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Champagne Blog Series, Part 2: Safety and SAFe, Bringing Agile to Our People

In the second of our series of blogs about the CA Technologies Agile transformation, Sri Parthasarathy and Skip Angel talk about the importance of investing in people as part of a transformation, and establishing a safe environment to nurture employee confidence to change. 

In our first Champagne blog post, we talked about people needing a purpose and a reason for change. People also need a clear vision of how they fit into a new, more agile world. In this blog, we?ll talk about creating safety to change and take on new roles ? which is critical for getting people onboard in creating a more agile business.

Setting the Stage

As with any large-scale organizational transformation, we identified a few requirements that would make our change program more successful:

  • A guiding vision and mission to get everybody on the same page.
  • Common stories and language.
  • A couple of attainable small wins to boost enthusiasm.
  • Training on any new skills, practices, and mindset needed for our culture to make the shift as a whole.

For training, we leveraged hands-on Agile workshops with our transformation team, online internal ?Get Fit? programs for Agile basics, and a variety of in-person, role-based training for everyone in the company. As we were leveraging the Scaled Agile Framework(SAFe®) in each of our development groups, we used the Leading SAFe® course to train many of our leaders. All of these were supplemented with occasional one-on-one coaching in mindset and practices.

Then came the most important part of stage setting: preparing everyone to learn by doing. We?ve found that while talking and learning are important in helping people be ready to change ? practicing together is key to creating new organizational habits and culture that truly fit a particular enterprise.

We identified some behavioral practices, then our first targeted wins, which included: defining development value streams in each of our lines of business; launching SAFe Release Trains in each; conducting line of business quarterly steering meetings.

Our shared stories were then around getting to these wins, and our shared language became the language of SAFe and lean strategy deployment (for example ?quarterly steering?).

Making it Safe (as Well as SAFe!)

As part of the transformation to greater business agility and as part of adopting SAFe, many people took on new titles and roles. From Scrum Master to Product Owner to Release Train Engineer, this was enough of a disruption to their feelings of safety, status, and career progression that we needed to address the concerns with a cross-cutting effort.

Our transformation team worked closely with our People Team (a.k.a. HR) to complete design-thinking style empathy interviews with hundreds of leaders and team members throughout our organization. We ultimately came up with a solution that helped our employees feel good about concerns, such as:

?If I take this Scrum Master role, will I ever be promoted??

?I don?t even know what this new role is, what would I be expected to do??

And not usually said out loud, but frequently pondered on all the same: ?Will this job carry the same status as my last role? Will I get the same pay??

The magic formula, which ensured the overall initiative?s success, was bringing together a wide variety of people and carefully facilitating meetings so all people were heard. The result is an updated set of leadership guidelines and a published Agile job architecture.

We?re making this job architecture available on an open source basis in the hopes it will speed your path to an agile business, too: Sri and Skip are presenting it at the SAFe Summit on 4th October 2017, and we will be posting it here after that. To find out more about the Summit, go to

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SriParthasarathy contributed to this article