SAFe Mix-in’s: Role by Election
Another modification to SAFe that we might make is role by election. Role by election is turning some of the role selection process on its head. for example, as in dynamic re-teaming, we’re going to allow the teams to make more decisions themselves, we’re going to allocate more power to the team and less to the management. In this particular case, this goes back to the way that value streams, release trains, and solutions are created. Again, the typical way this is done, is these groups are appointed by management or key stakeholders. Selection by management implicitly takes power away from teams and also tends to employ those who are most respected by management, but perhaps not those most respected by the teams.
To fix this, when we’re creating value streams, release trains, or solutions we need to let the teams pick their own leadership. They get to pick who the release train engineer is or the solution leaders. They pick the architect and the product manager as well. Now this could be as simple as getting these groups together and asking them to elect these people by popular vote. You might have product owners elect the product manager. You might have the development teams elect the architect and the release train engineer. It would be quite simple. Basically, you are switching from leadership by appointment to leadership by election.
In its simplest form, this really is the kind of thing that you could do when you are initially rolling out SAFe. Or you could do it over time, perhaps iteratively. For example, I know that being a release train engineer is a lot of work. And it’s not something that I necessarily see as a career path for the rest of my life. If I get elected for the job for one PI for example, I might be happy to contribute and help out, but I might not want to do it forever. So, we might hold another election at the next PI. And each PI you would elect someone new for each of the roles. That way we also can get away from treating some of these roles like job descriptions (which often happens) and keep them as temporary roles that we fill as needed with people who have the right energy and the right support to make it happen. And doing this with some sort of democratic process seems to be a reasonable way of doing. It
Of course, this means as managers we have to give up some control over who is leading, and that could have some HR implications too. It’s a hard thing to ask for, but there is so much to be to be gained:
People elected to these positions will have the approbation of their peers, and feel supported by them, having been elected to these positions rather than having been appointed or pushed into these positions.
The teams will feel happier that they have had a voice. So, it empowers the teams, and they’re going to be working with or lead by somebody most capable of leading them, which also makes a great deal of sense
It is an opportunity that can be shared by re-electing on a periodic basis so that others can get experience in this role. This leads to creating more opportunities for leadership within the organization for everyone.
So it’s win, win, win.
You want the highest possible engagement and buy-in for your transformation
Management is willing to let go of the responsibility of role selection
None really, SAFe doesn’t dictate how roles are selected or changed
Improved buy-in and engagement from teams
Less burn out in key roles
Interested in more Mix-ins? Join Ron Quartel and I for a 3 day workshop on SAFe+FAST Agile. Combine the 2 to get max value from your agile transformation. It’s an opportunity to explore the latest scaled agile processes and practices with other agile innovators on May 15, 16, 17. https://bit.ly/2HXCcKD