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Agile Mentors Podcast

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#68: The Pros and Cons and Real World Applications of SAFe with Mike Hall

October 04, 2023     47 minutes

Join Brian on the Agile Mentors Podcast as he sits down with Mike Hall for a refreshing perspective on SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), its real-world applications, and the hidden costs of a one-size-fits-all approach.



Today, on the Agile Mentors Podcast, Brian delves into the intricacies of SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) with guest Mike Hall of Agile Authority.

Listen in as Mike shares the four essential steps for effective SAFe implementation, the hidden costs of a one-size-fits-all method, and why it's crucial to listen, understand, and honor the dynamics within your unique organization.

Tune in to gain a profound understanding of SAFe and how to make it work for your team.

Listen Now to Discover:

[01:21]- Brian Milner introduces his guest, Mike Hall, Founder and chief evangelist of Agile Authority to discuss the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
[02:41] - Mike shares his background and perspective on SAFe and clarifies this is not a SAFe bashing session.
[05:07] - The importance of lean thinking and continuous improvement.
[06:13] - Mike shares the definition of SAFe and its core components, and popularity in Agile transformations.
[09:08] - The pros and cons of SAFe: Mike explains why SAFe appeals to executives and its popularity in addressing agile scaling needs.
[13:06] - Brian and Mike acknowledge the criticism of SAFe but discuss the appeal of its "connective tissue" concept.
[14:04] - Mike highlights some of the pros of SAFe, including the accessible resources and low risk. But also shares some potential issues like the importance of value alignment and the comprehensive yet generic nature of SAFe.
[16:53] - Improving SAFe: Brian asks Mike which aspects of SAFe he believes could be enhanced.
[17:19] - Mike discusses the issue of considerable overhead and complexity, especially in the full configuration mode. [18:35] - In SAFe there are six new team roles that require training investments along with the addition of 17 new recurring meetings (events) in SAFe and 31 new artifacts.
[20:51] - Mike discusses the extensive elements of SAFe, underlining new roles, meetings, and artifacts while emphasizing the need to evaluate their relevance for specific organizations.
[23:51] - Customizing SAFe to reduce waste and overhead, Mike raises the question of a more efficient way to leverage lean and agile concepts in a fit-for-purpose approach.
[28:45] - A word from our sponsor: Mountain Goat Software's Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner® class teaches you the skills you need to increase your confidence, credibility, and value as a product owner with interactive software that makes the breakout exercises both valuable and fun. You’ll also receive 12 months of membership in the Agile Mentors Community.
[29:31] - Mike introduces the concept of simple scaling, and its focus on four common-sense steps to consider—with the flexibility to discard steps that don't apply.
[30:53] - Brian mentions #17: Getting There From Here: Agile Transformations with David Hawks.
[31:10] - Step 1: Start with a Clear Business Objective: Mike shares the importance of beginning with a well-defined objective.
[32:19] - Step 2: Observe, Understand, and Honor the Past: The most overlooked step, Mike shares why skipping it can be counterproductive.
[33:28] - Step 3: Align to the Flow of Value.
[34:28] - Step 4: Apply Targeted Agile Principles and Practices: Mike shares how specific Agile practices can be chosen to align with the business objective, like improving product quality.
[34:38] - Mike highlights Agile practices that enhance product quality, (such as working at a sustainable pace, shift-left testing, test-driven development, code reviews, and sprint reviews) and help reduce errors.
[35:09] - Mike discusses the concepts that can be used to align with the business objective of faster time-to-market.
[36:41] - Brian and Mike discuss the debate on targeted vs. mass deployment, the key factors driving this debate, and how Agile principles and practices can help.
[38:07] - Brian shares the significance of choosing the right guide for Agile transformations, emphasizing the importance of philosophy alignment.
[39:00] - Why every framework should come with a big red asterisk in the fine print.
[40:36] - Brian shares an analogy related to taking medicine, highlighting the importance of a targeted approach for organizations.
[43:01] - You can connect with Mike Hall, on the Agile Authority website.
[43:59] - Did you know we discuss every episode of the podcast in the Agile Mentors Community? Join us (a 12-month membership is included with any training class from Mountain Goat Software) and post your questions there. Additionally, if you enjoyed this episode share it with others and subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts. As always, if you have feedback or ideas for the show, just email

References and resources mentioned in the show:

Agile Authority
#17: Getting There From Here: Agile Transformations with David Hawks
Advanced Certified Scrum Product Owner®
Certified ScrumMaster Training and Scrum Certification
Certified Scrum Product Owner
Training Advanced Certified ScrumMaster®
Mountain Goat Software Certified Scrum and Agile Training Schedule
Join the Agile Mentors Community
Subscribe to the Agile Mentors Podcast on Apple Podcasts

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This episode’s presenters are:

Brian Milner is SVP of coaching and training at Mountain Goat Software. He's passionate about making a difference in people's day-to-day work, influenced by his own experience of transitioning to Scrum and seeing improvements in work/life balance, honesty, respect, and the quality of work.

Mike Hall, of Agile Authority is a seasoned Agile Coach/Trainer, who brings 20+ years of Agile experience, specializing in software development and technology leadership. With a rich repertoire of Agile and Scaled Agile certifications, including CSP, CSM, CSPO, and SPC6, he's a key player in Agile transformations.