Here at Applied Frameworks, we believe that at some point, all enterprises that want to drive sustainable change using Scaled Agile Framework require at least one person on the inside to be that change agent, that knowledgeable person who can teach classes, work both with leaders on different levels as well as with teams. And in most cases, at larger enterprises, there ends up being somebody who leads that Lean-Agile Center of Excellence or LACE.
In this episode of SPC Journey Series: I’m an SPC, and I Head a LACE. Applied Frameworks SAFe Practice Lead Phil Gardiner and Vodafone’s Head of Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) and iSPCT Candidate Alena Keck will discus exactly what that means.
Topics during this webinar:
How to get the LACE started and how it evolves over time
How to keep Executives engaged
Tips and tricks for communication
How to ensure the LACE is pull-based and not push-based
What capabilities are needed in a LACE team
Where do you find change agents
What to look for in members of a LACE
How to grow and develop SPCs as part of LACE
View The Recording
About the SPC Journey series:
The SPC Journey is a series of webinars and panel discussions, hosted by SPCT Phil Gardiner, designed to help SPC’s and those they support on their journey to learn, grow, and succeed in implementing SAFe.
*Transcribed using AI. Please ignore spelling and grammar errors
Laura Caldie 00:03
Hello, everybody. Welcome to our webinar. We’ll give everyone just a few moments to get settled, grab a glass of water if I don’t know if our panelists are Philippi if you need anything, oh, we’re all set. That will just give everyone another 30 seconds or so to get in. So while we’re waiting, Phil and Alena, how are you both doing on this? Fine Thursday?
Phil Gardiner 00:26
Great. You’re farther ahead on time. So you go first.
Alena Keck 00:31
It’s an evening for me feel right. was a long day, a lot of meetings, but I feel energized.
Phil Gardiner 00:39
So I’m actually I’m teaching implementing SAFe 6.0 today. We’ve been teaching it this week. And it’s been pretty awesome. I had we had one of our SPC T candidates, Travis Moore, jump in for an hour and 15 minutes to recover the class while I’m here. So I’m stoked. I’m excited about SAFe 6.0. You know, and I can’t I was actually, before we started, I was asking Alena, you know, what do you love about SAFe 6.0? Because it’s here now. Right? And it’s, it’s different. And it’s cool. And it’s awesome. There’s there’s five things I love about it. But I’ll save that for a blog sometime. But what’s the thing you love the most about SAFe 6.0 Atlanta while we’re waiting for people to join? Yeah, let the
Alena Keck 01:17
flow accelerators right, and especially time on the zone, which is really, I think, very important personally, to understand it and incorporate it into the activities that teams are doing. And actually, the accelerators is something I think the leaders and executives, they can really relate to it and understand it. And really early in the transformation, really, they can get some actionable items, which are not easy, but easy to understand and easy to start working on. Right. Which is really, really fantastic.
Phil Gardiner 01:49
flow flow flow flow flow. I love it. Well, that kind
Laura Caldie 01:52
of ties right into how I was going to introduce you, Alena, you know, as the head of the list for Vodafone. I know that your passion around growing change agents and definitely working with leaders around what Lean agile leadership looks like. It’s really part of the magic that you’re bringing to organizations. And so we are so happy that you’re here and joining Phil in this, I just want to welcome everybody who’s joining into this. One of our episodes in the series of I’m an SPC, the series is led by Phil Gardner. Phil is our Practice Lead here at Applied frameworks. As the SAFe practice lead, he helps to bring I guess, examples from the field, really to kind of further the thinking around agility and business agility, you know, more broadly for the Agile community. So this webinar series is really designed to bring voices from the field and provide some really kind of practical, I guess, best practices, lessons learned good practices, all those kinds of things. And so this particular topic, we’re going to be exploring, from a SAFe practice consultants perspective, the role that NSPC can play when you’re supporting the development and the growth of the lace. So Alena, welcome, I’m so glad that you’re here. I think this is going to be a great conversation. And Phil as the SAFe practice lead, and one of our SPC T’s here, actually our first SPC T that we had at Applied frameworks, I’m just grateful that you bring these kinds of conversations to the community. So I don’t want to take too much more time other than to say that apply frameworks, loves to host these kinds of conversations. And my role will be in the background. We’re recording this. So for any folks who need to listen to this later have to leave early, it will be shared. But please, as you have questions, put them into the q&a. And my job is now as I turn this over to Phil and Alena, I’m just going to be looking at the q&a and making sure that I inject questions from people in the audience, so that you too, can kind of talk about that and share your experiences.
Phil Gardiner 03:52
Thank you so much, Laura. I’m really humbled to be here. You know, I I was talking to one of the SAFe fellows somebody that’s one of my SAFe heroes, Harry Coleman last night. And just thinking about my own journey, right, I’m hitting that 10 year mark with SAFe and what got me here was community. And so I’m so honored to be able to give back by having this series where it’s like, Hey, you’re an SPC. Or maybe you’re leveraging SPC is you need to hire SPC as you’re thinking about becoming an SPC and and you want multiple perspectives community brings you that that perspective, right. I teach classes and I do talks, but that’s one opinion. Right? When I think about my own journey, you know, it started in 2013. And I met just these thought leaders M Campbell pretty MARK RICHARDS, individuals from Scaled Agile like like Jennifer Fossett and Dean and Inbar and, and those individuals and hearing their stories, hearing their perspectives. I can’t I can’t explain just how deep and profound that’s had on me as an individual and as a professional. And so I’m so proud to have Elaine on here. are, you know, you meet people along your journey? And you remember some of them, right? So Alena, I met her in LA it was it was June of 2019, I think. And I was going through what we call immersion week I, I was an sp CT prospect, and then I became a nominee. And you go through this week long immersion week, we’re kind of like that crucible, and you come on the other side, hopefully, as an SPCC candidate. And part of that is that they funnel a lot of the questions to you. And when I remember at that class is that Rochelle Mauer and Alena Keck, the two of them just peppered me with the hardest questions, and you’re standing there, you’re sitting there in front of a panel of people assessing how you answer questions about the framework. And so that’s where I met Alena, and it’s been awesome to see her journey. You know, she she is, you know, there’s a subcommittee out there women and agile she’s, she’s she’s part of that women and agile, there’s, you know, I think about how many of my new SAFe heroes are women. And you know, Dima de Johnny Audrey Boylston, Cheryl croupy, Rebecca Davis, all sorts of people. So it’s really great to see somebody in this leadership role who’s really done so much great stuff. So yes, and Alena fan, sorry. Yeah.
Alena Keck 06:14
Feel I also remember the summer where we met, and I was on my SPC training, right. And I really wanted to get this training from Dean Leffingwell. Because I really believe that he has so much to give to his students, and really, so much passion to really share with others. So I wanted to have a comfortable there and get through this journey. And this is how we get to know each other now, this December, I also was in my immersion weekend, fortunately, not in Boulder, but all remote. And I also got out of it as an SBCT candidate, which is really cool.
Phil Gardiner 06:52
It all comes around, right. And so there’s somebody in the audience here, who’s going to learn from you. And you know, a year from now, two years from now, they’re leading the lace somewhere, and they’re the head of the lace for some place. So enough on the intro, sorry about about that, as you can see, I really believe in the community, and it’s about people. So we’re going to just kind of have a conversation around some of these topics. The first one really is, how do you get the lay started? And how does it evolve over time? What’s What’s your been your experience with that.
Alena Keck 07:22
So feel I have a couple of experiences from my previous role, and also from my role at Vodafone right now. And I think, a powerful way start with a strong leader, who is very who understand the business, understand the pain points in the business and really understand the why we need to transform the business. In some of the previous company, what I saw are working very well to have one leader from technology and one from business paired from the very beginning to drive the transformation together to be on stage all the time as a pair of business and technology and really showing the commitment of both sides for this transformation. So I think leadership and strong leadership at the beginning is a key. And then you need a cross functional team. And you normally start with a growing functionality within your team. You start with some SPC who you start growing upskilling. But the transformation needs much more than a C knowledge you need someone who understand change and can drive for example, very good communication, you need someone who really is very good and stakeholder management. Sometimes if you are in companies like an automotive or companies, which has a lot of compliance concerns, you need someone who understand tooling or quality or process experts on your team to be trustworthy, right? Otherwise, the lace team will be maybe considered as not very trustworthy if we are only talking about the ceremonies and principles in an environment which really needs to operate in a very strict regulatory and compliance and include those concerns. So cross functional team, I think, is the second piece of the success. And then the team needs to evolve you need to include some leaders not only have someone who is able to teach or to provide coaching to your agile release trains, but also onboard some of the line managers, some of the leaders and as your transformation is evolving, you will need other skills, other areas or maybe other experts to really come on to your journey and help you in a swarm concept right sometimes your lace will grow. Sometimes some people in some areas they will mature and you will need other skills. Like for example if you realize that DevOps is your problem area that you might need some coaching and some advice there or it might evolve in a very, very different direction.
Phil Gardiner 09:48
As it you know, when I hear you talk about that, and thank you for sharing all that great advice. You know, the word that pops into my mind is perspective. And specifically perspectives right and you know, in my own experience with laces, you know, you mentioned something very powerful there, which is it’s okay to get other people in there, it’s okay to not have just SPCs, right. So, you know, this whole series is called the SPC journey. And I like to say that that the s getting your SPC is the beginning of a journey, not the end of it, right. And so, just because you have the SPC certification does not mean you’ve got experience managing complicated stakeholder situations, or that you have experienced with DevOps, or you have experienced with lpm. Now, the great thing about being an SPC is there’s all sorts of resources, both in the community on new SAFe studio and things like that, to grow those skills. And we’ll talk a little bit later about how to grow and develop SPCs. Another thing you mentioned that I just want to piggyback on is this idea of, you need a leader familiar with the business, and is somebody familiar with inside, right, I’m an outside consultant. Now, I started my journey at at&t as an internal change agent, right. And, you know, being an internal change agent has a whole bunch of benefits, and a whole bunch of challenges. Just like being a consultant has a whole bunch of benefits and a whole bunch of challenges. But I share your belief there that the ENTJ the the the internal person, you know, you need somebody internal to lead your lace, because it’s your transformation as a company not not ours as as an external partner. The other thing I think was really powerful that you said that I want to say that that I want to pull that string a little bit more. And that’s that, when we look at when we look at at that partnership between business and technology, one of the coolest things about SAFe 6.0, in my mind, is this little article in the bottom left corner of the framework, big picture, it says Business and Technology, if you click that link, you’ll see a bunch of patterns that move SAFe beyond just it. And if you can start that when you when you first get going, those implementations that I think about that are still running today, after years, it’s ones where you had that partnership together. And how do you you know, when we talk about getting the lay started? How do you actually have any tips or advice on on an sp for an SPC or somebody involved in a lace on how you might bridge that conversation and get the business and technology leaders to take to be engaged and take control.
Alena Keck 12:16
So in my previous experience, what we from the very beginning, we paired the Agile transformation with digital transformation. And if you do that, then I think it’s a natural desire from the business side to really make the digital acceleration possible, right. And if you really connect with digital products with how you want to scale them on a global basis, how you want to drive customer satisfaction with those new products and how you really want to drive excitement, and connect the digital transformation with Agile transformation. I think this resonates to both business and technology. And this was one of the case where it was easier for us whether it was a digital solution center, which I was part of or digital product organization I was part of this was kind of designed in because the Agile transformation was part of digital strategy or digital transformation. So the strategy of the business was to digitize enterprise and the way of working was chosen was the Agile way of working.
Phil Gardiner 13:16
Awesome. Thank you. So on that note about executives, right? I mean, I know I think about my own journey, right and I’m transparent guy, my first experience with senior senior execs my first experience with with in an agile context with a officer of the corporation at AT and T It was basically Dean Leffingwell came out to visit at&t. And we had a new officer. And he replaced our old lean agile leader. And this is a new, more traditional leader. And we went from we hit 240% of our plan with with SAFe. And then the next year, we got a new leader and he came in he’s like, Okay, we did 50 projects last year. So we’re gonna do 500 this year. And I’m sitting there going, Whoa, how are we going to we can only hire a couple more people. 100 more people? How is that possible? Right. The left wing was right there in the middle of you know, he’s in there in the in the room with with the officer and his directs. And I set up this question. I’m like, Dean, what would you say? If I told you that we have 100 people in our organization, and we did 50 projects last year, we’re signing up for 500 this year. And Dean’s like that would just be blank. Stupid. Right? And I’m staring daggers into the officers eyes as I say that, right? That’s not how to do it. Right. So I got positive reinforcement for that negative behavior and that we did it we ended up doing a portfolio workshop. But we talked about engaging executives, it’s more about meeting them where they are, what tips and tricks do you have for SPCs and those on their journey on? How do you get them engaged and keep them engaged?
Alena Keck 14:50
Yeah, I think it is really really hard and there is no silver bullet. You need to be very creative and very resilient and start and continue asking and keeping keep been trying to find the way to engage. But what I mentioned previously, right, this leader needs to have an understanding leading release of the business and coming from many, many years of automotive and changing to Telecom, I did not have this business knowledge. So what I joined Vodafone, the first 90 days I really spent interviewing our CIOs from different markets, some other executives and stakeholders to understand what are the pain points? What are the success factors? What do they think, is the most important thing to do? So I took all those notes, I really had tons of notes, tons of interviews, which I conducted. And then I summarized it as a SWOT analysis for transformation and presented to all of our CIO and CTO, right. So this was the first thing which I did, what I’m doing right now is, you cannot have the engagement of all executives, it’s not relevant for them all at the same time. So you need to maybe pick one, and make it successful for this one person and pair with this one executive. So what I created and pitched Actually, today, again, in one of the senior leadership meetings was the transformation champion concept. We created this concept as we realized that some of the transformation were lacking exactly, the executive leadership and the teams hit the ceiling very, very fast what they can do. So we came to our CTO and his leadership team and sat, what we need to do is we need to have a commitment from one of the executives to help support the transformation help to remove impediments, and help to set the vision for this transformation for this huge initiative. And we got the buy in from one of them, we created the concept, what would be in scope of our collaboration, how we will collaborate and how this person would nominate some of the people from his areas for us to be into our counterpart and everyday basis. And we also pitched it today, again, in a leadership meeting, how we are cooperating right now how we’re driving success, and started this journey together. So this would be the second format, which I tried out right now, what we did in I think last month, myself and one of my colleagues, we had empathy mapping. So basically, we took one of the executive and some of our colleagues from the leadership team, they interviewed us, and we were thinking about this person and saying, Okay, what does he see? What does he Yeah, what does he hear and through this conversation, we kind of unpick a lot of things like for example, we really need to strongly connect to the goals and really, goals of this leader, speak the language of the goals and really understand what was in his goals agreement for this year, and what will be in his goals agreement next year. So these types of things would be one of my suggestion and bringing the transformation topic on the agenda for your senior leadership meetings on a regular basis. But whatever the topic is relevant, but just trying to get on this agenda. And the last one, I think lpm concept lean portfolio management as as, as a construct, it’s the first time when leaders really need to get their hands dirty around something, right? And if they have to do it like this understanding or like participatory budgeting, which we are conducting, like, you need to be engaged or like, if you’re not engaged, it should allocate the budget or if you’re not in this meeting, you kind of lost your chance. Right? So like engagement, there is mandatory. So those are the things we tried, but it is really hard. And yeah, there is no silver bullet.
Phil Gardiner 18:51
You said I apologize. I dropped the connection there for a second. You said some really powerful things there. One of the first words that stuck out was you said there was word resiliency, right? And, you know, as somebody who leads a lace and somebody who’s been in a similar role and coached people in that role, that’s a powerful attribute for for the head of a lace to have, because you’re not going to get a bunch of yeses all the time. Right. Tenacity is important. Another thing you mentioned that I really want to just just second in my personal experience. You know, I’m a huge fan of stories, and where you’re on here telling some of your stories, right? And what I found is that those stories are gold, right? And it’s like, if I tell a story, it’s one thing, if the leader tells the story, it’s something just so much more powerful, right? So we like I’m a big fan of gimble walks. And at at 18 t, we implemented lpm. First it was back in May of 2017. So it wasn’t a popular thing. It wasn’t the top of the roadmap yet, but I experienced the same thing user experience, which is give him something to do they get their hands dirty, right and there was some I have a visceral reaction from the staff when they saw, you know, an officer of the company, you know, kneeling down, putting blue painters tape up on the wall because they were building out their portfolio Kanban flow, and putting all the sticky notes representing the existing projects at the time, right, we did a swim lane for existing projects in a swim lane for epics. But what was so cool about that is that we have people coming down from different floors in the at&t Tower, checking it out. And the first time I gave a tour of what was happening, but then the second time, I’m like, Hey, I’m Phil, but the nessa here or Amy here can give you the rest, right. And that ended up becoming a thing where executives were coming from all over the building, to come see this new and different stuff that the cybersecurity business was doing. And so if you can get one, when with one of those executives, they can become that person who tells the stories, right. You know, and, and, and I’ve seen you, you’ve had some of your customers speak at the SAFe Summit, or some of the companies you’ve worked with, and it’s very powerful when the person is talking and not the consultant. So thanks for the tips on that. Speaking of tips and tricks, um, you mentioned something earlier that I think people don’t really always think about from a lace perspective, right, oftentimes, the lace forms, and it’s all about launching that first agile release, train, the art readiness checklist and stuff. There’s a strategic component to that communication strategy. You know, strategy is this is this, it’s the plan to accomplish our vision and our mission, right. And so, tell me more about about tips and tricks for communication as the leader of a lace. Yeah,
Alena Keck 21:41
there is no successful transformation without successful communication, right. So you need to have a good communication strategy for different audiences and different stakeholders, right? When you need to have a broad communication, for example, what we have, we have a variety of resources, we have a SharePoint, we have a channel, where we post a lot of things internally, we have our system demos, we operate as a transformation, agile release, train. And once the PII we have a public demo, right, so that people can join and can really understand what we’re doing. And there again, it’s not all the time as talking, we invite our customers, so the programs to talk about us right or to get their perspective or their view on how we are helping them. Or we have snack sessions, which are called sharing newly acquired knowledge. And here last time, we shared how we implemented the attend SAFe essentials diagnostic in one of the Agile release train. And again, we paired with some leaders there so that they can give their perspective and we’re just methodically rounding it up and saying, what would be our recommendation. So this is more broad communication. And as you see, in the background, the Vodafone agile conference, it was like a huge, gigantic format, which we were preparing month together and as a big, big, big, yeah, setup team, to really make it bring it to life where everyone can talk about their stories, everyone had different tracks, to have different workshops, join and listen from our CTO, from our leaders from their organization, their view of what is Lean and Agile leadership or what are ours and how they can help us. So really, this variety of broad communication topics have a key. But you also need to have an executive communication, right getting on the agenda of their meetings, right on a regular basis was a small update. Again, here like today, I did one. And I brought someone from our key initiatives so that I only did the maybe the introduction and the small, kind of wrap up from the last one explaining the context. And then I head over to this person. And he was talking about the transformation and how we’re helping them. And it’s much more powerful than me explaining what we did for this initiative. Right.
Phil Gardiner 24:02
You mentioned, you mentioned that when we first started talking about it’s not a one person job, right. And I love the fact that you know, that communication is going out through many people through many different challenges, you know, the need for different channels, right? And, you know, I love the idea I’ve participated in three or four internal conferences for large corporations and, and one for the US Air Force. And it’s it’s a tremendously cool thing to see when a company has enough at agility that they can run their own conference and maybe bring in one or two outside speakers to share in an area that that’s new. Hey, sign me up for 2020 2024 If you’ve got a spot, but
Alena Keck 24:49
cool, we will and Andrew was talking as it was last weekend. He was talking about six years old one day after after the launch. It was really really fantastic.
Phil Gardiner 24:58
It’s Andy sales is one of the chief methodologists at Scaled Agile, you’re lucky to have him over there across the pond. So, you know, our next topic here is and by the way, if you have questions as we’re going, throw them in the chat, right, we know, Alena and I met and when we talked about, Hey, would you mind coming out? Would you mind sharing some of your experiences? She came up with some stuff that we want to talk about together, but it’s not limited to that. So we’re going to have time for for other questions and answers. So you know, be thinking about what are the things you want to talk about? This next one for me is, it’s another one that it’s really a deeply meaningful topic for me this idea of a pull based or push based lace. So I will tell you, I actually, so I worked at a TNT for 16 years. And I went through a transformation where we had an army of consultants, we had 29, consultants, these were great agile team coaches came in and stood up 67 Scrum teams, and we had a traditional PMO, that did not believe in transparency. And the result was not some good stuff, right? There was not that success. That experience pushed me to look at past scaling patterns. But then along the way, we had an Agile community of practice those individuals across the enterprise that just got hit by this agile bullet in, you know, in, in 20,008 2009, or even earlier, and we had an informal community practice, we made recommendations for tooling and things like that. Well, then agile became a thing. And so that means they assigned a director, right, and a director needs to have direct reports. And so they created this agile Center of Excellence, right? And fast forward a couple of years. And what we had was what we called the Agile police, right? And they literally had clipboards. And they would come in, if they heard the word agile, they would just, you know, swarm like locusts. And they would basically have their clipboards and they’re like, Okay, I’ve heard you say the word Scrum. So you need to be assessed. And they would rate you as bronze, silver, or gold level agility. And if you didn’t qualify for bronze, you get shut down on official agile violation shut down, right. And so for me, it was in 2013, on this opportunity to get involved in a startup inside at&t, where our CTO said, You know what, let’s create a place inside at&t. There’s nothing like at&t, right? Let’s build our own culture. Let’s compete with the startups. This is around big data. And let’s get some data scientists in here, right and 18 t is fantastic datasets, but the culture isn’t quite the same as Silicon Valley. Right. And so we were able to, you know, we had that top cover to change things. And so I looked at I saw Dean Leffingwell in 2013, give a presentation on SAFe to, and I was like, what a masterful way to bypass the Agile police. Because this is not Scrum. And so therefore, it’s not part of their charter, so they can’t control it. And literally, that’s why I adopted SAFe and became an SBC so that we could tell the Agile CEO II, this is SAFe. It’s not Scrum. And, you know, when I think about that, and years later, I was able to go back and join at&t as a consultant. And one of the things we helped was helping the Agile COA move from being a push Bay COE to pull Bay Coe, and there’s lots of patterns there. I’m curious if you’ve seen some of these, like SPCs are in a tower, and they write process documents, right or or SPCs. Write a SAFe playbook. And you know, you don’t go onto the website, look at the playbook first, because the playbook tells us what we’re going to do. And if you read that playbook, what you see is well, scaled agile recommends you do this, but that seems uncomfortable. So we’re going to just rewrite that and say, instead of having a product manager and a system architect that work together, we’re going to have an art owner. Right. Okay, and we don’t like this. So we’re going to do that right? And you start customizing the framework. So what’s your been exports you’ve been you’re just a happy end of that tail was that they became a pull based system and it was somewhere you know, you the ultimate goal you want is, I’m a leader inside the corporation and I’m thinking about agile, I would be silly not to reach out to the lace and have them help me understand how to get going. Right? You want that level? You want that poll? What are your thoughts and experiences around this?
Alena Keck 29:23
Yeah, obviously to become agile police would be my horror story, right nightmare, which I really really want to avoid but I know what you’re talking about. And I think we all know that examples which are really, really extreme. So I think as we I think I can consider that we are very strong and broad communication. And therefore people really know us know what we are doing and through for example, agile conference, we announced that we will have some workshop tracks and they were kind of sold out there. They were free right but sign up Workshop. They were sold out in like four hours, right? It was really demonstrating there, there is a pool for really great workshops from our team or like PB simulation game, right, which we created for our context was also sold out, we had to give it twice, one in the morning and one in the evening. Because there was a pool for this right? What else we have a lot of demands, which you can, for example, get on our SharePoint and say you want to sign up for training? Or you have a question. We have a format where for example, like it’s next session where you can come and join and ask the question, we have CRPS. So this would be supporting the pool. Nevertheless, what I think is important is, as we will always have more demand and capacity, and we are in this situation all the time, if we have demands, which are larger than the user story, right and longer than just couple of days of work. And really will require a lot of transformation effort, we bring and visualize this demands to our senior leadership team and say, these are all the requests we’re getting, which will take us maybe, to launch and art maybe like six months supported after that couple of months, and to bring it to the sustain phase, it will take the capacity of the coaches for many, many, many months, right, such demands we bring up, we just try to discuss it within the senior leadership team so that we can really give an answer that not we are prioritizing the demands. But the senior leadership has an explanation why, for example, this initiative is very important, right? So I would think you still need to have the connection, because the demand will be always hopefully higher than the capacity which you have in the team.
Phil Gardiner 31:50
Or you say hopefully, I’ll tell you that there’s times when it’s not, right. There’s times when when you know it, I’ve got a quick we’ve got a question in chat. And it’s Have you approached a program with established arson solution trains that have varying agile maturity, static states and team complexity, but no lace to guide them? And what’s interesting about the SEC, while segue to answer that question, is that even if you have a lace, it doesn’t mean you don’t have agile popping up in other places, right? So you know, what I share with you as an example of, you know, we have the official agile, bronze, silver gold, right? But then over in this other business unit in this new emerging market, this this h1, focused business segment, we had, we had a whole different type of agile going on. And so you know, it just because there’s a lace doesn’t mean people have to use you. And, you know, one of the things that that I’ve seen in my journey is a situation where it’s it is lace, and the trust in it is so low, that the business doesn’t want to go through the it lace, and that’s a separate challenge. But speaking to this question here, I’m, you know, you’re in the SP CTE program right now, right, you’re gonna you’re going to be an ISP, CT join, join the 100 or so people around the world, you know, is that deep, SAFe experts, which is exciting. What I was noticing the new requirements that came out one of those, it talks about this thing called a RT relaunch, and what we’re seeing now, so it’s been around for a decade or more, right since 2011. And so we’re seeing situations where people say they’re implementing SAFe, but it’s not, it’s not quite there, right. And so the same practices I would use to talk about how do you tackle this, when you don’t have a lace is the same thing, I would look at what I call Second Chance, SAFe, right, or a relaunch or something, which is you’re going to need to find, you know, some top cover, find somebody who’s willing to put their leadership cred on the line to give you enough enough to get started, right. And while you can’t really have a lace with one person, you can start with one person’s vision, and you bring other people in there to help. And even if you’re just starting part time, you can grow from there. Right? So for me, it’s you know, if you’ve got established arts in a lace, you don’t have a lace to guide them, then you can look at forming that it can be organic, right? Not all laces are funded. And that’s something that I talked about in class today. Is it sometimes, you know, when you look at charging a lace, there’s a canvas lace canvas, and it has a lot of similarities with the epic hypothesis statement from lpm. And I’ve actually worked with clients where we have an epic that goes in through the lpm funnel about the transformation office right or that lace because it’s an investment. There’s a hypothesis, there’s an MVP and things like that. What do you have, you could share around that around this idea of of, you know, varying maturity levels on establish arcs and solution trains, but no lace.
Alena Keck 34:51
Yeah, I think if the question also had the second part, right, which I’m also reading right now, so I think it is all this happening in a couple of organizations where I was before, I think for in this case, it’s really a bottom up transformation where normally our two E’s or maybe STS are trying to drive as far as they can get, right. But what I would recommend in this situation is really maybe find a leader who feels the pain, right? And who really feels that continuing doing that will not help and find and try to connect with the original why? Why, for example, SAFe was implemented. Why was, for example, where this are the solution trains were started in the first place, and what was promised at the beginning, and what would help to keep this promise, right, and try to find the leader who would support you, even if it’s not official police organization, it doesn’t have to be lace can be a virtual organization, which is really driving the transformation from like doing it as a additional part of the job. And I also was part of such lace, it is painful where because it is really a lot of time commitment, and you need to shuffle the different commitments at the same time. But it’s still possible.
Phil Gardiner 36:15
You know, I’m looking at the I paste it into chat, not everybody can see the question, so I pasted it into chat. So that the person who asked that question, they added some additional context. And when I read that, when I read that context, what I hear there is, man, they probably need some lpm, right? You know, we’ve got we’ve got, we’ve got a large group of established arts, right, for the last four years without a lace to help them align everyone to a common operating rhythm, this has made it very difficult to enable cross functional integration and program reporting, right? When I hear that cross functional integration, the lace can say, hey, here’s some ways of working. But then it’s the value management office that says, let’s, let’s help make sure that we’re actually working and executing in that new way of working in. And, you know, the Value Management Office is part of agile portfolio operations, part of the lpm competency, and they’re the VMO and the lace are tied very closely together. And what you might find is that the same individuals that that build relationships with those senior leaders that can make changes at the at the at the portfolio level are oftentimes the same ones that can make decisions and provide great engagement at the lowest level. And so there’s a natural piece there for me when I when I read that I think lpm you know that that’s because, you know, you mentioned earlier, right? lpm brings these people together, it gives them something to roll up their their sleeves on right. Any any other thoughts you have on that additional context, Alena?
Alena Keck 37:53
Let me think about it, I think, as I mentioned, right, it lays doesn’t have to be a formal organization. It can be organic, and really driven by someone who feels the pain. And if you pull the artist together, and if you create this very strong community feeling around them, right. And if you find one or two leaders who wants to volunteer the time to help, I think you can still drive, you will still hit the ceiling. But you can show some success. So focus on the success areas and what is working right thing, the biggest difference of between, for example, the leading, leading change from John from quarter and from Chip and Dan, that chip and Chip and Dan, they’re focused really on, find the small things which are successful and really replicate them don’t focus on things which are not working, just find this one small piece, which is working, for example, if an artist predictable or showing a better results over time, and really try to replicate to grow it and focus on this small item to grow it as large as possible.
Phil Gardiner 39:06
Yeah, and Chip and Dan, that’s, that’s referring to this great book called Switch how to change when change is hard. Let me let me move to our next topic here. You know, what capabilities are needed in a lace team? Right? So just Just quickly, kind of when you think about gosh, I think I think about I’ve mentioned I’m talking to Harry last night got nostalgic on this 2016 Leadership Retreat and Dean had this piece of paper, and he was given an open space. He’s like, if you’re not doing these 10 things, don’t call it SAFe. Right? So what are what is your list of if you’re not doing these things? Don’t call it a lace. What comes to mind for you?
Alena Keck 39:40
I think the capability depends on the font, the why and the scope of the transformation, right and how you really, for example, if you align Agile transformation with digital transformation, and for example, digital strategy, you will need other capabilities you will need someone representing for example, the strategic pillar in your team or or someone representing. Like, for example, lpm, part of your team and guiding coalition, if you have this approach, if you are in the complex embedded system environment, you really definitely need those tool practitioners and process practitioners and compliance practitioners, right. So this would be the capabilities which are really, really needed. But in a general sense, I think what you should always have, of course, is training and coaching capabilities Express, for example, in SPCs, but coaching should also not be limited to SAFe practices. But for example, just design thinking coach would be a great addition for your team or DevOps practitioner or like a quality coach, right, they can also become a part of the very, very valuable members of your lace team. And then I would say, methods, practices, metrics, and tooling combined, and really brought to life together would be very important to visualize the progress and really connect to some of the metrics to show that the transformation is working, right. Because you might need some tooling to really bring the metrics to life, but you want to have those metrics with the right mindset and the right methods. Because otherwise, it will be like really, a fruit salad with a little bit of veggies and a little bit of meat inside, right, which would not make a lot of sense. This would be very crucial, but also wine management, HR and finance. Depending on where you are in the transformation journey, you will not have them at the beginning or might not always have them at the beginning, right. But when you reach this, reach this pain point and really feel the pain, then you will start collaborating with finance with HR or what we’re doing. At Vodafone, we’re collaborating with work on learning organization to help us set up those trainings. Bring, bring them to life and really, yeah, become for example, scaled agile, like enterprise SAFe enterprise for us.
Phil Gardiner 42:13
Yeah, it’s interesting. You talked about SAFe does have a couple, a couple really awesome. They’re the art classes, Dr. Steve Maynard, and a team of people created these things called it’s a series called leading the digital age. There’s some really awesome stuff there. I don’t want to take us off track here, we have a question that you just touched on tooling. So really quickly, you know, there’s a question in chat on program reporting. Any recommendations? If you’re suffering from a lack of common tooling? I’ll tell you this is one that that’s usually a longer conversation, but as a lace, you just joined Vodafone. Right? And there’s there’s there’s tools that, that help you get there. And there’s tools that may not help you get there as fast, right. Any suggestions or thoughts regarding, hey, if you inherit a lace, you join a company you’re taking over lace, and their tooling is new. What? Any any thoughts on that if you’re suffering suffering from a lack of common tooling? Yeah,
Alena Keck 43:09
well, we are suffering from, like putting everything in one instance. Right and connecting everything if, for example, if we are working really end to end from global solutions to the markets, in Yeah, in different areas in different markets. It is, it is a challenge, right, because normally, tooling is common in divisions, or maybe in big factions. But definitely if you’re a large enterprise, and if you are also growing through acquisitions, then tooling will always be a challenge, because every acquisition will also bring some other tooling aspects, other instances, and challenges like that, I think on the program level, just use the XML file from from your toolkit, you can put really the metrics for your inspect and adapt and really every iteration, there are still very, very rudimentary metrics which you can track, right? It’s not the most beautiful way to do it, right? And more was not the most fancy one way to do it. But even this XML file from a toolkit will be better than just doing nothing. Right.
Phil Gardiner 44:13
Start where you started. Um, let me I’m looking at our time, I want to make sure we have time we’ve been answering all of our questions as we get them in line. So I’m, we’re still ticking away here. Let’s let’s shift the gears here. Right and and, you know, this whole series was kicked off where, you know, I’ve had this belief I’ve been saying it till I was blue in the face back in you know, 1314 1516 and SPC is not an SPC is not an SPC. Right. And I, I worked for I worked for a partner for for a period of years where they believe that that Oh, you’re transforming you need six s PCs. And the only requirement for being able to serve as an enterprise coach was you had an your SPC. And I’m like, you know, for me, it drove me crazy because, I mean, the SPC I was into only 14, can the SPC Hi, um, now, we’re vastly different, right? And so this whole idea of of an SPC journey, when we picked off this series, it was really about, you know, where do you want to take this? And so when you think about a lace and you think about SPCs, couple questions that are a couple of topics around that one, you know, where do you find these change agents? And what do you look for in members of a lace? And then we’ll we’ll tie that back into SPCs in just a moment, but just generally speaking, what do you look for characteristics, attributes, skills? Where do you find them? And what do you look for in change agents and lace members?
Alena Keck 45:35
Yeah, I think I mentioned the resilience, right, this is what I’m really, really looking for. Because if, for example, some of the change agents were to either Scrum Masters in couple of indifferent environment, what they usually experienced, when they join the lace team, or start becoming working on the enterprise level, they’re really shocked how slow things are right? On this country level, right? You’re moving very fast, and see the improvements very fast on an enterprise level, the speed is much, much, much slower. Therefore, this resilience and this ability not to become negative, and really focus on the positive things would be something which I would be always looking for, because change is so hard, and you need positive people around you within the least you because everyone else, because people are in this frustration phase, or really depression phase, when this changes starting, you will not be surrounded with the positivity outside of the lace team all the time. So you need to have it within the team to really stay strong and support each other when when times are hard. And change is hard. And you have 100 people in the new artwork, which are all coming through this roller coaster of change now in the Depression state, right. So you need this positivity, where we find change agent. A lot of people like our two E’s, or a lot of even line managers, they if they feel the pain, right, and if they want to drive the change, they would be volunteering their time, on top of everything they’re doing, because they believe in it. This would be I think, the best one to really get into your lace. But also, if you have this transformation champion, which I was talking about are some senior leaders, people they trust and ask that to nominate those people, right? Because if we trust this people, right, then they will trust to what you are doing with those people. Right? So this is something that this would be to Yeah.
Phil Gardiner 47:33
So that’s a fantastic, fantastic point. I mean, you’re accelerating trust, right? Because they’ve already built trust. So you don’t start from scratch on that. What about let’s talk about something that’s near dear to my heart, you know, the whole idea of SPCs right? So I’m currently working with some other people at scaled, agile, you know, I talk to Andy and Rebecca Davis and stuff about this idea of a SPC measuring grow. Right. And I know you and I have had conversations about part of what brought us together here. And this idea that that, you know, being on being an SPC, it’s the beginning, right, and so, you know, the new the new responsibility wheels, you know, one of the awesome things about SAFe 6.0 Is the responsibility wheels, if you look at that responsibility, wheels, coaching flow, accelerating business agility, there’s a variety of, of responsibilities that an SPC can have, and they’re not gonna be a master of all to begin with, how do you grow and develop your SPCs as part of your lace
Alena Keck 48:28
so yeah, they don’t grow on trees and they do not come a certified with with Yeah, with all the knowledge which we need for transformation, therefore, you really need to have a upskilling plan or upskilling ideas which are consistently driving their, their skills in different areas. So we are using different things. For example, as I came to Vodafone, one of the things which were doing, we were using the coaching wheel, which is really framework agnostic, and everyone could do a self assessment from the coaches and start figuring out what would be the areas they want to focus on within the upcoming month, how we can help with those and really having the focus where they think they will need to grow, this would be what I tried to drive is upskilling through the community platform very strongly. So for example, recommending the value stream mapping, learning journey value stream identification journey. So all of those really fantastic journeys, which were build up and SPC beta, which was available a couple of months ago. So our trainers and our coaches went through this journey last year to get the theoretical knowledge, it doesn’t mean that they are able to practice all of that right but it creates a good foundation for them to start trying for the very first time and also, what we started During the pairings of different people with different skills for trainings for coaching activities, sometimes, for example, I would pair for the first value stream mapping activity with some of the coaches and then they can pick it up. And what we also did is we created our lace up where we bring the topics. And as I mentioned at the beginning, SPC skills should not only be SPC and SAFe, specific, but communication and stakeholder management are the skills which a lot of people are struggling when they operate on the enterprise level. And when they really need to get to act on the executive senior leadership level and this stakeholder management skills. So what we did we exchanged ideas and what went wrong in some of the initiatives, what can we do better, really, everyone brought not only the positive examples, but also even myself, I brought examples didn’t go well.
Phil Gardiner 50:56
Yeah. And people learn from those.
Alena Keck 51:01
Which was really, really great.
Phil Gardiner 51:03
Yeah, and as you share those those flubs, on your own career, it makes it it makes it SAFe to be able to tell the others and I definitely get the sense in from our previous conversations, that being part of the Vodafone lace, is a psychologically SAFe place where you can learn and grow. And that’s what this is all about. I’ll tell you that a couple of you know, I’ve had the honor of mentoring people, not only as SPCs but as as SPC tees, right, and it kind of that long along that journey. And, you know, if you have an opportunity to find somebody who’s willing to pair with you to give you some advice, you know, I think back to two, there’s this wonderful gentleman Martin burns, who’s since passed, but he encouraged me to get involved in the in the global SAFe community. And meeting Martin Oh, you know, connected me to people like em Campbell pretty and MARK RICHARDS and Eric Wilkie and, and others, and those little, you’d be surprised at how much you can learn from a 510 15 minute conversation with somebody who’s got years of experience on you. And in when I think about for me what I think about and I one of my mentors, we talk about what do you look for in an executive consultant, right. And for me, the first word that pops into mind is humility. Right. And for this guy, the first one that pops into mind for him is swagger. And, you know, we had an interesting conversation about, you know, talking with executives, do you need you know, and we ended up landing on you need to be you need to have humble with swagger, right, you need and the point on that is that, I totally agree, there’s so many soft skills, right, and that lean, agile leadership side of things. Um, so I’m gonna, I think we’ve, we’ve gotten through our topics got a couple of minutes left, we’ve got one question in chat here. And a couple here, right, so here’s the first one and at a broad level, what are common resistors in Agile transformation initiatives, and, you know, maybe share one or two that you’ve seen and how you’ve overcome them.
Alena Keck 53:02
Yeah, I think if, if I pick finish, like really on the initiative level, right, then this idea that you can cherry pick some of the principles or cherry pick some of the go we’re SAFe, this would be a big anti pattern and what we really try to say okay, the principles are connected, we have system thinking, you cannot just pick one piece and think that you will have the whole full house. So, this is something which we are facing, and one of the things which we did was really to get them back to the reality and do like self 10 SAFe essential self diagnostic, right. So this would be number one. The second part resister would be really to let lace on the transformation so everyone thinks that if there are problems so if there’s anything that lays need to own it lays and enables the transformation but ownership from day one, you need to partner with delivery organization and let them understand that the ownership of the transformation the success and the metrics they are on in their hands, we can help them to reach this we can coach them we can really explain them or pair with them. But this success of the transformation is in their hands and we are on enablement team right?
Phil Gardiner 54:29
I love that term, right? You’re resilient enablement team to help them right and that’s I share that same perspective as an outside consultant right and you know, as a lace, you may say, hey, business unit, this is your transformation. It’s not ours will enable you along the way. What I will throw out show one of my share one of my own right, and a common resistor I like to I talked about is, you know, I’ve got an iPhone here, right and my beautiful family on it, but you know, there’s this idea of, there you go, Dickinson But there’s this iPhone versus Android, right? Don’t get into that don’t get into that conversation. And one of things I love it started in, say five, and it’s even more so it’s SAFe. 6.0 is this idea of it’s not about SAFe, right? SAFe the vehicle. It’s a proven vehicle that will help you accomplish business, get to business agility, accelerate business agility, but it’s not the goal in itself. And so one of the big resistors I get is, well, I’ve heard less is better. I’ve heard scrum at scale, or, or flex or Nexus, whatever, right? It’s like, it doesn’t matter what vehicle we want. We’re trying to go on family vacation right now. Right? We’re thinking about Disney in Orlando, we’re not thinking about 2017 Ford Escape, right. And so SAFes a reliable vehicle that you can take. And so one one thought there is to frame it up that way. We got one more question here. And abroad. Here, maybe, maybe talk about the ceremonies, a lace has, you know, like, for me, when I think about a lace I run, I run a lace as an Agile team, I’ll tell you also, at a certain level of scale, I personally recommend that you have features. And you have stories, right? And we typically will have here’s the here’s the transformation backlog of features, and those communicate with senior execs and stakeholders about what we’re doing kind of quarter over quarter. And then we’ve got the execution, the GSD side of the transformation where we I oftentimes find ourselves in a in a continuous flow model, where we have our weekly what are we getting done this week kind of thing. That’s the pattern that I usually recommend for our clients. But what have you seen what are those ceremonies that lace lace has there a Vodafone.
Alena Keck 56:40
So you’re right lace, needs to eat their own dog food or drink their own champagne, right? Very important and we need to operate as an Agile team. What I find more powerful in addition to operating as agile team to connect to other parts like for example, in our transformation art, we also have AP more team members, we have communication as a shared service. We have for example, strategic element and the finance we have connection to other parts of the organization. This would make your transformation guiding coalition bigger and the impact impact which you can generate bigger right but
Phil Gardiner 57:19
bigger you’ve got an art for your transformation now right that what are the so since you have a transformation art, I mean, are you running or you’ve got art sync and scrum of scrums and POC
Alena Keck 57:30
we have field pm sync, we have an art thing where we plan features right we have a roadmap of features we are jointly we have acceptance criterias for features, or the story level we are we have less discipline with acceptance criterias because we are operating with using objectives, were using the features as our main concept, PII objectives and how we get there. The user story and really detailing out every user story is still our learning journey, right how to slice it. And we are bringing, as I said, our demands, for example, to the leadership team before the next pie planning, we are saying this is the capacity we have, please prioritize what would be the most important initiatives. And then we take it into our planning, right. So those are the ceremonies for choosing and the system demo, which I mentioned where everyone can join and really see how we’re progressing, ask questions and really understand how we’re driving transformation.
Phil Gardiner 58:33
In summary, the lace is an Agile team or an Agile team of teams. And you use the same concepts if you’re using SAFe team Kanban or SAFe Scrum or an agile release, train construct. It’s the same ceremonies. So I we’re at our time box here. I just want to say Alena, it has been a joy to have you here talking with us today. You know, great insights. You know, it’s you know, personally, it’s awesome to see how you’ve grown on your journey, you know, and it’s just there’s just a awesomeness to know that Vodafone’s got such a talented woman leading their lace. So thank you so much.
Alena Keck 59:09
Thank you for inviting me and I’m sure we will stay in touch.
Phil Gardiner 59:14
Take care. Thanks, everybody. Thanks, everybody. Bye. Bye bye now.
About the SPC Journey series:
The SPC Journey is a series of webinars and panel discussions, hosted by SPCT Phil Gardiner, designed to help SPC’s and those they support on their journey to learn, grow, and succeed in implementing SAFe.
Phil Gardiner, Applied Frameworks – SAFe Practice Lead
Phil Gardiner, SPCT, leads the SAFe Practice for Applied Frameworks, where he serves as an Executive Consultant, enabling enterprises to accelerate the delivery of products and services through Lean-Agile ways of working. Phil has a passion for deep, sustainable change, and this has led him to become a thought leader in the Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) space while also developing an outcome-based approach that meets his customers where they are while cultivating the capabilities of their leaders, changes agents, and SPCs. On his journey, Phil has worked with dozens of enterprises and agencies, from Fortune 10 corporations to the US Department of Defense.
Alena Keck, Head of the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence at Vodafone
Passionate about accelerating Digital Transformation with lean and agile principles at Scale, Alena Keck is the Head of the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence, driving and enabling Vodafone’s journey towards more Business Agility. Previously she held different international positions in Europe and the US and helped large global organizations to overcome challenges on their agile transformation journey. Alena led lean-agile transformation in 5 locations in the US and Mexico for the Advanced Safety product line at Aptiv and was part of the Lean-Agile Centre of Excellence at Porsche, connecting transformation to the Digital Strategy and implementing Lean Portfolio Management.
Being a strong change agent, Alena thrives by creating strong transformation teams and growing Lean-Agile leaders who actively remove transformation roadblocks and drive the change.
Alena’s Motto is “Transformation is a Team Sport.”
Don’t Miss the next episode in the SPC Journey Series: I am an SPC and Head of a LACE |Watch it here
As leader of Applied Frameworks’ SAFe Practice, Phil is responsible for large-scale transformations and guiding change agents as they learn to apply the Scaled Agile Framework. Phil is a Certified SAFe Program Consultant Trainer® (SPCT), one of less than 100 people who hold this certification globally. Read Full Bio