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Journey from an Agile Practitioner to a SAFe Practice Consultant (SPC)

agile practitioner to safe practice consultant
Alright, folks! If you’ve been navigating Agile and fancy diving deeper into the world of scaled Agile, becoming a SAFe Practice Consultant (SPC) is a fantastic shout. Switching from being an Agile practitioner to a SAFe Practice Consultant is not an easy task, however, it is possible and going to be an experiential journey.

Here’s how you can make the transition through 8 steps to become a successful SPC.

  1. Starting Off: The Agile Practitioner

Scaling without Agility is a disaster. This is essential to have Agile practitioner experience to be a very successful SAFe Practice Consultant.

Let’s take a few examples.

Dave, a Scrum Master, has led a few teams to deliver quality software using Scrum. He’s comfortable with the rhythms of sprints, retrospectives, and daily stand-ups. He understands Agile values and principles thoroughly and has good hands-on experience in Scrum framework implementation.

John is an experienced Agile coach, who has been coaching many teams on Agile in the last few years. He is good at Agile values, and principles, he is very good in the Scrum framework. He has got decent results for the teams that he was coaching.

In this kind of scenario, Deve / John can become a SAFe Practice Consultant and expand their coaching opportunities. Now that they have good Agile experience, let’s look at how they can start the journey toward a successful SAFe Practice Consultant.

  1. Exploring SAFe: A Bigger Picture

In Agile implementation, as you’re working, you realize that many challenges aren’t just at the team level. There’s a need to coordinate multiple teams, align with larger business goals, and ensure a consistent approach to Agile across the entire organization. Enter the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) – it’s like giving your Agile practices a proper ‘cuppa tea and a biscuit’ to supercharge them.

The SAFe framework will help connect all the teams working on the same product in a structure called Agile Release Train (ART). It’s very critical for the Agile practitioner to understand this concept and align with this to bring results as a whole, instead of just focusing on 1 team.

  1. SAFe Training and Certification

You might think, “Blimey, this SAFe sounds like a big deal!” And you’d be right. To get your head around it, you should consider some formal training. There’s the ‘Leading SAFe‘ course that’ll provide you with a SAFe Agilist (SA) certification once completed.

If you are an experienced Agile practitioner, you should think about taking the “SAFe Practice Consultant (SPC)” course. The SPC course will help you to get into SAFe coaching directly after the certification.

Example:

Tom, an experienced Agile Coach in Newcastle, attends a ‘SAFe Practice Consultant’ course. He learned about the different levels of SAFe and the principles that drive them and understood how to implement SAFe in his organization.

Ramya is an experienced Scrum Master. She has been practicing Agile for 2 years and brought improvements within his team. She attended the “Leading SAFe” course and understood the concepts. Later, she shared her knowledge with his leadership and influenced the leaders to move the organization to SAFe. Later, she attended the SAFe Practice Consultant course and became RTE for the ART.

  1. Gain Experience in launching an ART

Just completing the certification is not enough. It is important to gain experience and expertise in the SAFe framework. Before you can tread the waters of becoming a SAFe Program Consultant, it’s essential to get some hands-on experience with SAFe implementations. Dive into a few roles like the Release Train Engineer (RTE) or be a part of a SAFe implementation at an organization.

Example: Farah, after getting her SPC certification in Birmingham, joins a large retail firm to help them implement SAFe. As an RTE, she gets firsthand experience in planning and executing Program Increments.
launching ART -agile practitioner to safe practice consultant

  1. Coach the ART Execution

The more complex situations that you manage and coach, the better you become in terms of SAFe Practice Consultant (SPC). Start with being part of an Agile Release Train, as RTE or SAFe coach or Agile Coach or a Leader within the ART. Gain good experience in launching an ART successfully and bring business results to the ART that you coached.
coach the ART execution

Make sure you coach the ART during their ART execution. Stay with the ART at least for 2-3 Planning Intervals (PIs) and make sure the ART gets the business results through SAFe implementation. This experience will give you confidence in coaching more ARTs in the future.

  1. Go beyond Agile Release Train (ART) – Value Stream

The SAFe framework recommends you start with a Value Stream workshop. Why are we doing it later? Yes, what is written in the framework is correct. It’s always right to start with a value stream through a value stream workshop. However, you don’t have to start with value stream implementation. If you have any senior coach within the organization, it’s good to co-facilitate with the Senior Coach. This will help you learn more from the Senior coach.

launching ARTs & value streams

Now that you have experience in launching an ART and coaching an ART, work on Value stream level SAFe implementation. Coach and facilitate value stream workshop with leadership, identify the right Agile Release train to launch. Post-first ART launch, launch other ARTs within the same Value stream and ensure the Development Value Stream achieves business results. This would take at least 1-2 years to gain experience and achieve this. It’s important for the SPC to have patience and learn to scale the implementation over a period.

SAFe is huge, there is so much to learn. Just implementing SAFe in 1 ART or Value Stream is not enough. To be a successful SAFe, you should continuously learn through different implementations with different complexities. To give an example, implementing Portfolio SAFe is a very different experience and the most difficult part of SAFe implementation, in my view.

  1. Learn through Teaching SAFe

Teach as much as possible while you coach. SAFe has 13 different courses out of which most of the courses (except SPC) that the SAFe Practice Consultant can teach. Every course that you teach, trust me – you will learn a lot by teaching. Make sure you team these courses at least a few times a year so you get expert in the concepts.

I make it a point to teach almost all the courses every year, so I am still in touch with all the courses and their concepts. It helps me a lot while I implement SAFe.

  1. Continuous Learning and Improvement through SAFe Portfolio Implementation

I met many SAFe fellows and SPCTs and I always hear that they are still learning. Having so much experience doesn’t mean that they have managed all possible situations in their SAFe implementation.

SPC should always be looking to refine and improve their skills. Stay updated with the latest in SAFe, attend workshops, and network with fellow SPCs.

Conclusion

Let me end with a statement “Universe is inefficient but very effective”. By stating that, what I mean is it takes time for anyone to achieve results. For example, a tree takes 20 years to grow, which looks to be inefficient. However, the tree stands for 200 years and gives back a lot to the world but takes time.

The Journey from an Agile Practitioner to a SAFe Practice Consultant is also the same. It takes time to become an effective SPC. The journey from an Agile practitioner to a SAFe Practice Consultant is a long and enriching journey by itself. If you are interested in learning Lean and willing to face complex transformation, you are the right person to take up the SPC journey.

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