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About our Interviewee

NameDr. Thorsten Janning
CompanyKEGON AG
RoleManagement Consultant
SAFe Fellow

Contact Information

thorsten.janning(at)kegon.de
Tel +49 611 20 50 80

Social MediaLinkedIn, twitter, Xing

Videos with Dr. Thorsten Janning

Entire interview transcript

What are your book recommendations for SAFe?

Unfortunately, books about SAFe are rare and rarely useful. But there are excellent books about SAFe principles and values. I can recommend the book "Tribal Unity: Getting from Teams to Tribes by Creating a One Team Culture" by Em Campbell-Pretty. The book describes the concept of tribal unity as a way of optimally, effectively, and efficiently working together with large groups of people as a large, united team. I like this book so much because the importance of sound patterns of communication and the creation of social structures often fall by the wayside during large-scale enterprise transformations.

By now, we all agree that we have to orient ourselves using the product features and shouldn't forget the architecture. But when it comes to knowledge-based work, in particular, stable social structures are the be-all and end-all to ensure that people can and want to experience optimal development and make their contributions. Another favorite is "The Startup Way" by Eric Ries, which outlines intriguing use cases for tools and methods from the Lean Startup methodology in more traditional organizations. In doing so, Eric Ries offers evidence that we can indeed apply many of the mechanisms that have come out of the online business world to the transformation of traditional organizations if we internalize their principles and fundamental values.

Why is KEGON an attractive consultancy partner in the SAFe world? 

KEGON's excellent reputation is above all down to its real, theoretical knowledge and practical expertise, as well as its years of experience in the area of SAFe. As a training provider and Gold Partner, we work very closely with SAI and collaborate with them to continuously develop the framework further, so we are always on the cutting edge of new concepts and methods. Of all the companies across the world, we are the ones others ask for advice when in search of solutions for very challenging transformation issues, e.g., in large, complex organizations or portfolio management.

In the last few months, we have been receiving more and more requests to act as a partner in the agile transformations of entire companies. In such cases, it is not just about SAFe as a framework for product development organizations or departments. Still, there are also questions of agile structural organization, agile strategy development, and agile service organization that one needs to consider. We are currently leading the way in developing this framework for the next five years.

Another thing that sets KEGON apart is the people here. Our team is unique and made up of lateral thinkers, revolutionaries, facilitators, and bookworms. Everyone can be themselves, and each character is better suited to a different type of company culture, and so to different customer projects. But above all, thanks to the extensive exchange of experiences and making the most of everyone's strengths, we can learn new things fast.

What do you think is unique about your partnership with //SEIBERT/MEDIA?

Not only do we enjoy a long-standing partnership with Seibert, but it's now become something of a good friendship. We hold the technical expertise you apply to SAFe transformations in very high regard, as well as how quickly you took our project experience onboard during the development of Agile Hive. In this way, our knowledge, experience, and technical expertise complement one another perfectly. Another great thing is our collaboration at your Tools4AgileTeams events!

When it comes to learning about SAFe: Why do you think KEGON training courses are especially attractive and which would you recommend to start?

KEGON's training courses are unique. SAI might determine the content for all certified training courses as a way of guaranteeing uniformly high quality. Still, our trainers always enrich this content with their personal experiences, tips, and tricks. After all, that is the challenging thing about agile transformation: Anyone can stick to the textbook, but when it comes to applying things to your own company's context, you can run into some difficulties here and there. Our trainers know about the places where you can make little tweaks, and also the red flags that could become a pitfall. What's more, we always have a lot of fun together.

If I were intent on implementing SAFe within a company, can you give me some examples of companies that have invested in SAFe and benefited from it? Feel free to name names, but it's more about what they've done. Where would I spend the most money? Where would it be well invested? 

I'm afraid I have to give you the very unpopular consultant's answer to that question: It depends. Companies are as diverse as the people that work there, and of course, you can initially profit the most from freeing up the most significant bottlenecks first. Nonetheless, I'll try to give you an example that is representative of most companies.

As soon as a company begins with its agile transformation, working towards PI planning is the primary goal. And this highlights how serious they are about the whole thing. Will they take two days for a thorough planning event with all team members? Will they organize a good catering service and social events in the evenings? Will the management board come along and show their interest and support?

Companies that invest at this point set a positive example for the rest of the organization. For instance, once I almost had to cancel a PI planning event because I had the feeling that they weren't putting enough into the preparation. Having teams spread across the whole world made everything more difficult. I was able to convince those involved to invest in good-quality remote technology, to fly in participants, and organize a get together in the evening. The event was a great success and gave the entire transformation a new breath of fresh air. Also, in times of coronavirus, they are profiting from their investment in remote technology back then. Off the cuff, we are now able to carry out substantial PI planning events, as well as all other SAFe events with our customers remotely.

What if the current crisis has shaken my company up significantly? How can I move forward on the smallest budget possible? What are your tips?

At KEGON, we generally take the approach of enabling our customers' internal employees. We don't want to make our customers dependent on us as consultants; instead, we believe that all of the necessary knowledge and potential already exists in the company. 

Consultancy doesn't mean sending out as many consultants as possible to spend a whole work week on a customer project. It means using the coaching process to inspire a company to take the lead. Coaching should always be considered a temporary measure. This very flexible way of working is of great value to our customers, especially now in these times, in which working remotely is the norm.

Furthermore, even during a crisis, I believe that sending motivated employees to a training course on implementing SAFe and training them to be SAFe Program Consultants is an excellent investment. In times of the coronavirus, we're merely offering our training courses remotely. As change agents, they can then have a significant impact on the company. Of course, my alumni can contact me at any time with questions, and I'm happy to give them tips and tricks to support them on their way.

Where can those interested in SAFe meet others with similar interests? We'd like to hear about both physical and digital opportunities.

I highly recommend our BarCamps. In a group of 30-40 people, you can exchange ideas on all sorts of topics with like-minded people over a cup of coffee. We organize BarCamps twice a year on the different SAFe roles – both physical and virtual meetups. Those who want to find out more about KEGON can come along to our monthly Open Lunch. They take place on Fridays, in our office, over pizza. These are also being held remotely at the moment. The Open Lunch is a great place to get to know one another in a relaxed atmosphere and talk about our experiences.

How has your experience with our solution, Agile Hive, which is based on Atlassian tools such as Jira and Confluence, been so far?

The Kanban board is one of the most vital tools on all levels of SAFe. 

Teams use it during training as well as in portfolio management. You could say it's the cornerstone of our communication and ideas.

Especially in a scaled context, a physical board no longer cuts it, and we have to look to digital solutions. And of course, the reports are also great, which for the most part, were made based on our project experience. In our opinion, Agile Hive is a market pioneer. It offers lots of functions geared exclusively toward the SAFe context. This way, lots of people in different locations and time zones, using different devices, have access to the same information. This characteristic is particularly valuable now in times of remote work and virtual teams.


I would love to stay in touch. Please contact me.

About the book

This is a work in progress book project. All research and preparations are public. Learn more.


About the author

Martin Seibert

Martin Seibert is the CEO of Seibert Media in Germany. He has written German books on Enterprise Wikis (2011) and Intranets (2020). This is going to be his third book.

Follow him on TwitterLinkedInFacebook.