The SAFe confidence vote reveals the state of emotional security in your project

If you have confidence in a plan, there should be a uniform vote for this plan. The question is if your endeavour is predictable.

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The SAFe confidence

In the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), a big group planning takes place to organize the next big product cycle, also called the program increment.

All teams come together, discuss features and provide a commitment to a delivery date.
At the end of the meeting, the complete plan is presented to the entire development project, and a confidence vote is held. Vote points range from 1 to 5.

Everything about 2 is ok. Everybody that votes two or less must explain his concerns. The concerns must be resolved for the plan to be valid.

Issues with the power structure

Everybody that has done such planning knows that it is not much fun to stay at the end of the day and resolve any controversial issues.

This procedure brings a psychological load to those that vote with two or fewer. First, they annoy many of their coworkers who want to go home. Second, they can face criticism from the project management, which wants to see the ambitious plan approved. If the head of project management is the boss, few people feel the urge to vote with two or fewer.

What a very low but acceptable score means

With the votes of 2 or less penalized, only votes of at least 3 are an easy way to express everybody’s opinion.

Many people vote three to be left alone. This voting behavior can lead to cases where the average vote is between 3 and 4 and little divergent opinions exist.

The low but uniform confidence means people do not believe in the plan. Nevertheless, they do not feel secure to raise concerns about any issues.

Emotional security is not part of your project, and people do not dare to speak up.

Low Predictability in software programming

Then what should we do if we think a plan is not feasible

Software estimation is always a hot topic. In the agile literature, there is a consensus that estimations should not be commitments. To turn predictions into commitments is a management failure.

Then why are predictions never correct? Is the method wrong? Are the people inexperienced? I presented an idea of how to take care of inexperience in another article.

But the issues are more complex. Kahneman pointed out that “errors of prediction are inevitable because the world is unpredictable.” This can lead to a situation where we have high confidence in experienced people. Trust alone is meaningless for the prediction that can be used as commitment.

“The question is not whether these experts are well trained. It is whether their world is predictable”

And with this, I am off to the next planning round.