SAFe Implementation Roadmap Part 7: Coach Agile Release Train (ART) execution

In this blog series, we take a quick look at each of the 12 steps in the SAFe Implementation Roadmap. Previously, we discussed Training Teams and Launching the ART. Today we will discuss coaching the Agile Release Train Execution.

We are now more than halfway through our SAFe implementation series. By this point, you have completed many of the large tasks involved in the implementation. You have trained your teams, had your first Program Increment (PI) planning event, and even launched your first Agile Release Train (ART). If you missed any of these steps, it makes sense to go back and review now.

Just because SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) have trained the teams does not mean they are completely agile yet. They have been provided the framework to execute but haven’t done any of the execution. SPCs need to stay involved after the first ART is released. The agile teams need practice to truly hone their skills, and the SPCs need to be available to harness those skills. For these reasons, the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) should make a concentrated effort to coach agile execution. 

Your organization has now invested significant time and money into training your SPCs and Lean-Agile leaders, and it’s time to see the payoff of that investment. The team will help coach agile execution and see the results of their hard work: helping the agile teams deliver the value to the solution in the shortest sustainable amount of time while maintaining a high level of quality. SPCs and other members of the LACE do this through team coaching and ART coaching.

Team Agile Coaching

One common mistake of teams that are new to agile is focusing too much on the events. This is usually because the events are easy to understand and apply immediately. While the events in SAFe are indeed important and typically addressed first, the mastering of the team and technical agility is more necessary. For this reason, SPCs should concentrate most of their effort here after the events.

The primary events the SPCs should hone in the beginning are:

  • Daily standups - help the team stay in sync and fix roadblocks
  • Backlog refinement - refine and change the user stories defined in PI planning
  • Iteration planning - plan and make changes to upcoming iterations
  • Iteration reviews - get feedback from stakeholders in achieving the PI goal
  • Iteration retrospectives - review the team practices/processes and look for chances to improve
  • Scrum of Scrums, PO sync, and ART sync - align the teams across the ART

The events are the “low hanging fruit” of the team coaching aspect. The next opportunity for improvement is coaching the team to use some of the most effective software development techniques widely used today. These techniques include:

  • Test-Driven and Behavior Driven Development
  • Test Automation
  • Continuous Integration/Deploy
  • Pair Programming

All of these techniques are reviewed in Scaled Agile’s section about Built-in Quality and Team and Technical Agility. Software Engineering is vastly different than it was 10-20 years ago. These new practices, including Lean-Agile and DevOps, allow software teams to deliver greater value in a more predictable cadence. The predictability allows business teams to adjust strategies based on the value delivered by the software teams.

ART Coaching

The Team and Technical Agility competency are essential. This is your organization’s base for implementing SAFe. The next competency that we need to coach, Agile Product Delivery, will help your team reduce their lead time to the shortest sustainable length. Without proper coaching in this competency, teams will fail to reach essential SAFe. Let’s take a look at how Scaled Agile Program Consultants (SPCs) can help the Scrum Masters in the organization master these skills.

Similar to the Team Coaching section, it’s easy to focus on the events first. These events include:

  • PI Planning
  • System Demos
  • Inspect and Adapt Workshops
  • Scrum-of-Scrums, PO Sync, and ART Sync

In addition to coaching these events, SPCs must coach ART Leaders to continuously look for ways to improve and deliver value.  As the teams within the ART start to master their roles and events, they should look to improve the Delivery Pipeline and the enterprise competency of Agile Product Delivery. Here, according to the SAFe website, SPCs are coaching the ability to:

  • Continuously Explore - Sense and respond to market/business needs to build and maintain the program vision, roadmap, backlog, and architectural runway.
  • Continuously Integrate - Build, validate, and learn from working system increments.
  • Continuously Deploy - Deliver validated features into production, where they are ready for release.

Reflect

The most critical part of all of this coaching is the first Inspect and Adapt workshop. This is where the SPCs will help the team look for ways to improve. As you might remember, consistent improvement is one of the main pillars of Agile and, more importantly, SAFe. 

In the Inspect and Adapt events, the teams will learn how they perform against their PI objectives, how the PI went overall, how well the organization is adopting SAFe, and how well the solution they developed works at that point in time. All of these points can lead to places for improvement.

If some of the team or ART events aren’t happening, then it might be that the team needs to revisit some of their SAFe training. If the solution isn’t working well during Inspect and Adapt, perhaps the team must revisit some of the technical competencies.

Overall, during your retrospectives and Inspect and Adapt events, teams need to seize the opportunity to improve.


Don't miss out on the previous parts of the SAFe Implementation Roadmap series!

Part 1: Getting started and reaching the tipping point
Part 2: Train lean-agile change agents
Part 3: Identify Value Streams and Agile Release Trains
Part 4: Create the implementation plan
Part 5: Prepare for ART launch
Part 6: Train teams and launch the ART


The best journeys are taken together. Let us accompany you on your SAFe journey every step of the way.

We know that a SAFe implementation can seem daunting, but it doesn't have to be with the right tools and the right partner. So whether you're about to take your first steps or ready to scale up, we will be there to help you evaluate and guide you through the process. Together with Germany's leading SAFe partner, Kegon, we will use our expertise in Agile Hive, Jira, and Jira Align to help you find the right methods and tools to fit your needs wherever you are on your SAFe journey.

Get in touch with us today so we can help get you started the best way possible for your organization.


Further Reading

Agile Hive Implementation Project
Scaled Agile: SAFe 5.0 changes and how Agile Hive maps them
SAFe with Atlassian tools: Agile Hive is a Scaled Agile Platform Partner
SAFe resources to get you started right
Agile Hive: What is SAFe®?