Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.

Uncertainty & the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe™)

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn
Pinterest
WhatsApp

What is the connection between Uncertainty and the Scaled Agile Framework?

Uncertainty is one of the core reasons we need to be agile. Different modes of Business/Requirements/Technology uncertainties impact our economic costs in product development – especially the potential impact of risk. The first principle of SAFe™ is “Take an economic view”. I frequently use my “uncertainty filter glasses” to take an alternative economic view. I find it helps Scaled Agile/SAFe™ practitioners/leaders understand both the need for Agility as well as examine various work system design considerations. In this article, I introduce the Stacey Matrix which is one of my favorite models for understanding the uncertainty landscape as well as the implications of uncertainty on various specific SAFe™ design decisions.

Making it Concrete – The Stacey Uncertainty Matrix and its relation to the Scaled Agile Framework

stacey1

As I wrote about at some length in Risk-Aware Product Development (a.k.a Agile) explaining the concept of Requirement/Business/Technology uncertainty is one of the first things I do with most audiences I meet for the first time. In a Leading SAFe/SPC class this typically takes place in the first module when we go over the need for SAFe. This is not a core part of the materials but I take the time to explain it anyhow and then find myself referring back to it throughout the workshop.

The first layer of realization is that our problem with the classic approaches to product development is that they were built for complicated endeavors but not complex ones.

Then we layer on more interesting realizations like the fact that for some endeavors like those approaching the “Anarchy”/”Chaos” domains probably the best approach would be a “Skunkworks” style cross-functional co-located fully empowered small team. As you grow a bit farther from Anarchy you can scale agility using an approach like the Scaled Agile Framework. At these levels of uncertainty/risk the trade-off of distributed teams, distributed PI Planning, system team, component teams, and shared architects/UX MIGHT make sense and are worth considering.

As you approach the simpler domain sometimes even the alignment rationale for “whole train” PI Planning can be reconsidered. Is that SAFe™ heresy? maybe. But I find that telling people “Whole ART PI Planning” is mandatory is less effective than showing them WHEN it has a better economic impact. (BTW as you grow in complexity/uncertainty you also need better people that are more engaged – which the Whole ART PI Planning helps with as well)

In general, this thinking helps leaders at these workshops grasp the various economic levers that go into tailoring a SAFe™ implementation. I find this disarms some of the resistance you get when people feel something is “a must”. Using this approach they typically go out with a stronger conviction to avoid some compromises and a better feeling about the compromises that do make sense.

To take another example of how I use the uncertainty matrix during SAFe™ training/implementation discussions – SAFe™ talks about a hierarchy between ART Product Management and the Product Owners working with the teams. A typical and sensible question people have is “Who should wear the Product Owner hat?”. Using the uncertainty matrix, we realize that in some cases the Product Owner should be a Product Manager (probably the top two quadrants of the matrix) and in some other cases, he can also be a more technical leader (Especially on the far right side of the matrix). As the typical organization, I work with is struggling to fill those Product Owner roles, this realization helps them deploy their people more effectively in a way that minimizes the risk of ineffective feedback loops due to the wrong individuals being in the tight Product Owner loop.

 

In summary

Understanding uncertainty and its attributes and implications is in my view and experience a critical step of buying into the need for agile as well as gaining the ability to design an effective agile approach for your context. Presenting the Stacey Matrix and trying to map it to your reality is one technique I used to help people gain this understanding. Using it as a decision filter/design criteria for further SAFe™ tailoring questions complements this initial presentation/exposure and grounds it. If you are teaching Leading SAFe™/SPC classes, explaining the need for agile to leaders/executives, or working with an organization to implement a scaled agile approach, I believe you will see improved results if you add this technique to your toolbox. I know I have.

Subscribe for Email Updates:

Categories:

Tags:

Legacy Enterprise
PI Planning
Continuous Deployment
System Integration Environments
Agile
ALM Tools
Enterprise DevOps
Business Agility
Risk Management in Kanban
Daily Scrum
Professional Scrum with Kanban
Managing Projects
LPM
Lean-Agile Software Development
Scrum Values
Nexus and Kanban
Agile in the Enterprise
Keith Sawyer
Principles of Lean-Agile Leadership
Applying Agile Methodology
Agility
Jira admin
Jira Plans
IT Operations
Jira Cloud
Acceptance Test-Driven Development
System Archetypes
ROI
Advanced Roadmaps
Spotify
Lean Startup
predictability
Jira
Scrum Primer
Agile Program
Implementing SAFe
Nexus vs SAFe
What Is Kanban
Perfection Game
Large Scale Scrum
Planning
Reading List
Agile Product Ownership
Agile Techniques
Release Train Engineer
Continuous Integration
Story Slicing
AI Artificial Intelligence
lean agile change management
Covid19
Lean Agile Leadership
Scrum and XP
Introduction to ATDD
Manage Budget Creation
agileisrael
Presentation
Development Value Streams
Value Streams
Effective Agile Retrospectives
Kanban Basics
Team Flow
Continuous Delivery
Lean Agile Organization
Kanban
A Kanban System for Software Engineering
Entrepreneurial Operating System®
Frameworks
Agile Contracts Best Practices
Limiting Work in Progress
Agile Testing Practices
Software Development Estimation
Agile Community
Lean Budgeting
Lean and Agile Techniques
The Kanban Method
Agile Basics
Product Ownership
Kanban 101
Legacy Code
Kaizen
Lean Agile Basics
ART Success
ARTs
WIP
Agile Exercises
AI
Agile Games and Exercises
Sprint Retrospectives
Self-organization
SAFe
Scrum Master Role
SAFe DevOps
Introduction to Test Driven Development
Operational Value Stream
Lean Software Development
Code
Certified SAFe
Scrum With Kanban
Implementation of Lean and Agile
Professional Scrum Master
speed at scale
Scrum Guide
Process Improvement
LAB
Agile Project Management
ATDD vs. BDD
Atlassian
Managing Risk on Agile Projects
NIT
Agile India
Scrum Master
Agile for Embedded Systems
Agile Risk Management
Pomodoro Technique
POPM
Lean Agile
Lean Risk Management
Continuous Planning
Agile Product Development
Lean-Agile Budgeting
SPC
Software Development
Tools
Scrum
AgileSparks
Agile Israel
Kanban Kickstart Example
Agile Outsourcing
EOS®
Kaizen Workshop
Change Management
Agile Release Planning
Elastic Leadership
Agile and DevOps Journey
Video
Slides
Games and Exercises
Agile Mindset
Professional Scrum Product Owner
TDD
Artificial Intelligence
PI Objectives
Agile Delivery
RTE Role
Hybrid Work
Amdocs
Continuous Improvement
ATDD
Rapid RTC
Scaled Agile Framework
Portfolio for Jira
Risk Management on Agile Projects
Agile Release Management
Scrum.org
Lean and Agile Principles and Practices
Achieve Business Agility
Iterative Incremental Development
Engineering Practices
Agile Marketing
Systems Thinking
chatgpt
Kanban Game
Built-In Quality
Webinar
Program Increment
Nexus
Nexus and SAFe
Agile Games
User stories
Sprint Planning
LeSS
RSA
GanttBan
QA
Agile Assembly Architecture
Product Management
Agile Israel Events
Atlaassian
Certification
RTE
Coaching Agile Teams
SAFe Release Planning
An Appreciative Retrospective
System Team
Agile Project
Lean Agile Management
SA
Sprint Iteration
speed @ scale
Quality Assurance
Releases Using Lean
Nexus Integration Team
Accelerate Value Delivery At Scale
The Agile Coach
ScrumMaster Tales
Tips
BDD
Test Driven Development
Agile Development
Risk-aware Product Development
AgileSparks
Logo
Enable registration in settings - general

Contact Us

Request for additional information and prices

AgileSparks Newsletter

Subscribe to our newsletter, and stay updated on the latest Agile news and events

This website uses Cookies to provide a better experience
Shopping cart