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Tom Sedge

Tom is an Organisational Therapist specialising in end-to-end Product & Service delivery via Agile, Lean, Systems Thinking. His vision is a world where work is fun, meaningful and transforms lives inside and outside each organisation. His mission is to turn slaves of the system into masters of their destiny. He works in both the private and public sector, using his 20 years of experience to navigate the challenge and pain of transforming mindsets, cultures and long-standing operational practices. He understands that sometimes the hardest part of change is persuading people to drop their defences, see things differently, take action and try something new.

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The SAFe IP Iteration: It may be SAFe, but is it Agile? (Part 3)

This is the last part in the 'SAFe® IP Iteration' series. Read part one here and part two here if you missed them. In part three, Tom goes back to address the original objections to whether the IP Iteration is Agile.

 

Coming back to the original objections


Let's go back to our original objections and deal with them now that we understand why SAFe is constructed the way that it is.


"But this just isn't Agile! Why can't we just keep Sprinting?".


Some people really dislike the "break" from the cycle of Sprints and view the IP Iteration as an ineffective tradeoff that isn't needed because all of the above activities can be worked into each Sprint for each team. This is essentially the single-team Scrum view that life should be an endless series of Sprints.


The normal response to this is to point out that there's a bigger programme picture, that the team is part of a team-of-teams and time needs to be spent on those activities, and that all of this rests on the same PDCA principles that underpin Scrum.

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The IP Iteration: It may be SAFe but is it Agile? (Part 2)

This is the second part in a blog series talking about the IP Iteration that happens as part of the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). Missed the first part? Read it here.

What's the typical structure of an IP Iteration and why is it like this?


SAFe marks the boundaries of its PIs (Program Increments) through the IP Iteration. This is normally a two-week period during which the following activities are scheduled:

 

1. Completion of work


There is some contingency allowed in case that teams are very close to finishing their work in the current PI and can finish. The official guidance is up to one week, in practice less is desirable or this becomes a "buffer" teams will depend on.

There is also an allowance here for release activities - these will depend on whether major releases are aligned with PIs or not (a business decision, not required by SAFe) and the nature of the major release process: whether it is complicated and time-consuming or a simple "button-push".

 

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The IP Iteration: It may be SAFe but is it Agile? (Part 1)

"But this just isn't Agile!  Why can't we just keep Sprinting?".
"We don't have time for this, we've got too much work to do!".
"Planning together is worthless because everything changes soon afterwards."
"It is boring and a waste of my time, I'm here to write code".


These are just some of the things we regularly hear from clients who are learning the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®). The part of SAFe they seem to struggle with most is the IP Iteration (sometimes called the 'bridge') that handles the switch between two adjacent PIs (Program Increments). This is probably the most misunderstood part of SAFe and the one that is abused the most in practice.


Let's start by unpicking why SAFe works like this - because there are good reasons that cannot be trivially dismissed.


The Plan Do Check Adjust/Act (PDCA) Cycle


First of all, most Agile methods are based on the PDCA cycle. (Note that there are alternatives to PDCA such as John Seddon's Check-Plan-Do.  However they are all ultimately variations on the same activities, just with different emphasis.)


PDCA is a basic improvement cycle that can be applied individually, to a team, to a programme or a wider organisation.


Planning - planning work/activity to do.
Doing - doing the work/activity.
Check - evaluating how we did.
Adjust(/Act) - improvement actions to get a better result next time.


Sports work like this. Before the game, we plantactics and strategy. Then we play the game (do).  After the game, we review our performance: what went well and badly and why (check).  Finally, we take learnings from this review and work to improve for future games (adjust/act).

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