The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) is a set of organizational and workflow patterns for implementing agile practices at an enterprise scale. It promotes alignment, collaboration, and delivery across large numbers of agile teams. We often say it was formed around three primary bodies of knowledge: agile software development, lean product development, and systems thinking. Software-Industry veteran Dean Leffing well originally called the Safe framework the “agile enterprise big picture.” SAFe is a system designed for business agility.
If you’re already using Scum, SAFe and Scrum are not at odds with each other. It’s more a question of environment and objective for implementing agile principles. For example, it is expected you may have to accept some additional planning and rigidity so that the many agile teams can better fit together.
Project management in an organization using SAFe happens at the individual team level, program level, and portfolio level. At the team level, it is business as usual. It is at the program level where organizations will begin to see benefits from implementing SAFe.
Principles and Steps
Below are some of the commonly accepted SAFe principles. They are also called the ten foundational principles.
Take an economic view
Apply systems thinking
Assume variability, preserve options
Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles
Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems
Visualize and limit work in process, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths
Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning
Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
Decentralize decision making
Organize around value
Below are the twelve commonly accepted steps for implementing SAFe. The focus of SAFe is development teams, but, as you see from this list, others should be trained as well:
Reaching the tipping point
Train lean-agile change agents
Train executives, managers, and leaders
Create a lean-agile center of excellence
Identify value streams and Agile Release Trains (ART)
Create the implementation plan
Prepare for ART launch
Train Teams and launch the ART
Coach the ART execution
Launch more ARTs and value streams
Extend to the portfolio
Sustain and improve
SAfe is not the only scaled agile framework. There are others such as Scrum@Scale (S@S), Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS), Disciplined Agile (DA), and Spotify. It would be of interest to a do a deeper dive into these frameworks and determine each framework is most successful. For example LeSS is most successful when scrum teams have mastered Scrum.