When using the SAFe Principle Cards (available here) in workshops and training courses it always surprised us how differently people with different roles would interpret and value the various principles.
The simplest activity we use to get people to interact with the principles is to give them a set of the SAFe Principle cards and ask them to read all of the cards and then place them in a line “in priority order” on the table – with the Principles they believe have lowest priority on the left, and those with the highest priority on the right.
What would always amaze us would be how the rankings would always vary from group-to-group. Product Managers would propose one ranking, Release Train Engineers another, and Architects and other technologists a third. It was also interesting to see how the various roles interpreted what good and bad behaviour would be from themselves, and even more interesting when discussing how they thought the others should behave.
The differences, and on occasions the misconceptions, were significant enough that we thought it would be helpful if there was a set of principle cards explicitly aimed at each of the three main SAFe areas of responsibility:
- Product Managers / Product Owners,
- RTEs / Scrum Masters
- Architects / Engineers.
Each set of cards is a variant on the original IJI SAFe Principle cards: the fronts of these role-based Principle cards are identical to the original set of cards, but new, role specific, awful and awesome caricatures have been created for each set.
This is illustrated at the top, it shows the 4 different backs for the first card in the set: SAFe Principle #1: Take an Economic View
In the following three sections we will provide a brief introduction to each set of cards, all of which can be downloaded for free at the bottom of this page.
The final section outlines how addressing these three different perspectives can help you assess how well the principles are being applied in your organization.
1.2 The Product Manager / Product Owner Cards
One of the key roles in SAFe is that of the content authority, a role performed by the Product Management group for the ART and the Product Owner community for the teams.
The agility of this group is fundamental to the benefit you will gain from the Team’s agility. If the Product Managers and Product Owners are not Agile and living and breathing SAFe’s Lean and Agile Principles and Values then the Agile Release Train (ART) will not deliver the benefits promised by SAFe. It doesn’t matter how empowered the teams are or how great their velocity is if the product management group 1) act as a bottleneck and 2) treat the teams as sub-servient order takers rather than partners in innovation and value delivery.
Sadly, many people in the role of Product Manager or Product Owner think Agile is just something for the teams, and that it is not necessary for them to change or evolve their own behaviors. The set of Product Manager / Product Owner cards clearly illustrate why embracing all 10 SAFe Principles is essential for anyone engaged in Product Management or Product Ownership and will help inspire truly Agile behavior across the whole ART.
1.3 The Release Train Engineer / Scrum Master Cards
The Release Train Engineers and Scrum Masters should be the most Agile people on the ART as it is their job to grow and stimulate an Agile mindset across everyone in their teams.
Unfortunately, they can fall into the trap of thinking that many of the SAFe Principles are for others rather than themselves. For example - they may believe that ‘Taking an Economic View’ is just something Product Managers need to think about, or that Systems Thinking is just for the Architects.
The set of RTE / Scrum Master cards provide a helpful reminder of just why they need to embody all 10 SAFe Principles and not just those related to team working and team structures.
1.4 The Architect / Engineer Cards
Architects are responsible for overall technical excellence and driving the technical direction of the Solutions they own. However, they may find themselves disconnected from the day-day work of the software engineers and find it difficult to align their long-term Architectural plans with the incremental and iterative plans created by Agile development teams. Engineers focus every day on delivering solutions to complex technical problems, but they may not fully appreciate how the way they work together, and the way they make decisions together, can have a profound impact on the speed and quality of their deliveries.
The SAFe Architect /Engineer cards help people in the technical community relate much more closely with the SAFe Principles from their own perspective and so help ensure these principles are understood and followed.
1.5 Role-Based Assessments
As shown in our previous blogs, these IJI SAFe Principle cards provide a great way to assess how well the principles are being applied.
Unfortunately doing a general, overall assessment of how well an organization follows the principles can leave one struggling to identify where the problems lie or how to improve things. What we have found is it is often better to focus on a particular community and assess how well they are applying the principles.
The new role-based principle cards make it easy to assess how well each of the key areas of responsibility are aligned to the SAFE Principles. The cards help the audience assess how well each role is performing by enabling them to consider specific, rather than generic, descriptions of awful and awesome.
1.6 Getting Hold of the Cards
Coaching is at the heart of what we do here at IJI, so we just love coaching cards!
To support our customers in their journey toward Business Agility, we have put together a coaching card download hub.
You can download any of the Role-Based SAFe Principles cards and many more, by visiting our free download hub.
Special thanks to SPCT Keith De Mendonca (our architecture expert) for creating the Architect cards.
Thanks to the entire IJI SAFe team in their help updating the card deck, their detailed reviews, ideas, comments and website wrangling. In particular SAFe Fellow Brian Tucker, SPC Richard Cook and SPC Marika Zep