Is it safe?

Who said anything about safe?

When I was a kid, probably my favorite story was The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. My father read it to me and my sister at least twice. I have memories of watching an animated version of it on VHS. And as I got older, I read the book myself more than once as well.

I’ve been reminded, somewhat randomly, of one part of the book, in some online discussions about the so-called “Scaled Agile Framework”, aka SAFe. The topic frequently comes up as to whether or not SAFe is truly agile. And this topic somehow springs to memory a conversation between Susan and Mr. Beaver in the book, as Susan is learning about Aslan, the lion:

“Aslan is a lion. The Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh” said Susan. “Is he quite safe?”

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver … “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he’s not safe. But he’s good."

So let me flip that “Is SAFe agile?” question around, and instead ask the question that the SAFe name more or less overtly implies:

Is agility safe?

“Safe? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course agility isn’t safe. But it’s good.”

When we embrace agility, we embrace many unsafe things. We let our customers see half-baked ideas. We give up control. We test in production. We experiment. We break things. We fail fast. We do all manner of things that are very much not safe. But they are good—at least in context.

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