What is Always Be Launching with SAFe?
Always Be Launching is a concept describing how organizations are launching teams (often referred to as a project teams) to work on particular initiatives. This Project Team may include a Product Manager, a QA Lead, developers, Quality Analysts, Database Administrators, Subject Matter Experts etc. Over the course of a year, organizations would be constantly onboarding, executing or off-boarding the team.
In addition to launching project teams, organizations also launch a Team of Teams that will support the constant value delivery as it aligns to a product. This represents a shift of focus from project execution to product execution. In short, the concept of Always be Launching refers to the launching of a set of teams that focus on delivering a stream of value that aligns well with an organization’s products and strategy.
Most organizations define and adjust their strategy year to year based on the business products and services they must bring to the market to stay competitive, compliant and ‘keep the lights on’. Organizations also determine the business functionality required to support these activities along with the technical capabilities or enablers that need to be in place to support that functionality. The Team of Teams needs to be aligned with this strategy. It may sound easy, with organizations that are just starting up and launching a few products or services to market, but can become exceedingly complex for organizations that have been on the market for a hundred years may have products and services in the thousands!
The First Step
The first step in Always Be Launching is that organizations need to define what are the products and services that they bring to the market and what are the capabilities and enablers that are needed to support them. Value Stream Mapping exercise can help in clarifying and answering these important questions. From that exercise, we can start to derive what does the Team of Teams look like and define the roles and resources needed to achieve these goals.
Value Streams are critical to organizations. They force a clear definition and understanding of the products and services that the organization delivers to the market. This way of thinking already prevails in the Sale and Marketing world, where there’s a constant discussion, awareness and reflection on offerings, what are the competitive offering and what are the disrupters in the industry. Yet many business operations areas and IT departments don’t necessarily think in those terms. Instead, they think in terms of projects, or a set of projects in a program, and a set of programs in a portfolio. Without a focus on Always Be Launching, and a focus on Value Streams, products and services, capabilities and enablers, part of the organization may be focusing in one direction while another part focusing in an entirely different direction, which can result in deep rooted misalignment.
The current marketplace demands that organizations do it right, but do it once, while focusing on the concept of being Lean. Alignment becomes critical and may require a change in the way people think, a slight modification to the culture of the organization or even to the organization structure itself. Ultimately, to Always Be Launching, you must agree on the importance of change.
How can organizations attain the value of Always Be Launching?
One of the challenges is that many organizations may have become complacent. They may be looking at their own internal indicators to conclude that no change is needed. They’re not actively seeking an outside view of themselves, a more objective analysis.
Another challenge to Always Be Launching is that Leadership often does not realize that the change must originate at the top, not only with the people that report to them. Very often, leadership will bill this as a “change project”, and someone else, below the executive rank, needs to run it, with no executive ‘skin in the game’. Unfortunately, this is often a significant barrier since the only way organizations can fundamentally change is if that motivation is sponsored and fully embraced by Leadership. If Leadership does not take an active role and help to remove impediments, they are allowing obstacles to block change, and so, change cannot occur. Without change, the organization cannot scale nor be competitive on the marketplace.
But someone else in their industry will! That really remains one of the biggest challenges: If someone else changes, and you’re not lean in the way your process or the way you promote, organizations will lose market share, will lose confidence, and ultimately, will lose customers. Every organization at some point in their history gets to the point where the money just seems to come in, regardless of the organization’s processes, and one customers can always replace with another. Then some challenge in the economics of the market or the political landscape occurs, where suddenly, a new reality emerges. A different economy, a different market, or a different atmosphere. At that point, organizations are asked to pivot and the question becomes: How fast can we turn the ship. We can see the glacier, but we’re truly not confident that the organization can change quickly enough not to hit it.
One of the greatest challenges to change is an organization’s tolerance for risk. If organizations are risk averse and that aversion is embedded in their culture, they’ll resist change. Changing is taking risks…
Always Be Launching can help to serve as a mitigating factor to this very serious challenge and, in addition, enable the team of teams to align to the direction of the organization’s vision. It allows organizations to adjust the direction to the changing demands of the marketplace and steer the course towards remaining relevant and competitive.
The three takeaways we recommend for your Always Be Launching initiative:
- The organization must develop a vision of what they want to become
- The leadership must remain engaged and provide an active role in the direction of the needed change.
- The organization’s change-agents must able to clearly explain and articulate the change to optimize buy-in from the entire organization
So, if you bought-into the idea and thinking behind Always be Launching here is how we recommend you start:
- Conduct a Value Stream Mapping exercise
- Identify a guiding coalition (a group of leaders that can set the vision, lead the way, remove impediments and have sufficient organization credibility and expertise to guide change).
- Always be launching teams to support the change within your value streams.