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Scrum Versus SAFe

11/11/2014 by Devsena Mishra

I have observed that Scrum focuses on working culture, self-motivation, and mind-set change to bring the best results. A few months back I explored SAFe and found that it is a good recipe for business under the name of Agile. Over time, I have seen that whenever any organization thinks about using a new framework and top management communicates this message to middle management, middle management then becomes the key player in its implementation.

The approach of middle management in Scrum implementation

In organizations undergoing Scrum implementation, middle management realizes that in Scrum there is less scope for managerial authority, because Scrum talks about self-motivation and a change in working culture. At that point some middle managers start deteriorating the implementation process and convey the message to top management that this new framework is not a good fit for the organization.

The approach of middle management in SAFe implementation

Here I would like to appreciate the creators of SAFe, because their approach is quite smart. Well aware of this real pain point for middle management in the process of Scrum/Agile implementation, they prepared a recipe that contains management/reporting authority.

This is part of the SAFe framework, in the same way that it was in Waterfall and other traditional approaches. This is a reason why middle management tends to feel safe with SAFe. This works well for certain other kinds of people also, for example:
  • Those who raise this question in the introduction session of Scrum/Agile trainings: "Where we stand in this framework?"
  • Those who believe that only years of experience matter, having no faith in self-education and upgrading.
  • Developers who are not happy with the additional tasks Scrum brings them.
  • Those who have become isolated in their organization because with Scrum, some younger person is teaching them their job.
Now with SAFe, all these people feeling more engaged because, without too much headache, they can carry on with their familiar positions and levels of authority.

The atmosphere we are witnessing now has been created after a long period of effort within the Scrum community. Now when organizations have started thinking seriously about mind-set and working culture change, SAFe has provided a safe road through which to travel through the business market created by Scrum.

There are proponents of the SAFe framework who say that Scrum has no scope to scale at the enterprise level, and to those I want to say that this is not a well-considered critique. Every individual in an organization should follow an approach that helps them in work smart instead of dragging them back to the Waterfall tradition. This is my observation, because I've been trained and certified in different methods and technologies, and I've found that Scrum/Agile makes you smart. To decide between Scrum and SAFe, organizations need to compare the benefits of each approach, and top management needs to ensure that the comparisons remain unbiased and logical. I believe that Lean, Kanban, and other principles that SAFe claims it contains are already part of the fundamental themes of Scrum; only the terminology is missing, because it is not necessary to include specific terms for the sake of marketing.