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Five quick wins to keep SAFe® morale high

Keeping SAFe® morale high
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Don’t forget to celebrate the little things on your long road to SAFe® implementation, keeping morale high and disenchantment at bay.

At the start of your SAFe® journey, it’s easy to get sucked in and only see the good stuff. If you’re coming at it from a waterfall or ad hoc agile structure, you’ll be dazzled by all the potential following a framework like SAFe® can offer. Not only are the possibilities exciting, but it all also seems immediately tangible: ‘Hey, everyone! Let's just parse out the dual operating system for business agility so we can identify our value streams and link them to the portfolio tomorrow! Yeah, we can do that before lunch!'

Roadmap reality check

Then reality arrives with an unwelcome thud. Because, of course, it’s not that easy. A few PowerPoint slides illustrating a portfolio utopia are never going to express the depth of SAFe®’s true complexity. In short, you will never stop realising you have more to learn. And some things are going to feel contradictory and confusing. The fact that the Implementation Roadmap is a two-year journey alone should warn you not to pack lightly.

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So what then? What can you do to be an active passenger on this journey to agile transformation success? Thankfully, there are lots of immediately actionable steps you can implement right now! And these quick wins can be implemented by anyone in the organisation. Not only will they help you stay motivated but they’ll help you encourage your teams to stick with it for the long haul. Let’s take a look at five things you can do to celebrate progress right away.

1. Have the right frame of mind

Having a growth mindset is the first step in changing the status quo. But it’s obviously not as simple as just waking up one morning and deciding to ‘be more growthy’. Thought leader, John Kotter states it perfectly: ‘Never underestimate the magnitude of the power of the forces that reinforce the status quo.

A great place to start is by reviewing your own work and routines for redundancy and inefficiency. This exercise is a great example of what SAFe® identifies as ‘pivoting without mercy or guilt’ by ignoring sunk costs and switching to a new way of thinking and working. The first step of identifying your own sunk costs is by asking what the why is behind your daily tasks, projects, etc. And if the why doesn’t make sense anymore, pivot.

2. Strive for inclusivity

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"‘Achieving a state of business agility means that the entire org – not just development – is engaged and continually proactively delivering innovative business solutions faster than the competition.’"
Dean Leffingwell, Creator of SAFe®

One item that resonates with SAFe® students is that silos can be broken down by embracing business agility. This practice focuses on including everyone who’s working toward the same goal/deliverable (not just dev teams) to travel through the product lifecycle together, instead of orbiting around each other in siloed meetings and communicating with emails. 

Having everyone on the same page from the start helps the whole organisation deliver better quality to customers. But you can start small. Talk to someone in another department who is working on the same initiative you are. What are their pain points? Do they have any blocked work? By sharing your day-to-day and asking them questions, you can help usher in a new status quo of inclusion. 

3. Be less busy

Somewhere along the line we started equating being busy with being productive, when the data shows these two things don’t go hand in hand. Multitasking is a myth we’ve made up so we can shout about it in job applications. But in reality, only 2.5 percent of us are able to process tasks simultaneously. In fact, attempting to juggle too many tasks at once leads to as much as a 40 percent drop in productivity, which is definitely not a desired metric mentioned by recruiters.

Steve Jobs once said, ‘I'm actually as proud of the things we haven't done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.’ Focus is the antidote to busyness. Focus does not include back-to-back meetings. Focus does not include context-switching. Focus acknowledges that people have a cognitive load threshold, which is why SAFe® urges that you limit WIP and process small work (batch) sizes.

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4. Set a good example

Self-interested and secretive leaders will create a self-interested and secretive culture where people are out for themselves, uninterested in the betterment of the business. But building an organisation where authenticity, trust, and transparency are central to everything you do will create a positive work culture: one where people are supportive of organisational change and improvement. 

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"‘The leaders of companies set the tone and direction for the people. Hypocrites, liars, and self-interested leaders create cultures filled with hypocrites, liars, and self-interested employees. The leaders of companies who tell the truth, in contrast, will create a culture of people who tell the truth. It is not rocket science. We follow the leader.’"
Simon Sinek, Author, motivational speaker

The SAFe® principle of decentralising decision-making is a good place to start. That’s how you can deliver value in the shortest sustainable lead time. If people are always required to escalate decisions to leadership, context can get lost and you run the risk of your whole process grinding to a halt. While infrequent, long-lasting, and broad-reaching decisions still need to be taken at the top, more frequent, time-critical, and localised ones do not.

5. Stay informed

There are lots of loud voices in the SAFe® thought leadership space and a mountain of information to cover, so it can be hard to know who to pay attention to. Don’t wait to jump right in – there are some great writers and speakers out there to explore and help you keep on top of the latest thinking. Below is a list of books I’ve read and personally found extremely insightful:

It’s SAFe® to get started

Implementing SAFe® is a big deal, but hopefully the examples above help you start your journey by creating new habits. Go talk to your teammates and brainstorm ideas for what you can start doing right now, and take the time to celebrate what you’ve already achieved. All those small steps eventually add up, and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to SAFe® success.

Want to learn more about Adaptavist's approach to SAFe®? You can do so here, or check out our Whitepaper: Building software at scale with SAFe® and Atlassian tools.

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