Thursday, 30 October 2014

Is it SAFe to Scrum?

While I was hanging out on the West Coast of the U.S. earlier this month, I decided to take +Mike Cohn's Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) class. I have been using Scrum for a number of years, however my early agile education was from a more generic agile fundamentals angle and for no apparent reason I had never bothered to take a CSM class. When the opportunity to take Mike's class happened to match my travel schedule, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. I really enjoyed the two-day class, and, if you ever get the opportunity to learn Scrum from Mike, you should jump at it.

So what did I learn? Firstly, I learnt that I already knew a lot about Scrum. While I suspected this was the case, it was still nice to know it for sure. Secondly, after two days of talking Scrum, I am now completely convinced that Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is congruent with Scrum.

I had the opportunity to ask Mike about SAFe. Having read his blog post on LAFABLE, I didn't expect his views to be positive. Mike indicated that he felt SAFe was for enterprises that didn't really want to be agile. He highlighted SAFe practice of a two day planning event involving hundreds of people as particularly disconcerting. I can understand this. I think it is very hard to get your head around the Release Planning event until you have witnessed one. Concerns about this event are often raised in my Leading SAFe classes. My advice to students is always the same - get yourself invited to a Release Planning event. See it for yourself, then decide if you think it is valuable. (A student who recently took this advice, was blown away by the experience and echoed my view that you have to see it to believe it.)

Anyway, back to Scrum and SAFe. Clearly there are some differences. Scrum is silent on development practices. SAFe advocates leveraging XP. Scrum doesn't specify longer term planning be done on a cadence, although release planning appears to be a commonly accepted practice. However, on the whole, Scrum as it is outlined in SAFe seems to be the same Scrum one can learn in a CSM class. Both have a ScrumMaster, Product Owner and a development team. Both have daily scrums, sprint planning, sprint goals, sprint reviews and retrospectives.