SAFe Summit 2016 – first thoughts

So I’m on the return journey to Boston after attending SAFeSummit 2016. I like flying (most of the time) because it provides a place to reflect. I don’t know whether to feel more energized/empowered by the vision and ideas I have encountered this past week … or utterly humbled by the depth and breadth of expertise which was on show. I guess they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

 But while I ponder whether I should be feeling more humbled or mostly energized … I want to share three things with you.

1) Something I noticed

2) Something I learned

3) Something I wish …



img_1478But before I do that … what a beautiful part of the world where SAFe® is based. The picture doesn’t do it justice – but I wanted to share all the same.

1) Something I noticed at SAFE Summit 2016

So many fields of work represented and yet so much similarity in the types of challenges being experienced. Defense, government, finance, education, mobile, virtual reality, healthcare, transportation, chip manufacturers, aviation … and yet we were able to relate to each other’s working context. And I don’t mean in a “oh-really-how-interesting” sort of way. It was at the level of “this is what a Feature means to us”, “we found that multi-site PI planning can work but you need to be organized” and “story pointing was initially painful but now for the first time we have a way to quantify capacity at the Program and Value stream level”.
While I was there I chatted with someone who works on fighter jets for a living (yes cool and yes I’m envious – energized, humbled and now envious). We were able to have a meaningful exchange on a broad number of SAFe-related topics. So what did I notice? That the existence3e4bac98-e6e8-41f2-b746-c12b45475326-1 of a shared/common vocabulary which cuts across industries and verticals … that is pretty darned powerful

Another way of expressing this perhaps (as the little guy here shows) is that SAFe embraces RESULTS. And that pretty much goes for all of us in the SAFe community I am inclined to think. Find something you think will work. Reaffirm or refute it. Then share it. A phrase repeated many teams about SAFe both during the many presentations and also during informal discourse …. “IT WORKS“.

So many of us have experienced varying degrees of frustration, disappointment and yes … failure prior to SAFe coming into our worlds. SAFe is producing results like we have not experienced before. Now that’s not to say that we never have bumps in the road in the implementation of SAFe. Expect that. But SAFe is proven to work,  is field-tested every day and is not just a common framework … its a language and a forum for communication between practitioners across all types of organizations and industries.

2) Something I learned at SAFe Summit 2016

A lot … okay? I’m still processing it all if I’m honest. One is – I think I may have been doing it wrong all along. That’s a heavier lift than I can do here so I’ll submit a separate blog in a few days. Okay I
have a right-sized item to share. It is a simple thing … aaaaaand its embarrassing revelation time. Prior to Friday I had never heard of V&V testing. For sure – I had encountered and used before the words “verification” and “validation“. Same for compliance – just for the record. But they were all really orbiting around the same concept – stringent testing. And there was a lot of ambiguity there tbh. My lexicon did have in it … unit testing, integration testing, system integration testing, user acceptance testing (strangely never done by users) and then some bolt-ons such as performance, security and failover. Oh and yes … something called ’smoke testing’. We don’t smoke as much now as we used to – but if I recall whenever we did smoke … we would make sure it was delivering all of its value with a smoke test.

 But V&V in combination with a tighter definition of compliance … I had just never really encountered it in use. Or maybe I did encounter it and I just shrugged. I don’t know. But either way … I have V&V tattooed on my consciousness now and I think its going to cause a change in how I think about a lot of things. In case you have been living and breathing in the same V&V depleted atmosphere that I have … I’ll share a brief definition of terms.


  • vvVerification is intended to check that a product, service, or system (or portion thereof, or set thereof) meets a set of design specifications.
  • Validation is intended to ensure a product, service, or system (or portion thereof, or set thereof) results in a product, service, or system (or portion thereof, or set thereof) that meets the operational needs of the user.
  • Compliance is focusing on whether the system developed meets the organization’s prescribed standards or not.

 So what’s the change then (for me at least)? Well, before I was oriented around a sequential model of testing  an expression of testing which becomes progressively more stringent as we march towards production. And that’s fine … and I’m not saying that’s gone. But in many cases the answer to “who does that?” has been “QA”. But I think that’s problematic.  The terms above are going to help drive a different  type of conversation. When I instead consider the questions: “Who is best positioned to conduct Verification testing?”. “Who ought to be doing Validation testing?” “Who are the people best positioned to confirm Compliance with organizational standards?” … I think the problem space is positioned in a different way. One which leads to a better outcome I think.

So I learned some new terms and I learned that I need to start thinking about testing in a more disciplined way. See I did it again! Not testing … verification, validation and compliance.


3) Something I wish

I wish you a Happy Halloween. Okay that’s far too easy isn’t it? I wish I had persuaded (more of) my colleagues and associates to attend SAFe Summit 2016. It was truly packed with information and value. It will be a standing fixture on my calendar going forward.


This was dawn in Colorado. It may look like a sunset but it was sunrise. A beautiful start to what turned out to be a very busy day. And you know what … that’s a perfect metaphor for how I’m feeling about work in the months and years ahead.


-Mike Casey