Leadership excellence is a continuous process that helps you develop as an outstanding leader. It involves a set of skills, knowledge, and qualifications that make you a solution-oriented professional and a good leader.

Building strong interpersonal relationships with your team members is key to developing leadership excellence. This includes fostering engagement by helping employees find meaning and purpose in their work.

1. Organize Around Value

The organizational structure of a business is an essential part of its ability to produce value. It defines how work is organized, and responsibilities are assigned. Mastering SAFe is crucial for businesses that want to achieve agility and efficiently respond to shifting market needs.

However, many leaders struggle with the concept of how to organize around value. The key to success is understanding the concepts, learning from real-world examples, and following the path to mastery.

The first step to organizing around value is identifying your operational and development value streams (OVS and DVS). Operational value streams are the steps that an organization takes to deliver its products or services, while development value streams define how new solutions can be created in the shortest sustainable lead time. The next step is aligning cross-functional teams around these value streams. This helps create a continuous flow of value to customers.

While Agile, Lean, and SAFe principles are easy to understand, implementing these practices in large enterprises is challenging. During this journey, the enterprise is forced to transform from an old way of working to a new and more effective one.

This transformation requires leadership that can guide the organization through this transformation and help its people embrace it.

Achieving this is a critical responsibility of a SAFe leader, and it begins with ensuring that the organization is aligned on purpose and cultural values. It is also necessary to shift the focus from projects to products and away from tasks.

This requires changing the context and re-training the organization’s leaders and managers. Training leaders to recognize and quantify the costs of pathological organizational practices that rob teams of their energy, creativity, and innovation potential is also important.

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2. Embrace Change

A change management framework like SAFe is necessary to navigate the business landscape that is constantly evolving. Leaders in organizations should be capable of driving change, ensuring that the organization is continually adapting and improving its methods of working. Leaders should also have the ability to assess their own performance and that of their teams to ensure that the organization is utilizing best practices.

Embracing change can be challenging, even for the most well-seasoned leaders. However, by proactively addressing resistance to change and creating an environment conducive to adaptability, leaders can build a powerful coalition of people ready to take on the challenge.

It is important for leaders to communicate the need for and benefits of change to their employees. They should be able to clearly convey the vision and goals of the organization, and they should also encourage feedback and active participation from their team members.

This will help them build a strong culture of support for change and create a sense of urgency that will encourage people to start the journey forward.

Additionally, leaders should reward outstanding participation in the effort to implement change. This will reinforce that everyone is in this together and will make them more amenable to taking the risk that comes with any transformational initiative.

Leaders should also focus on building short-term wins to keep the momentum of the project going. This will help energize their changing teams and give them an early victory they can feel good about.

In addition, they should communicate regularly and be the cheerleader-in-chief to keep everyone pumped up about the success that the change is creating.

3. Overcome Barriers

The ten principles of SAFe – synchronization, flow, collaboration, visibility, quality, and more – require leadership commitment across all levels of the organization. The SAFe framework ensures that the work of development teams is aligned with the goals of the portfolio, allowing all to deliver a valuable product quickly and at scale.

This approach requires leaders to remove barriers that impede Agile practices and block a successful transition to business agility.

Barriers are created by policies and practices that may make sense but prevent a team or an entire enterprise from moving forward effectively. These obstacles are often rooted in fear, short-term thinking, misalignment, and blocking. They can result in delays, rework, waste, and missed opportunities. In other words, they can cause chaos and limit an organization’s ability to compete.

There are many different types of barriers, including personal and departmental money. The latter type results from an employee trying to manipulate a bonus system or protect their budget, even when it jeopardizes the success of other departments. Barrier removal requires examining the big picture and understanding economic trade-offs.

Leaders also create their own barriers by not letting go of control. They must let go of the belief that they are responsible for making decisions and managing teams and instead become servant-leaders who facilitate the flow of value by empowering others.

As a servant-leader, you encourage and empower others to do their best work by creating environments where they are trusted and respected. When others see you removing barriers that limit their performance, they will follow suit and build trust. As a result, you will help them deliver value faster and more reliably.

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4. Create Visible Success

SAFe is based on ten immutable Lean-Agile principles, and the framework provides a roadmap for achieving success. It outlines how to build trust, manage change, and create a culture of continuous improvement. This helps businesses improve productivity, quality, delivery time, and employee engagement.

SAFe’s value stream model is a way for people throughout an organization to see how their work contributes to business goals and objectives. This is a crucial step for successful transformation, as it enables them to understand how their efforts support the larger strategy.

In addition, it helps them develop a more effective workflow by decreasing batch sizes, providing real-time visibility into backlogs, and implementing inspect-and-adapt rituals. It also allows teams to take more economic approaches to work by empowering them to make decisions for themselves.

The key to success in SAFe is program execution, which relies on the effectiveness of the Agile Release Train and the synchronization of teams. Teams must be able to finish their work with reduced queue lengths and deliver quality software and value regularly. This can be accomplished by reducing dependencies, focusing on business value, improving quality, and implementing effective PI planning.

While small agile teams operate with a high level of autonomy, they can’t function at scale without a higher-level management level to oversee them. This includes a SAFe Program Management team and greater coordination between agile teams at the portfolio level.

While implementing SAFe requires commitment from everyone in the organization, it also demands the right set of tools and processes to be effective. The first step is identifying and training a core group of leaders and change agents to become certified SAFe Program Consultants. These individuals can then lead other business leaders and stakeholders in adopting SAFe.

5. Create a Long-Lived LACE

Often, the people who are best suited to leading an Agile transformation have full-time jobs. They need a group dedicated to change and sufficient capacity to meet their daily demands.

A dedicated group can process more information faster and implement new approaches more quickly. This is why effective LACEs are a core component of any guiding coalition. Known by many names, including Agile Center of Excellence, Lean-Agile Transformation Team, Agile Working Group, and Learning and Improvement Center, these teams are essential to sustaining the transformation.

Organize and facilitate LPM events – The LACE becomes facilitation experts within the org, starting with Value Stream Identification Workshops early in the transition. Later, they may facilitate Lean Portfolio Reviews and Syncs, Participatory Budgeting, and other LPM activities involving all guiding coalition members.

As non-decision makers, the LACE is uniquely positioned to lead these meetings with context and effectiveness.

Create a business agility baseline – The LACE is responsible for developing and continually measuring progress toward the organization’s vision of business agility. They also use this assessment to help the guiding coalition understand where the portfolio is currently in its journey and prioritize improvement efforts.

Develop and deliver training – The LACE leads the development of new Agile skills through a variety of learning methods. They also provide coaching and mentoring to help individuals become Lean-Agile, enabling them to be the change agents that will drive the transformation forward.

The LACE demonstrates its own Lean-Agile behavior and enables others to do the same. They become SPCs and understand the complete implementation roadmap, creating the ability to speak from a place of experience when coaching others. They also participate in executive leadership developmental programs, aligning their message with existing initiatives to support and grow new leaders.