Core principles of the Scaled Agile Framework explained

Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)  is an agile framework created in 2011 by Software-Industry veteran Dean Leffingwell to leverage existing agile frameworks such as Kanban and Scrum and apply them to the Team, Program, and Portfolio.

 

SAFe is relatively new compared to other agile frameworks, for example, Scrum,  which was created in 1993. The need behind the creation of SAFe is to help organizations solve the challenge of aligning agile product development teams with organizational and customer objectives.

An organization may have one or more agile teams following different agile frameworks. However, organizations need to be more agile and capture the value of true business agility.

Hence, the reason behind SAFe is to help scale agile across the organization.

 

What are the SAFe Principles

There are ten scaled agile framework principles, all aiming at helping with decisions not just for the executive level but for everyone in the organization and helping them shift their mindset to lean-agile thinking.

The scaled agile framework principles are:

  1. Take an economic view – Delivering value in the shortest period requires individuals in the decision-making process to understand the economic implications of delay. This SAFe agile principle focuses on the Cost of Delay (CoD), operational, and development costs and requires team members to consider them when managing delays.

  2. Apply systems thinking – This SAFe agile principle focuses on the importance of the system teams operate in. It’s crucial for everyone to understand the systems in these three areas: solution, enterprise building of the system, and the value streams.

  3. Assume variability; preserve options – This principle focuses on set-based design to address the issue of uncertainty in the development cycle. SAFE encourages you to use multiple design options to make probable adjustments quick and easy. Empirical data is then employed to refine the focus and ultimately create an optimal economical design.

  4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles – Similar to Principle #3, this SAFe agile principle addresses uncertainty through learning milestones. Here, we’ll use integrated points to gather feedback from customers during the development. This way, it’s easier to understand the customer’s needs and to reduce any risks.

  5. Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems – This principle ensures that investment in new solutions will deliver economic benefit. The aim is to evaluate the solution to ensure its financial success continuously. SAFe utilizes integration points to establish objective milestones for evaluating the solution during development.

  6. Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths – Lean enterprises generally strive to achieve a state of continuous flow. If you limit the amount of Work in Progress (WIP), it’s possible to better measure the productivity of the system. Batch sizes and que lengths can also decrease the wait times in systems.

  7. Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning – This SAFE agile principle states that constantly applying development cadence and synchronization helps teams to operate effectively. This way, multiple perspectives can be considered and implemented simultaneously.

  8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers – This SAFe principle encourages an organization to create an environment where teams and individuals can innovate and create, which leads to better results than focusing on individual incentives. It’s all about inspiring your employees to unfold their full potential.

  9. Decentralize decision-making – The decision-making process should be decentralized to achieve fast results. Also, you will have more innovative solutions since employees don’t have to ask for approval about smaller things. Nonetheless, strategic matters can and should still be decided by the SAFe leaders.

  10. Organize around value – This SAFe agile framework encourages organizations to organize themselves around value rather than functional expertise to deliver faster. What this means? Make sure that the right product is delivered to the right market at the right time and the success is yours.

How to succeed with SAFe principles

Frameworks like SAFe are an excellent option for businesses to scale agile within their organization. Successful implementation of SAFe should start from the top with executive-level sponsorship, a willingness to change, and a good foundation and understanding of Scrum.

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