Are you a new SPC and wondering what’s next? Check out our recent Webinar recording with SPCT Phil Gardiner and SAFe® Fellow Harry Koehnemann.
Are you a new SAFe Program Consultant (SPC)? Have you completed the Implementing SAFe® course, earned the SPC certification, and asking yourself, now what? How do I help my organization or client start realizing the benefits? Where do I start? What do I do next?
Or perhaps you are looking to hire an SPC and wondering “Do all SPCs possess the same level of expertise with the Scaled Agile Framework?
The SPC journey begins with a class, self-study, and an exam. Then what? How does an SPC continue to learn and grow?
Getting your SPC is the beginning of an exciting learning journey, not the end. Watch one of Scaled Agile Inc.‘s esteemed SAFe Fellows, Harry Koehnemann, and Applied Framework’s SAFe Practice Lead, Phil Gardiner (SPCT) webinar and Q&A session.
You will learn about the skills, attributes, and experiences successful SPCs cultivate to accelerate an enterprise or agency’s ability to achieve Business Agility and discuss the multiple areas in which an SPC may choose to measure, learn and grow: in the classroom, beyond the ART launch, in an executive engagement, and through sustainable change.
Phil Gardiner SAFe Practice Leader at Applied Frameworks Phil Gardiner is a Certified SAFe Program Consultant Trainer® (SPCT), one of less than 100 people who hold this certification globally. Phil has served as a leader, coach, and consultant at some of the world’s largest companies and government organizations, such as the US Department of Defense.
Harry Koehnemann SAFe Fellow and Principal Consultant at Scaled Agile Inc Harry Koehnemann has spent the past two decades consulting with aerospace, defense, automotive, and other organizations to adopt better engineering practices, including Lean, Agile, MBSE, requirements management, quality management, and the related activities necessary to support compliance.
Please contact us to learn more about how our consultants can help your organization with SAFe® transformations and the Scaled Agile Framework.
Question & Answers
I recently became an SPC. As part of my continuous learning, I’m enrolled in a few Training enablements and would like to consider providing training. What else can I do?
Phil: I would absolutely recommend that you check out the “ready to train” e-learning path on the SAFe® Community portal as well as the “Organizing Around Value” practice guide. The former is a relatively new resources that helps SPCs examine their own approach to training while learning other techniques and perspectives that will aid you on the training path. The latter is a great resource that will help you better understand the importance of organizing around value while providing you with techniques that will help you overcome some of the challenges that you may face in facilitating this crucial step on the implementation workshop.
I am an independent consultant, and a SPC for over a year with SA and LPM training validations. Recently, I tried engaging two prospect clients, both multinational conglomerates, and failed. I realized that I cannot do all by myself – a coalition is essential – What do you suggest for me or an aspiring SPC?
Harry: I would reflect on why they failed and determine the take-aways and lessons learned. Experience is valuable for consultants and coaches. What appears to be a failure often has value in the learning we can apply elsewhere.
Phil: Adding to Harry’s advice, I would see if it is possible to get feedback from those clients as to why they did not choose your services. I would encourage you to seek what you might be able to learn from the situation while also keeping in mind that you could get a “safe” answer as opposed to an authentic one if the feedback is difficult to discuss. You might also look into building some community relationships where you could do mock interviews, etc. to share and gain perspectives that might not be as evident from your own point of view.
The organization I am working for as a contractor has been using SAFe® for 4+ years. SPC certification is needed for RTE roles. Seeking your guidance to add my values during my time with them.
Harry: I am not sure I understand this question. We often see certifications required for roles – RTE is one example. I assume one would take the RTE class to learn more about the role and meet the customer’s expectations.
Phil: The RTE course is a great way to learn about the role of the RTE and my understanding is that the course was built specifically to help RTEs on their journey. It is one of two classes that can only be taught publicly by someone who has been formally accepted into the SPCT community as a candidate or by an SPCT. This ensures that the instructor has verifiable experience preparing for an launching an Agile Release Train, facilitating an I&A workshops, etc. while the questions and anecdotes shared by the RTEs who are attending the class are helpful ways to learn from others and make connections. When it comes to an enterprise needing RTEs to be SPCs, I would not personally make that a requirement for the role; however, I believe that it is a useful cert for RTEs to have as it broadens their perspective beyond the ART. As an enterprise or agency scales beyond IT and into the larger enterprise, explores lean portfolio management, etc, the insights from an RTE can aid in that journey. Additionally, as an ART will naturally have some people leave and others join as ART members, stakeholders, etc., an RTE who can provide training for the ART, leverage the SPC toolkits, etc,. can be an asset… especially for smaller enterprises or those with decentralized LACEs.
Do you recommend a new SPC who is new to SAFe® to start a new job as an RTE or right away as an SPC? Would the new SPC manage the challenges? Or would it better to start as an RTE and then move forward to a LACE member role?
Harry: That would depend on the SPC’s prior experience. Many new SPCs are not new to Agile or organizational change. If the individual has the experiences helping people adopt Agile, particularly at scale, the RTE class is ultimately just providing them the context of doing it in SAFe. I would also recommend they take Leading too to see the larger SAFe picture. Without the prior experiences, I would suggest an experienced coach work with this individual as they begin their RTE journey.
Phil: I think that it depends on what you ultimately want to do as an SPC. If your goal is to be extremely good at helping companies implement essential SAFe, I personally believe that truly serving as an RTE (and not a coach) will provide a unique and differentiating experience. I know many SPCs that have coached ARTs without having to live with the weight of the responsibility that falls on the RTE’s shoulders. I have seen from those I mentor that there are lessons learned from being in that role that simply are not available to those who coach or consult it.
Many Headhunters and Recruiting Consultants here in Germany do not even understand what Agile is. So, it is difficult to work together with a Recruiting Consultant/Headhunter to find a fitting position. To what extent do you offer assistance to new SPC when searching for a new job and trying to define their transferable skills (especially when the SPC is new to SAFe®)?
Harry: We provide role-based guidance in the framework articles (Scrum Master, Product Owner, RTE, etc.) that organizations should use to define the job descriptions. And we connect enterprises seeking help with partners like Applied Frameworks.
Phil: I agree with Harry that the role based articles on scaledagileframework.com do a solid job of explaining the role and related responsibilities. To your point about “not understanding Agile,” I would suggest looking at the delta between the framework article and the job posting. There are positions that I have seen that say “RTE” or “SPC” but when you read them, the verbiage indicates that they are looking for a project managers as opposed to a servant leader.
What tactics have you had success with in coaching leaders and stakeholders “outside of the train” to change their mindset/approach/language from waterfall to agile and SAFe®?
Harry: In any community or leaders, look for the individuals who are more open-minded and interested in learning and change. Tipping one or two of them helps tip the rest of the leaders. Also, discover why the organization needs to change – is it emerging competition in the industry (like autonomous vehicles in automotive), or is it a progressive leader who wants to improve their organization. Whatever the reason, leverage it when talking to these leaders.
Phil: Totally +1 Harry when it comes to finding those who may already demonstrate the mindset that enables sustainable change. At the same time, the ones that are most resistant can sometimes become the staunchest supporters if you can find a way to demonstrate the value. I would ask myself “What they are hoping to achieve?” When I was early on my journey, I spent much of my effort hoping that everyone would see all the amazing possibilities that I could see through leveraging SAFe®. I tried to convince leaders to change their mindset to match mine by sheer will alone. These days, I focus on understanding the outcomes that matter to them and help them connect the framework’s values, principles, and practices to the way they work towards those goals. I have found it both easier and more effective to focus on solving a problem in a way that demonstrates the values of that mindset and approach… It is just much stickier… Related note… If you do have leaders that are open to change, there is a great learning series SAI offers to SAFe® Enterprise Subscription customers called “Leading in the Digital Age.” This is unlike any other educational offering I have seen from SAI and it is deep stuff. The first module, Leading by Example, is highly effective in helping leaders truly understand lean-agile leadership through a collaborative cohort experience.
How an SPC differs from SAFe® Consultant?
Harry: SPC is a SAFe Program Consultant. They are certified to consult in SAFe.
Phil: I believe that “SAFe Consultant” is a term most often used by individuals that are not familiar with the SPC certification. Sometimes a recruiter or job post will seek SAFe experience but is open to individuals who do not have the SPC cert… other times, I have seen resumes or LInkedIn profiles with “SAFe Consultant” or “SAFe Coach” when the individual only has a foundational certification from SAFe for Teams (SAFe Practitioner) or Leading SAFe (SAFe Agilist)
How do you handle business leaders who say, “well you are NOT the one who leads the transformation, you just teach and coach”? As an SPC I know we do more and want too but some leaders put blinders and box us in? What can I say back to them to gain their trust?
Harry: Acknowledge that they are right and try to bring them into the change process. Any organizational transformation requires leadership and vision at the highest levels. SPCs are the ‘troops on the ground’ that are executing the transformation. But they need support from these business leaders to help address resistance and other bottlenecks. We all want the same thing – better products for our customers and outcomes for our business.
Phil: I have heard this question before and have also been on the flip side, where the weight of transforming a business unit falls on one person’s shoulders. I am unsure if you are asking this as an external SPC or an internal one, so I will share my thoughts on both. As an external SPC, your role will likely enable the enterprise to accomplish its goals. In this case, I believe there is only one way to view this… it IS their transformation, not yours. When I interview SPCs, there are specific questions I will ask when I see a resume full of “led the transformation for X” examples. While there may be times when one has to partner or mentor, I wholeheartedly believe that change must be led from within, and to get it to stick, it can’t be a single individual. Harry’s advice is rock solid. As an SPC, why do you need to lead the transformation? Personally, I can’t think of any company leveraging SAFe (or any other framework) to achieve sustainable success when there was “the one” that leads the transformation. While someone may be on point because they are the most experienced, it can also be because they can take a more strategic view of the change. The first time I implemented SAFe, my ego required me to be viewed as “the one.” I did not learn from this right away as it was very successful. However, I realized that it all fell apart within a year of my leaving to pursue an external coach/consultant career. I know that if I had focused on cultivating other leaders instead of making it about me, they would not fall back.
Sometimes people have high expectations from an SPC or coach; when we say, “I was awesome, and now I am very good, but I am still learning,” customers and leaders misjudge you and lose trust right away.
Harry: We are all life-long learners. And it’s that learning journey and the reflection we’ve done in the past that gives us the knowledge and experiences to help others. It took me a while to understand that it is alright to tell someone, “I don’t know, but I will try to find out.” And most will respect that honesty and vulnerability.
Phil: This webinar was built for SPCs, but I hope it will inspire any leader considering bringing on an SPC to think about the role differently. I believe that if we can help the community understand the SPC role through multiple perspectives instead of a single lens, perhaps the situation in your question can result in a meaningful conversation.
I am an RTE; how do I get started with my first project as a coach? How do I get ready for my first SAFe® class?
Harry: As an RTE, you should have already taken the RTE class. If not, we do suggest you take it :). But there is no preparation for SAFe® training.
I would love to trial this SPC assessment within my organization; who do I need to contact to set this up?
Phil: Thanks for the interest! I will have a beta-ready version ready to share by August 5 as a SurveyMonkey or Google Form. I will reach out with details and a link you can use. Afterward, I would appreciate your feedback on how things went, etc.
How do I get practical examples of how agile transformations are done?
Harry: Many case studies and videos on the SAFe Community site talk about organization’s transformation journeys. But also, join the Community Forums and start asking questions. Everyone in those forums is immersed in a transformation themselves.
How can you start getting Gemba? Sending messages to random people on LinkedIn?
Harry: There is personal Gemba, and then there are also the stories from others. Engaging with the community is the best way to learn and gain experiences from others.
Do you have a SAFe® Slack channel?
Harry: Not for SPCs. But we do have the SPC Forum on the Community site.
Are the SAFe® Fellows or SPCs in SAI willing to let some SPCs out there to be able to shadow them?
Harry: We do some consulting at SAI, but that is not our primary objective. By far, most of the customer engagements are done by our partners, like Applied Frameworks.
How is SAFe® used when building an infrastructure of physical environment, since that is usually done in a waterfall model?
Harry: Agile for Hardware has seen deep interest recently, particularly in automotive, aerospace, and medical systems. We have a workshop, ‘Applying SAFe to Hardware Development,’ which is designed to help tip hardware engineers to a more Lean-Agile mindset. But with the growing demand, we may offer additional support in the next year or so.
Once you are an SPC, how hard is it to become an SPCT?
Phil: This is a tough one to answer without more context. To become an SPCT, you must be a full-time employee of an SPCT Gold Partner. This is the basis for the funnel of SPCT program prospects, nominees, and candidates that lead to those individuals who become an SPCT. A handbook is available to business leads at Scaled Agile Gold partners with the specific requirements to become an SPCT. This document has evolved, so I am hesitant to get into those details. My mentor, Dr. Mayner, compared earning his SPCT certification to earning his Ph.D. I would suggest checking out this Scaled Agile blog post to start.
I’m an SPC that provides trainings, but the training material does not have real-life examples. Where can we get those examples?
Harry: Some slides will have examples in the trainer’s guidance. But we also expect the instructor can explain the concepts in the context of the attendees. Every class makeup has different experiences and needs. So think about examples or stories that best convey the concepts to those individuals. More experience helps. But also connecting with the broader community to hear their stories helps too.
What was that Webinar ” 7 Steps” you mentioned?
Phil: Dr. Steve Mayner’s fantastic presentation at the first SAFe for Government conference was rebroadcast and is now available as part of the SAFe Community’s media library. Anyone with access can search the media library for “7 Things to Stop Doing in SAFe Webinar Rebroadcast” to access it. This link may work, but I am not 100%.
How can we get a guide for becoming an SPCT?
Phil: As I understand, you would need to go through the business lead at a Scaled Agile Gold SPCT partner. As the lead for Applied Frameworks, I will tell you that I supply this to our internal SPCs when the time comes for them to approach the nomination point. Remember that the journey from SPC to SPCT is measured in years, not months. Most SPCT Candidates (those that make it through the nomination screening) will spend 1-2 years as a candidate before having the field experience to be put forward for the final pairing test.
As leader of Applied Frameworks’ SAFe Practice, Phil is responsible for large-scale transformations and guiding change agents as they learn to apply the Scaled Agile Framework. Phil is a Certified SAFe Program Consultant Trainer® (SPCT), one of less than 100 people who hold this certification globally. Read Full Bio