Feeling Safe with SAFe

Christopher Jin
Ippon Technologies USA
2 min readDec 20, 2022

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Building an environment of psychological safety — the belief that no one will be punished for speaking up with ideas, questions, mistakes, and other callouts — within an agile team is slow but rewarding. This is especially true when building up a team’s safety when landing onsite in an unknown virtual work setting with team members who have never worked together. At Ippon, we strive to create a psychologically safe environment for engineers so that we can maximize a team’s ability to deliver quality applications.

The following are examples of how we, at Ippon, work to maximize delivery in our respective groups by fostering and creating safe, trusting work environments.

Promoting familiarity in a virtual environment

The first step with a team of individuals who have never worked or interacted with one another is to build relationships.

A prime example of how we create the foundation is as simple as using icebreakers in agile ceremonies outside of standup as a way of generating connections with one another in a more natural and organic way. The key is to find an engaging enough activity that promotes conversation.

Leading by example and listening

Once the team is a bit more familiar with one another, the next step is to iterate on the team’s openness. There are many ways to help promote the team’s trust in one another. As the scrum master, leading by example and listening to the team are two overarching ways to create that safe environment. This could mean taking ownership of different parts of the project and/or acknowledging mistakes transparently.

Some other suggestions that help foster a safe team environment:

  • Reinforcing that making mistakes is okay — I have felt that by acknowledging a personal mistake to my teams, it helps break through an engineer’s mindset of “I have to be perfect at what I do”
  • Having more transparent communication when things go awry. Sometimes, for abrupt changes such as changing intent or personnel changes on the team, it’s important to establish the why and gain the trust as it should go both ways
  • Asking for feedback from engineers, product owners, and/scrum masters (agile delivery leads)
  • Experiment with different ways of working. This could be from the result of speaking with your engineers or a healthy change to find the best working style for the team
  • Call out individual and team achievements. Creating positivity at the personal and team level will help boost overall morale and in turn, contribute to a healthier team

These are a few strategies that have been proven to help team members feel safe within an agile environment. Once you adopt some of these practices, you’ll see a shift in your team as people become more comfortable with each other.

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