[blockquote author=”The Hedgehog Song, The Incredible String Band” float=”left”] Oh, you know all the words, and you sung all the notes,
But you never quite learned the song, she sang.
I can tell by the sadness in your eyes,
That you never quite learned the song. [/blockquote]

Listening again to this song, ageing hippy that I am, I’m struck with the powerful message it has for us, expressing the concept of cargo cults that focus on external appearances over internal natures long before Software Consultants got hold of the idea. As I’ve said to a few people

 

If I don’t emphasise creating a culture when I describe a method, whether it’s SAFe or any other method, then it’s not because it’s not important. It’s because I’m focusing on what’s different about the method, and am making an assumption that we’re all on the same page about self-managing, self-organising teams being absolutely the right people to own improving the work they do.

That assumption is of course entirely lazy and in many cases because I’ve jumped in on describing the solution without describing the problem or context well enough.

Friends, please understand, I don’t mean to do this. There is no method — none — that I would teach that doesn’t have at its core creating a kaizen culture that’s run through with empowering those who do the work to own how it is done and done better.

So, let me be clear: SAFe — as I understand it and learned directly from Dean Leffingwell — absolutely has a cultural core of self-managing, self-organising teams who are expected to change and improve the ways of working for their own system-level needs, just as quickly as they are able to do so. I would expect them to give the methods as written a good go first, both from the perspective of Dreyfus levels and to deeply understand what it is that can be improved, but anyone who thinks (perhaps because it offers certifications) that its a calcified corpse of a method is profoundly mistaken.

So, I’m sorry to both friends and colleagues who ask me about SAFe and to whom I don’t make this clear, and I’m sorry to Dean and Scaled Agile co for not representing them effectively. The fault is entirely mine.

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Martin Burns

Transformation Consultant at CA Inc (formerly Rally)
Previously: Leader of software delivery portfolios in large scale orgs.
Specialism: Transforming complex delivery organisations to be more Lean/Agile.
Mindset: Continuous Improvement Obsessive
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