"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).