12-step program
- ONLY THEN, can you introspect and self-actualize yourself as the new person
Granted, it is an iterative cycle:
- Change one small environmental thing =>
- to create the space to change one small process =>
- which slightly shifts my confidence based on a known track record =>
- which motivates me to make another environmental tweak…
But the point here, is that the iterative cycle of behavior modification is that you can NOT change a belief system, until you first have some positive behavioral evidence, which only happens after you create a safe and stable operational environment.
What about you? Have you seen the latest mission statement, management fad, or feel good effort yield zero results in your day to day work?
Changing the organization structure does aid in helping change because it creates positional authority. People like to make their boss happy.
Updating processes helps as well because it creates a model of like work procedures. Most people don’t want to stick out as being different or bucking a current process.
Truer heartfelt change occurs when people see and understand the value the change will give them.
Nice way to articulate it, Bob. Your points are especially true in larger organizations where change happens more slowly. “Helping people where they are” often means operating with the a world where safety is driven by following the rules. Thanks for the comment.
Nice post. I’ll share a similar take, but emphasis in slightly different areas. I believe most efforts to affect org change by tackling culture directly are sub-optimal because culture itself isn’t a root cause. It’s merely a manifestation of underlying causes. It can be extremely stubborn, which is why it gets so much attention.
The steps for me are: Improve the Organizational Understanding of the system, which allows one to … Incrementally alter practices, policies, and processes, which fosters a different … Belief System, which in turn … Improves Culture.
Bob made a great comment, that people need to observe and understand. IMHO, if organizations don’t improve their understanding first, their culture isn’t likely to change long term.
Great stuff, Troy. Thanks for the input.
Seems to be a nice post, but again, and again, the easy way. Management seems to be not competent enough to really attack and change the culture, so…..structure comes first they reason. Pitty :-(
Pete, Thanks for joining the conversation. I completely sympathize with your frustration. I think agree that Management needs to attack the problems. The debate is whether your attack should be driven by mission statements or policy changes. For example, a great story about positive change is Vineet Nayar’s “Employees first; Customers second”. As CEO of outsourcing giant HCL, he wanted to change the culture. But he did so by making incremental changes to company policies, inspecting the results, and then allowing for adaptation of the details.
I am a big proponent of “Start with Why”. Having done a large organizational transition, we ended up following the model Jesse outlines, but in order to get it started, I had to paint the vision of future state at both the leadership and the grassroots level. Once the “Why” was clear, the momentum from both sides then cleared the way for the organizational and process changes.
Matt, good points. Even if you focus on changing structure and mechanics first, you have to make the case. This came up in a recent conversation, where an agile champion was saying “we have to change culture at the executive level before they will agree to changing the structure.” To which I had to reply, “Not really, all you have to do is make the case for an executive to create the mandate/support/space for the needed structure change, and then let the results speak for themselves”.
Thanks for the comment.
I found a great book on changing a large, entrenched organization to a more lean one in the Book “Maverick” by Ricardo Semler. He spent years beating his head against the cultural wall and finally adopted a model for change very much like the one jesse has outlined – and it worked brilliantly.
Huet, thanks for the comment. I will totally check out that book!
Nice post and a subtle distinction around where to emphasize the change efforts.
Here is what I’ve seen:
At today’s speeds, even starting with organizational/structural change, there is the need for a tight clarify–>change–>observe–>pivot or persevere loop(s). This really does center on the teams and the “Take the Work to the Team” concept. Once teams…and `take the work to the team` mentality is established…then the `definition of done` will need to change/expand in order to address all of the concerns of the cross-functional team; stuff that may have previously been ignored or taken for granted.
It expands to include more and more cross-functional concerns because part-time participation by those usually only peripherally involved team members becomes more critical to both speedy and effective delivery–part-time ain’t good enough. The notion of who is on the team expands to include folks who may still live in a hierarchical/ traditional reporting structure; many of whom may be non-technical. When that happens, the Organizational & Structural change needs to extend further and further into the organization cross-functionally to include team members now seen as critical to successful delivery. The initial technology team structural changes which led to successful practice changes and successful cultural changes now press many of the non-technical parts of the organization to change as well.
Depending on the size of the organization, this structure change–>practice change–>culture change loop can go on for…ev…er. Not to imply that that is a `bad` thing…
Tom, thanks for the comment. Most of the other change models I’ve seen are very sequential, so I really like you emphasizing the looping terminology.Once I’ve completed new experiences (completing an increment), that lead to new belief systems (I *can* build something in 2 weeks), then I’m able to take on newer, more demanding changes (e.g. expanding the DOD). Granted, the specifics of that loop will vary from one context to another, but I can see them going on and on as you say, and even overlapping with each other.
Perfect insight. Having been in Agile Transformations, Change Management and Culture Shifts for nearly 30 years I completely agree. Structures and practices crush any attempt to address culture or the ‘transformative” aspects of the Agile/Scrum revolution. Middle management seems the most impacted by them, thereby causing the greatest negative impact.
We likewise suggest MVG’s (Minimum Viable Games) as a thin slice addressing structure and policy until you can get to BEING (some know as mindset, worldview, culture).
There is one part you are missing, which everyone misses: TEAM. The major inauthenticity of the Agile movement is that it assumes TEAM as a phenomenon – yet I haven’t seen a team yet. The corporate world is enamored with “individual performers” and all structures and designed to reinforce that dark fantasy.
Where we create TEAM strategically as an MVG, we create a unit that is impervious to Organization and Policy/Practices and results can start to emerge. Then let the fun begin.
Agile has been reduced to cliche and jingoism – failing to produce the promised breakthrough. Time to roll up the sleeves and put away the slogans, Mission Statements, values that no one values and deal with reality on the court.
Great article. Thanks!
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Seven insights: avoiding scaled agile compromises that create “frankensafe”, points of view - inner.
An organization’s transformation to adopt the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) is a significant undertaking that requires a commitment to change culture and processes at every level. Some leaders are inclined to customize SAFe to cut corners or to cling to existing processes. Known as “FrankenSAFe”, compromise may create a monster that jeopardizes the entire transformation. A few key principles can help guard the effort.
Executives can not be supportive without also investing their own time
A successful SAFe transformation requires a complete shift in mindset at every level of the organization. This mindset can only be fully achieved if leadership adopts and champions this way of thinking. Executives must invest the time to fully understand SAFe and the work required for the transformation.
Yes, SAFe requires that much time invested in training and planning
A common objection to the SAFe model is the seemingly disproportionate amount of time dedicated to activities outside of the “real work” of development. Adding up the prescribed hours for training, PI Planning, IP Iterations, and Inspect & Adapt activities can raise concerns. In reality, organizations have found that SAFe offers the tools to operate with singular focus and without disruption. The investment is required. The return is proven.
Understand success measurements: Prioritize product demos
In a Waterfall model, teams only realize value at the end of a project or program phase. The Waterfall definition of success is to deliver the documented requirements on time and on budget. Agile, more realistically, proposes that success should be measured in working software only. To that end, planned working demos should never be optional for teams. In addition, leadership should align metrics and reporting with this definition of success.
Partial Waterfall does not add value
It is tempting to retain some elements of the existing model that are difficult to change. However, SAFe is an interconnected framework, and partial adoption undermines its effectiveness. A hybrid model disrupts the flow of coordinated events and breaks the singular focus of value delivery at the end of each increment. To realize full value, SAFe can and should stand on its own.
Start with one Agile Release Train (ART) designed correctly
The benefits of SAFe can convince some leaders to initiate an “all at once” transformation. While this approach may establish urgency and commitment, the recommended transition is to begin with one carefully designed ART. Experience shows that organizations will learn many valuable lessons during the initial ART, without delaying the full transformation benefits. Risk is reduced by refining the applied model before scaling.
The full benefits of SAFe are realized with broad enterprise engagement
As SAFe is scaled beyond an initial Agile Release Train (ART), more support from the enterprise is required. Finance, along with the funding business functions, must understand the benefits, support the transformation, and potentially redefine funding models from project-based to funding value streams. HR must understand the shift in roles throughout the organization and help transition HR processes to support these roles.
A re-org is not a prerequisite, but roles must be clearly defined
One potentially confusing aspect of SAFe is the prescribed roles within the framework. An ART is a virtual organization, and it is not necessary to revise job titles and line management to fit SAFe. The greater importance is an individual’s fit for SAFe role responsibilities. It is also critical that every role is given the dedicated, often full-time, capacity needed for SAFe. Line management must also understand that their oversight may no longer influence the specific work execution of an individual or team. This work is set and managed by the Agile Teams.
About the Author
David Hazen is a Sr. Associate with Kenny & Company. He has experience across multiple industries and functional areas and holds a BS in Global Economics and International Business from Cedarville University. He has expertise in logistics, supply chain management, and technology project management. He is a SAFe Program Consultant (SPC4), Certified Scrum Master (CSM), and Licensed Customs Broker (LCB).
About Kenny & Company
Kenny & Company is a management consulting firm offering Strategy, Operations and Technology services to our clients.
We exist because we love to do the work. After management consulting for 20+ years at some of the largest consulting companies globally, our partners realized that when it comes to consulting, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Instead, we’ve created a place where our ideas and opinions are grounded in experience, analysis and facts, leading to real problem solving and real solutions – a truly collaborative experience with our clients making their business our business.
We focus on getting the work done and prefer to let our work speak for itself. When we do speak, we don’t talk about ourselves, but rather about what we do for our clients. We’re proud of the strong character our entire team brings, the high intensity in which we thrive, and above all, doing great work.
This article was first published at michaelskenny.com on October 26, 2017. The views and opinions expressed in this article are provided by Kenny & Company to provide general business information on a particular topic and do not constitute professional advice with respect to your business.
Seven Insights: Avoiding Scaled Agile Compromises that Create “FrankenSAFe” by David Hazen, Kenny & Company is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License . Kenny & Company has licensed this work under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.
Our Safety Culture Change Approach
4 ways to transition from compliance and behavior to values and habits of excellence.
A safety culture definition sounds simple -- the attitudes, beliefs and values that employees and managers have in common about their physical and emotional safety while in the workplace. Most businesses and organizations want their employees to work safely. A thriving safety culture reduces risks and costs associated with injuries, employee turnover, poor product quality, lack of efficiency, low production and bad customer service. Unfortunately, most organizations do not know how to create a positive workplace safety culture. There are 3 prevailing business philosophies about safety: Compliance, Behavior and Values.
Compliance driven organizations will obey the laws, rules and regulations to keep employees safe. These companies believe that injury prevention is ultimately the employee’s responsibility. Regardless of the work environment conditions, risk management, turnover, morale, or real and potential costs, Compliance driven organizations only do the bare minimum of what is required. This preference for short-term cost reduction while gambling with long-term costs and risk management infects most businesses. A Compliance driven company is reactive and views workplace safety as a program and a system for processing injury incidents that are inevitable. The EHS Manager in a Compliance driven company can be considered a “safety paramedic” responding to incidents when they happen.
Behavior driven organizations recognize that workplace safety culture is important to short-term and long-term bottom line results. They invest time and effort in helping employees to perform their jobs safely. Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) is not only a program, it is part of the company’s strategic plan. Behavior driven companies with effective BBS programs will reduce the number and severity of workplace injuries. However, at some point those improvements will plateau, because behavior is only part of the equation to a positive workplace safety culture. At a Behavior driven organization, the EHS Manager can be seen as a “safety cop” looking for employees who are not behaving correctly.
Values driven organizations want to eliminate all workplace injuries. Safety is a core value that is essential to how people work. Injury freedom through a positive safety culture will never leave the company’s strategic plans, similar to the value of an effective Total Quality Management (TQM) or continuous improvement philosophy. A Values driven company maximizes compliance and behavior, while adding the missing ingredients of environmental changes, teamwork, continuous improvement and effective communications, to name a few. The EHS Manager is a “safety leader” who facilitates the activities that drive the safety culture. In fact, every employee from the frontline worker to the executive can become a safety leader. The results are remarkable. All injuries can be prevented.
How can a company progress to be Values driven? The WLS Safety System guides client organizations in creating the positive workplace safety culture. It includes training and development, plus tools and tactics. But to move from Compliance to Behavior to Values, there are 4 Major Safety Culture Change Points that must occur.
4 Major Safety Culture Change Points
Change Point #1 – Executive Management Commitment and Accountability Safety culture change does not have to begin with the top executive management. It can begin in a single plant facility, or even a single department within a facility. However, at some point decisions required to improve safety will affect production, quality and finances in the short term, even though the long-term benefits will outweigh the short-term costs. Injury prevention improves morale, teamwork and processes, which will in turn improve production and quality while reducing risk management and workers compensation costs. In a Compliance-driven organization, executives will prefer not to risk the short-term costs, and safety will not be a top priority.
At a Behavior-driven organization, executives and managers generally support the behavior-based safety (BBS) program. However, they may see it as a strategy that can be implemented for a year or two, and then it does not need to be funded because it should be complete and everyone should know how to behave safely. A positive workplace safety culture involves more than a single program, even though BBS is an important part. The safety culture is something that should never go away, it should continue to evolve and improve, similar to an organization’s core competencies.
To create safety culture change, an organization’s leaders must commit to safety as a core value, facilitate a development plan, and be held accountable for executing the programs that achieve the plan. Most companies jump straight to executing EHS programs such as BBS without a plan or a strong safety belief system. After initial success, those programs will fade away. For sustainability, positive workplace safety culture must be a core value.
Change Point #2 – Metrics and Recognition If something is not measured, it is not happening. Just having accurate metrics is a good start for an organization in Compliance mode. Most of these compliance metrics count deaths, amputations and injuries incidents. Any actions resulting from these metrics are reactive. It’s too late for the employees involved. To change to a Behavior level, the organization must analyze and act to mitigate those incidents. In addition, a Behavior-level organization analyzes and acts upon first aid, near miss, and hazardous incident metrics. As part of the BBS program, work observations should help employees know safe work behaviors to keep themselves safe.
Companies on the forefront of positive workplace safety culture add another whole level of predictive metrics to act upon: safety opportunities, safety action team meetings, safety training hours, and employee perception survey results. These proactive metrics measure employee engagement in creating an injury-free workplace. We recognize and reward employees individually and as a plant facility team when goals are met in every metric measurement. There is a direct correlation between high employee engagement and low reportable injury rates. In addition, employees begin to watch out for each other’s safety, recognizing not only their own unsafe behavior but also warning others who might be working in an unsafe way.
WLS clients use Continuous Improvement principles to engage all employees through Safety Action Teams. Some are standing teams, some are issue-specific teams. We offer our own basic safety training to employees through webinars and other online learning platforms. And we use employee perception surveys to help employees think about their own involvement in creating the positive workplace safety culture, as well as to gauge how well their particular plant facility is doing.
Change Point #3 – Formal Mitigation Procedures Most companies have standard operating procedures for production. Safety should have formal procedures as well, especially for incident investigation. An organization at a Compliance stage may or may not have a standard incident investigation procedure. Without a proper investigation, the root causes may never be discovered, corrective actions may not be implemented, and more people could be hurt the same way.
An organization focused on Behavior will have an incident investigation procedure and will analyze the root causes for incidents. The focus of the investigation will center on the affected employees’ behavior; what they did to cause the incident. Then the organization will change operating procedures to account for human error, or blame the employees for not following the correct behaviors. Any environmental or equipment causes may not be mitigated. A forward-thinking company at the Behavior stage will expand investigations to include near misses, because it realizes that more injuries can be prevented by increasing the data set of risky employee behavior, and changing that behavior.
To change to a positive workplace safety culture, a Values-driven organization must admit that many unsafe incidents are caused by a combination of factors in addition to human behavior errors. This organization accepts responsibility for every incident and strives to identify and mitigate every factor that contributed to the incident, so that no employee is ever injured in the same way ever again anywhere in the organization. Often, lessons learned from an incident stay in the facility where the incident occurred. Injury prevention should be shared through every level and operating division of a company. In addition, employees should be empowered to tell management about opportunities for safety improvement without fear of retribution. Management should be empowered to address those safety opportunities both financially and procedurally.
At EnPro Industries, whenever there is a reportable injury incident, the company conducts a standard incident investigation with a “hot seat” conference call of specific cross-function positions to review results and mitigation actions. Summaries of “hot seat calls” and near misses are discussed on monthly briefings attended by representatives from every operating division, who then communicate lessons learned to the plant facilities. These are just some of the formal mitigation processes that EnPro Industries uses to investigate, mitigate and communicate incident reporting.
Change Point #4 – Employee Engagement Activities A truly positive workplace safety culture engages all employees, not only hourly workers, but also frontline supervisors, all the way up to the CEO. Many frontline supervisors resist safety efforts because they think that safety hurts production efficiency and that employees are injured more often because they are not taking responsibility for their own safety. Actually, in most industries, frontline supervisors’ injury rates are higher than hourly workers’ injury rates. Frontline supervisors are not as situationally aware because they are not in the work area every day. In a positive workplace safety culture, employees and supervisors look out for one another and keep each other safe.
A Compliance-driven organization believes that all employees are responsible for their own individual safety. The organization will delegate safety issues to a safety committee of select employees, which may not have any decision-making authority. The safety committee might organize an awareness event or training, but the event is not supported by the frontline workers or the supervisory management.
A Behavior stage organization works through a safety committee to train employees how to better stay safe through following best-practice behaviors. There may be observations, coaching sessions, training meetings and awareness events. Usually there will be some good initial success, but after a year or two the success stagnates. In this scenario there is no continuous improvement to build upon the behavior changes and repetitive coaching reminders.
All employees are engaged in safety activities in a Values-driven organization. Every employee volunteers to serve on at least one Safety Action Team. These continuous improvement teams are empowered to build a safe workplace with operating procedures and training opportunities. Special events such as Kickoff Days and Family Days promote safety and extend it to employees’ families and communities. Most importantly, all employees know that they are expected to speak up when they see an issue that might be unsafe and injure someone, whether that is a fellow worker, the CEO, a contractor or a customer.
EnPro Industries continues to build its positive workplace safety culture through Safety Action Teams, training and development, special activity days, and opportunity improvements. Our company is not perfect, there are still hazards to eliminate, and there are still best practices to implement. For example, one EnPro safety initiative is trying to limit single-employee load lifts to less than 35 pounds, because back injuries are one of the company’s most prevalent injury reports.
Making the Safety Culture Change
A culture is based on shared values, attitudes and beliefs. A culture is not real until actions that demonstrate it are seen.
To change a company’s workplace safety culture to be positive and supportive:
- executive leadership must adopt safety as a core value and support safety improvement decisions
- management must establish proactive safety metrics that help the company act on injury prevention opportunities
- all employees must follow standard procedures for incident investigation, mitigation and prevention
- supervisors must empower employees to be engaged through continuous improvement teams, special events and training
If your company is ready to take action and build a positive workplace safety culture, you can shorten your learning curve and reduce costs by using the WLS Safety System. We are here to help make the world a safer workplace.
Contact us below for more information or call us toll free at 844-264-2357 to learn more.
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Nine Steps for Changing Your Safety Culture
This article by Gary A. Higbee, EMBA, CSP was originally published in the May 2003 issue of Industrial Safety & Hygiene News.
Work on these nine steps and watch your frustration over safety’s lack of support decrease as the safety performance of your organization improves.
The safety culture will begin to change and most people will not even know their attitude about safety is changing.
1. Walk the talk 100 percent of the time.
At home, work or play we cannot stray or the message is lost. Be proud of what you do and dedicated to the safety task.
2. Meet the minimal safety standards of OSHA, MSHA, etc.
Standards are just a beginning and certainly do not guarantee an injury-free workplace. But they are specific requirements—and that makes them very hard to ignore. Safety issues may not be visible to the untrained or unwilling eye, but standards are easy to read and visible to everyone.
3. Find supporters & enlist their help.
Find like-minded people who understand the concepts of compliance, conditions, risk, reward and behavior. They’re somewhere in every organization.
4. Promote the corporate policy on safety.
Copies should be posted everywhere possible. The statement sets the position of upper management on workplace safety. We all know local management may have a completely different view of safety given the pressure on them for production, quality and profitability. You’ll need this statement to reinforce the culture change.
5. Train your supervisors.
It’s surprising how little supervisors know about their responsibilities for workplace safety. They understand very well their responsibilities for production, quality and cost. These responsibilities are very visible and they have grown up with them. Safety is not that visible and supervisors need training on these issues.
6. Provide meaningful data to managers.
Managers receive reports every day on productivity, quality and cost—so why do we often only report safety data on a monthly basis? Develop reports that are easy to read, standardized, accurate and easy to forward or pass on. Report daily on regulatory contacts, critical safety concerns, injuries, property damage and near misses. Monthly you should report on your rates, measurements toward project completion and activities like training, inspections or audits.
7. Hold managers & supervisors accountable.
These responsibilities cover things they can control, such as their employees’ attendance at training sessions, timely and accurate accident investigations, required audits, etc.
8. Recognize safety achievements.
Give everyone credit that you possibly can. Thank them for their efforts, or you may not get the same effort the next time.
9. Gain access to top management.
By providing the information managers need and keeping them informed, you’ll naturally create lines of communication. Capitalize on your opportunities to communicate with upper management—do not avoid them.
Gary is an expert in safety management systems and organizational change, he is a two-time past president of the Hawkeye Chapter of the ASSP and past Regional Safety Professional of the Year. In 2010, Gary was awarded the Distinguished Service to Safety Award, the top individual safety award from the NSC.
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SAFe® – Creating a culture for continuous improvement
Agile, SAFe ® and Lean - all these terms are becoming common in everyday language. But what exactly do they mean, what is behind them and how are they connected?
More and more companies are realizing that they need to respond quickly to today's competitive market which is why agile methods are becoming increasingly popular. There are always challenges when using these methods - how do you scale an approach where teams work in a self-organized way and how can you create company-wide alignment? The Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises (=SAFe®) offers answers to these questions!
The first iteration of the Scaled Agile Framework (=SAFe®) was released in 2011. Inventors Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo reacted to increasingly fast-paced market conditions with a lean project management approach that was different from existing methods.
The production principle is the key component - the focus lays on the actual value creation and reduces unnecessary processes as well as waste to a minimum ( investopedia ).
In addition, SAFe® uses well-documented, specified and repeatable processes that are characterized by agility and a team-focus environment.
Why should companies use SAFe®?
Companies that have switched to SAFe® collectively report amazing results. A major benefit of SAFe® is the better, more efficient and faster flow of work. The high level of team ownership and the resulting closeness to the project enables small teams to respond to change extremely quickly and flexibly.
The most recent version of SAFe® was released in January 2020 and allows a customized implementation if done correctly. Each implementation is unique, but always based on seven core keystones:
1. Lean Portfolio Management
- Align strategy, funding, and execution
- Optimize operations across the portfolio
- Lightweight governance empowers decentralized decision-making
2. Organizational Agility
- Create an enterprise-wide, Lean-Agile mindest
- Lean out business operations
- Respond quickly to opportunities and threats
3. Continuous Learning Culture
- Everyone in the organization learns and grows together
- Exploration and creativity are part of the organization's DNA
- Continuously improving solutions, services, and processes is everyone's responsibility
4. Lean-Agile Leadership
- Inspire others by modeling desired behaviors
- Align mindset, words, and actions to Lean-Agile values and principles
- Actively lead the change and guide others to the new way of working
5. Team and Technical Agility
- High-performing, cross-functional Agile Teams
- Teams of business and technical teams build solutions
- Quality business solutions delight customers
6. Agile Product Delivery
- The customer is the center of your product strategy
- Decouple the release of value from the development cadence
- Continuously explore, integrate, deploy, and release
7. Enterprise Solution Delivery
- Apply Lean system engineering practices to build really big systems
- Coordinate and align the full supply chain
- Continually evolve live systems
In the organization-wide development process Agile Release Train (ART), goals are defined, solutions are developed, validated and released.
When implementing SAFe®, different configurations are available:
- Essential SAFe®
- Large Solution
Essential SAFe® provides a basic, necessary foundation and starting point for a SAFe® implementation with Team and Program levels.
The Large Solution level, which lies between Program and Portfolio levels, is only relevant for organizations that develop complex solutions or are involved in the development of such solutions. It is often used in aerospace, government agencies and the automotive industry.
Enterprise agility is enabled at the portfolio level. At this level, the foundation is laid for targeted release trains that operate as independently as possible.
Full SAFe® is the most comprehensive solution and includes all configurations and levels. This manifestation of SAFe® is used by the largest companies with the most complex solutions.
Which configuration suits your requirements best, how you can implement SAFe® in your company and which companies are already using it can be found here: https://seibert.biz/whatissafe
The best journeys are taken together. Let us accompany you on your SAFe ® journey, every step of the way.
We know that a SAFe ® implementation can seem daunting, but with the right tools and the right partner it doesn't have to be. Whether you're about to take your first steps or ready to scale up, we will be there to help you evaluate and guide you through the process. With KEGON - Germany's leading SAFe ® partner & SAFe ® first mover in Europe - we will use our expertise in Agile Hive , Jira , and Jira Align to help you find the right methods and tools to fit your needs wherever you are on your SAFe journey.
- Scaling Agile and SAFe in organizations – An interview with Burkhard Schmidt
- Implementing SAFe with software can be easy
- 5 reasons how Agile Hive Will help your SAFe rollout in Atlassian Jira
- SAFe Implementation Roadmap Part 1
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5 Steps to Change the Safety Culture in your Organisation
The safety culture in your organisation can play an incredibly important role in improving overall workplace safety. It's the way people approach risk in the workplace, including their perceptions and attitudes that can help make the...
Published February 6, 2020
5 minute read
The safety culture in your organisation can play an incredibly important role in improving overall workplace safety. It's the way people approach risk in the workplace, including their perceptions and attitudes that can help make the workplace safer, and organisations need to make sure that they take appropriate steps to improve it.
According to a study conducted by the HSE , “The safety culture of an organization is the product of individual and group values, attitudes, perceptions, competencies, and patterns of behavior that determine the commitment to, and the style and proficiency of, an organizations health and safety management”.
In simpler terms, safety culture can primarily be referred to as the way employees approach different tasks in the workplace and how they factor safety into it.
Changing the safety culture of an organization can be difficult and is not a simple task. However, safety culture stands as a pillar in your overall health and safety programme and is vital for the success of all health and safety related achievements. To do so, steps must be put in place to alter the attitudes, behaviors and norms of the organization's employees.
Here are 5 steps to help change the safety culture of the organisation.
1. Commitment and Communication
Both are key aspects to a successful and positive safety culture in the workplace. Firstly, commitment is an essential element that requires an organization's top management to take steps to ensure safe operations in the work environment.
To do so, it's important to approach situations with facts and statistics. Present top management with tangible benefits which they can see a return on their investment e.g. employee welfare, reduction in absenteeism, better reporting and a clearer picture of current issues. Approach with clear and reachable goals. Ideally, you would like to have a commitment to ensuring ZERO harm within all operations and a promise that everything will be done for all employees and contractors (see also permit to work procedures ) to return home safely. Communication across all levels can aid the transition to a safer workplace culture. A great way to increase safety communication is to hold regular safety talks on topical and relevant safety news in your industry. Real-life examples of the consequence of poor safety culture can often catch the attention of some. Making your company safety policy readily available to your employees can help with the implementation of expectations and best practices when it comes to the completion of safe work.
2. Lead by Example
It is paramount that you lead by example; following all safety policies will engage your employees and encourage them to do the same. If management are willing to commit to safety, employees will follow suit.
Employee buy-in is crucial to have a positive safety culture. Implementing a clear accountability process can aid a positive safety culture. By having responsible persons for health and safety procedures can help with accountability and promote the metrics of leading by example. An example of this would be the capabilities of dealing with a crisis and learning from them through strong safety culture. Organizations with strong safety cultures understand that emergencies and incidents could occur at any time and have robust systems in place to immediately deal with them. They have effective methods of communicating those incidents internally and have the methodologies and the know-how to investigate and understand their root causes. Most importantly, they lead by example by learning from these incidents and ensuring it never happens again.
When developing or revising safety policies, make sure that you involve employees throughout the process. This not only ensures that their voices are heard, but it also helps them understand why certain measures have been put in place and how they can contribute to a culture of safety within the organisation. Take a look at our 5 Ways to Engage your Co-workers in Health and Safety article for more tips.
3. Develop and Implement a Positive Reporting Process
Developing a positive association with reporting health and safety issues in essential to improving your organizations safety culture. One way to promote this is to develop an appraisal system by rewarding employees who report safety hazards (physical hazards, chemical hazards, mental hazards) or concerns.
A positive safety culture will be much easier to build and maintain when employees feel comfortable reporting concerns and believe that the reporting process is positive. Facilitating employees to engage in good catch or near miss reporting can prevent serious incidents occurring. Companies with strong safety cultures are open to change and are always seeking the best way to ensure that safety management is done in the most efficient way. These organizations research technologies such as incident reporting, behavioral observations, accident investigations, training and many more, to determine which could provide the best return on investment.
Recognising individual achievements when it comes to safety compliance is another great way to encourage employees and foster positive change throughout the organisation. Provide incentives such as rewards or recognition certificates when someone goes above-and-beyond with their efforts towards creating a safe working environment—this will show them (and everyone else) how much their work is appreciated which can go a long way towards motivating others too!
4. Provide Training
Investment in employees safety training and correct techniques demonstrates your commitment to safety. Effective safety cultures require strong health and safety competencies. This must begin immediately when an employee joins the organization and is on-boarded, and again during refresher training and updating skills. Trained employees also embrace safety culture more readily because they are aware of hazards and the effect that they can have on maintaining workplace safety. In addition to having good technical competencies, providing training from supervisors puts a strong emphasis on leadership, initiative and an out-of-the-box style of thinking. To ensure their safety culture is consistently maintained, you must ensure that supervisors have the right leadership attributes to coach their staff and to maintain the correct safety behavior. EcoOnline provides a variety of online training courses for companies in a wide range of industries including healthcare, pharmaceutical, chemical and food manufacturing.
It is important that all employees are aware of their role in creating a safe working environment and know how they can contribute to achieving safety goals. Create training programs or workshops that focus on safety topics such as risk identification, hazard control measures, emergency preparedness, and incident reporting procedures. Make sure that everyone has access to these resources so they can stay informed and up-to-date on best practices.
Regularly scheduled safety meetings are an effective way for management to communicate new policies or procedures, review existing ones, discuss incident reports, assess risk levels, identify areas for improvement, etc.
Make sure that all meeting minutes are documented so there is a record of what was discussed at each meeting and decisions made by management regarding any identified risks or hazards. This documentation can be used as evidence if needed during an audit or investigation later on down the line.
5. Involve Employees
Building and maintaining safety culture starts from the ground up. Another way to build strong employee buy-in is to involve them in the process. Establishing a safety committee with employees from all areas of your organization can ensure different opinions and issues are raised. The group decisions from health and safety committees have a big influence on the overall direction of the organization when it comes to safety initiatives.
It's also important to provide resources such as posters, handbooks, videos or online courses can help reinforce the importance of following safety guidelines in the workplace. Additionally, providing access to external resources such as regulatory bodies can help ensure that everyone understands the legal requirements for creating a safe working environment within the organisation.
Some of the more established committees make decisions on how and where health and safety budgets are required to be spent. Contribution of individuals are noted, and action items are designated to individuals within the committee itself for follow ups. Good management and frequency are vital for the success of the committee. Do you need help getting started? Download our guide below:
Alternatively, you can request a demo of the market's most flexible HSE system, EcoOnline EHS , Click the link to begin.
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