As numerous commenters on the question have pointed out, the question focuses on the purported "flatness" of the hierarchy, which makes the question as currenlty-posed confusing and potentially unhelpful to future visitors. It needs some TLC from the OP or the community, ideally without invalidating existing answers as is our unwritten community policy.

Issues with the Question

There's a uniquely bad question right now that is currenty open. I have left it open because:

  1. It has an accepted answer.
  2. The accepted answer is responsive and has 5 upvotes.

However, the question remains a bad one and should be closed (not deleted), because:

  1. It's inherently inconsistent because the OP posits a "flat" hierarchy that has defined leadership roles and is operating under some version of SAFe which is intrinsically hierarchical.
  2. The X/Y problem seems to be one of a SAFe Scrum Team that isn't cross-functional or empowered.
  3. The OP is trying to solve for Y by positing a cross-team authority when no one in the SAFe implementation is accepting responsibility for integration, architectural runway, or cross-team communications or engineering-level definitions of done.

Other than posting an answer as Thomas Owens did identifying the roles that probably should be responsible, or my comment on the question pointing out that integration is an essential function at scale regardless of framework, I don't see how this question can be answered canonically or even responsively with either guessing at the underlying issue or dealing with it as an X/Y question.

Please Get Involved in Fixing It, or Opine on Why This Question Should Remain Open

Unless someone updates the question constructively, or provides a really convincing reason why this question should remain open, it is my intention to close the question no later than the end of this week. Because the accepted and upvoted answer is useful and responsive, I won't delete the question, but feel it should be closed for a variety of existing close reasons or perhaps a custom one. Nonetheless, I really have issues with this question, and would prefer to see the community get involved in helping with what I see as a growing trend in vague and off-topic opinion polls based on an underlying false premise without sufficient context to provide truly responsive answers.

My goal is not to pick on the OP of the original question or even the answerers and commenters who did their best with a poor quality question. My intent is really to point out the recent rise in low-quality questions that lack context, detail, or a concrete root cause, and I'm using this as a causa exemplum. We've always had low community involvement in addressing these types of broken windows, but now that we're out of beta I want to make sure that we keep the quality high. After all, that's what allowed PMSE to stay in perpetual beta for as long as it did, despite the fact that we objectively didn't meet the usual criteria for keeping a site open!

  • Not an opinion on whether it should stay open/closed but it seems to me that the question is about the really common antipattern of implementing the ceremonies of scrum without implementing the culture/mindset. This is such a broad and complex area as to how it manifests that I'm not sure how to make good stackexchange questions in this area. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 17:39
  • I'd also like to bring up workplace.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/1692/… which addresses a similar site facing the issue of corporate change is hard. Commented Nov 15, 2022 at 17:42

2 Answers 2


I don't see a lot of these problems.

First, I don't agree that SAFe is "intrinsically hierarchical". Although it's presented as a hierarchy, that seems to be more of a hierarchy of flow (of vision, of requirements, of budget) and not an organizational hierarchy. For example, I don't think that SAFe requires that the System Architect/Engineer is a manager of the developers on the Agile Teams or that the RTE is the manager of the Scrum Masters or the Solution Manager is the manager of the Product Manager. This means that a flat organization is consistent with SAFe in that you have a group of coaches who would be allocated to the STE, RTE, and Scrum Master roles and a group of engineers who would be allocated to the Enterprise Architect, Solution Architecture, System Architecture, and developer roles, a group of product managers allocated tothe Solution Management, Product Management, and Product Owner roles without a hierarchy of reporting.

Based on my answer, I also don't agree that it's a lack of a cross-functional or empowered SAFe Scrum Team. Especially based on the comments, the problem is clearly the people in the roles not fulfilling those roles. The OP does confirm that all of the necessary roles are filled by people who claim the work is "not their bag" while the description of those roles in the SAFe framework clearly state that it is.

I don't think that there's anything to fix about the question. The only misconception that I see is that the organizational structure (how deep or flat the organizational management hierarchy is) has anything to do with how people fulfil the SAFe roles - it doesn't. I believe my answer clears up that misconception, but perhaps it should fall to the answer to make that more clear if it doesn't.

  • I thought you provided the OP with a good answer. My problem is with the question's framing of hierarchies as a prima facie issue. There's a debate to be had about whether portfolio-level SAFe is really "flat" or not, especially based on the way it's often sold and implemented, but that's really a side issue. I think "flatness" is a red herring in the question and its title, which explicitly asks: How are department wide technical decisions made and enforced in flat hierarchy?. This creates the impression that the problem is about hierarchy.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 4:30
  • TL;DR for the above is that I'd prefer to see the question (esp. the title) refactored rather than refracting your perfectly reasonable answer just to account for the fact that you had to address X rather than Y in an X/Y question. YMMV.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 4:33
  • @ToddA.Jacobs I don't get that impression. I see "flat hierarchy" as a description of the organizational context that is important to answer the question. In a non-flat organization, my experience tells me that final decisions about how to work can be made within that hierarchy and then flow down. That capability doesn't exist in a flat organization. However, SAFe (even if it's sold that way) doesn't require a hierarchy but makes sure to identify specific roles that solve the problem.
    – Thomas Owens Mod
    Commented Nov 17, 2022 at 10:53
  • @ToddA.Jacobs, I usually perceive my organization as "flat", but that is only because within the department we don't have strict hierarchies and the 9 management levels above my department head don't interfere with my daily work. Have you considered that something similar could be the case for the "flat" hierarchy of the OP? Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 9:51
  • @BartvanIngenSchenau When you say [W]ithin the department we don't have strict hierarchies...[but have] 9 management levels above my department head I hear that you have a flat team, but you most certainly don't have a flat organizational hierarchy. This is precisely the distinction that I'm trying to make, and that I think makes the question unnecessarily confusing on that score.
    – Todd A. Jacobs Mod
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 16:13

Self-Resolved by Editing and Answering

I updated the question to keep the core of the OP's question intact. I removed the red herring of "hierarchy" from the question along with a few other minor grammatical and semantic improvements. The community should feel free to continue improving the question, if desired.

I also posted an answer that (in my own opinion) more closely aligns with questions about how to resolve certain issues within SAFe rather than focusing on the hierarchy issue. I believe it's more responsive to the underlying question, addresses the X in the X/Y question, and is more specific to Agile Teams and roles within SAFe than might come out of a RACI-type question about hierarchical roles.

As I no longer feel that the question is about the flatness of the organization, and less confusing for future visitors, I will not be closing the question. I now think it is on-topic and has long-tail utility, which was really my general concern.

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