The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), is a set of organizational and workflow patterns designed to guide organizations in scaling Lean and Agile development practices. SAFe is one of a growing number of frameworks, along with large-scale Scrum (LeSS), disciplined agile delivery (DAD), and Nexus, that aim to address the challenges companies encounter when scaling beyond a single team.
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The framework, which promotes alignment, collaboration, and delivery across large numbers of Agile teams, is made freely available by Scaled Agile Inc.
A key aspect of SAFe is Inspect and Adapt (I&A), which Scaled Agile refers to as a significant event held at the end of each program increment (PI), where the development team demonstrates and evaluates the current state of a software product in development. Teams then reflect and identify improvement items through a structured problem-solving workshop.
An I&A workshop consists of three main parts:
- The PI system demo
- Quantitative measurement
- Retrospective and problem-solving
One of the statements from the Agile Manifesto sums up how important the philosophy of continuous improvement is to the SAFe Lean-Agile approach, according to Scaled Agile:
“At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.”
SAFe emphasizes the importance of this philosophy by taking it a step further. It includes “relentless improvement as one of the four pillars of the SAFe House of Lean,” Scaled Agile says. While opportunities to improve can and should occur continuously, applying some structure, cadence, and synchronization helps to ensure that there’s also time set aside to consider what can be done better during the Program Level inspect & adapt.
All stakeholders participate with the Agile Teams in the I&A event, and the result is a set of improvement backlog items that the teams add to the backlog for the next PI Planning event. That way, every Agile Release Train (ART) improves every PI.
Participants in the program I&A should ideally consist of all the people involved in developing the software system, Scaled Agile says. These include:
- Agile Teams release train engineer (RTE)
- System and solution architect/engineering product management
- Business owners
Inspect and Adapt provides an opportunity to learn, notes Raja Bavani, chief architect of Mindtree. “We are no longer part of a traditional waterfall world where we wait until the end of every project to reflect and learn something,” he states. “We are in an iterative and incremental world with an abundance of opportunity to learn, apply what we learn, improve, and ensure that we’re putting the lessons learned into practice in order to deliver meaningful solutions to our customers. This is an opportunity we had never chosen to leverage systematically in the past.”
Improvements in Inspect and Adapt occur through team retrospectives and stakeholder feedback. Teams learn from these sources and apply the knowledge gained from them so that everyone wins with a better product.