The Intricate Dance of Crafting SAFe Features: Bridging Business with Technology

The Intricate Dance of Crafting SAFe Features: Bridging Business with Technology
Photo by Nathan Walker / Unsplash
TL;DR: A true SAFe feature encapsulates business value, technical considerations, and stakeholder feedback. It's the sweet spot that ensures both technical soundness and true value delivery.

The intersection of agile methods and organizational psychology has always fascinated me. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) works at this nexus with SAFe Features, which bridge business needs with technical execution. But what often surprises me is the number of developers and knowledge workers who seek guidance on how to write SAFe features effectively. They're not just looking for efficiency-they're looking for meaning in their work.

SAFe Features: More Than Just "Big" User Stories

SAFe Features[1] play a central role in the SAFe Framework. They translate broad business goals, or epics, into implementable chunks. But there's a recurring pitfall I've seen: treating features as just "big" user stories. This approach weakens the bridge between business needs and the technical perspective, reducing the intrinsic value of the work being done.

Crafting the SAFe Feature: A Guided Approach

The process of creating a SAFe feature can be broken down into the following steps:

  1. Define the goal and link it to a broader business goal.
  2. Gather relevant requirements.
  3. Work with developers on feasibility and dependencies.
  4. Design the feature with emphasis on acceptance criteria.
  5. Review with stakeholders for alignment and feedback.
  6. Prioritize feature against roadmap goals.
  7. Refine for clarity.
  8. Commit to an upcoming Planning Intervall (PI).

Sounds simple, right? But the psychology embedded in these steps, particularly around decision making and motivation, can affect the outcome.

Biases within SAFe Features

When gathering requirements or prioritizing features, cognitive biases can creep in. For example, confirmation bias[2] can make us more receptive to feedback that aligns with our pre-existing beliefs, potentially overlooking valuable, opposing perspectives.

The antidote? A psychologically safe environment. In such spaces, I've seen teams shed their reactance and abandon familiar paths. When individuals feel safe, they're more likely to experiment, resulting in SAFe features that are both innovative and meaningful.

Finding Value in Imperfection

At first, your SAFe features may not be flawless-and that's okay. Writing, like any skill, takes practice. An 80% solution is a commendable starting point. Over time, you'll refine your approach and get closer to that 100% mark.

In addition, well-written features lay the groundwork for fostering intrinsic motivation. When developers see the value in what they're creating, they're not crafting-they're contributing to a broader vision.

Diversify Your Toolkit

While the process I've described is a solid foundation, remember that there are many methods. Beyond the steps I've mentioned, I recommend exploring liberating structures[3] and design thinking methods[4]. They offer alternative perspectives and tools that can enrich your SAFe feature development journey.

Final Thoughts

As we navigate the intricate dance of agile methods and organizational psychology, let's never lose sight of the people behind each SAFe Feature. By appreciating the art of this process, we pave the way for work that's not only efficient, but also deeply meaningful.

What are your associations with SAFe features? Have they been a source of motivation or perhaps a stumbling block? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.

  1. Scaled Agile Framework: Features and Capabilities ↩︎

  2. Bestätigungstendenz (2022, August 25). In M. A. Wirtz (Hrsg.): Dorsch Lexikon der Psychologie. Bern: Hogrefe. ↩︎

  3. Liberating Structures: Introduction ↩︎

  4. Nielson Norman Group: Design Thinking 101 ↩︎