Robust vs. Complicated

Consider these definitions.

  • Robust: Having or exhibiting strength
  • Complicated: Consisting of many interconnecting parts or elements; intricate.

Designs have a lot to do with how well things are understood and therefore used.

Consider these pictures of SAFe and FLEX.

Scaled Agile Framework = Full SAFe
Figure 1. Full SAFe
FLEX Basic
Figure 2. FLEX Basic

Developers of complicated systems would have you believe that functionality requires complication. But it does not. SAFe is complicated because it is based on levels. It started with the program level (now called Essential SAFe) and has grown into what it is now.

SAFe Essential
Figure 3. Essential SAFe
SAFe Large Solution
Figure 4. Large Solution SAFe
SAFe Portfolio
Figure 5. Portfolio SAFe

Trying to be everything to everybody is not possible. The number of combinations in the variations become astronomical if the system is not designed for variation. This is where design comes in. Designing around levels is not a good approach because that’s exactly what we’re trying to get away from in the Lean-Agile space. Hierarchies and organizational structures need to be replaced by flow and networks. Different parts of the organization need to be able to operate in a self-organizing manner while keeping the context of their work (a focus on realizing value) present.

But it’s worse than this. If you need all of SAFe it’s very complicated. If you start at Essential SAFe you leave out much of what’s needed.

Consider how FLEX handles variation. Many organizations have multiple business stakeholders. The diagram below shows how FLEX can have the strategies and portfolio management part of FLEX can accommodate this.

FLEX Multi
Figure 6. FLEX strategies and portfolios

And, of course, sometimes there are multiple development groups.

FLEX with multiple development groups
Figure 7. FLEX Multiple development groups

Or possibly development groups that are arranged in a combination of vertical apps using horizontal platforms.

FLEEX with vertical and horizontal platforms
Figure 8. FLEX with vertical and horizontal platforms

By designing the system in a modular fashion, while attending to how the parts of the value stream interact with each other, it is possible add any number of combinations without significantly increasing the complexity.

FLEX with multiple combinations
Figure 9. FLEX with multiple combinations

The reasons this flexibility is important are:

  • It is possible to create combinations that suit your organization without becoming complicated.
  • Seeing the value stream is important and this enables you to do that.
  • FLEX can continue to grow and add more pre-made solutions that fit into the framework that you can use without great complexity.

Net Objectives is looking for both clients who see the advantage of FLEX and for consultants who want to train with FLEX as well. Please contact me if you are interested.

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