SAFe and Its Core Values - A Comprehensive Guide

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17th Apr, 2023
SAFe and Its Core Values - A Comprehensive Guide

Agile methodology has made managing projects effectively simple. Software development and project management use an iterative strategy that also helps to conserve money, time, and resources. In addition, distributing software in manageable chunks gives clients better value. 

Many larger businesses are ill-equipped to profit from agile development. In this regard, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) is a tailored solution to assist more prominent organizations in resolving problems that have a detrimental effect on project success.  

We'll examine the many aspects of the SAFe framework in this post and discuss how to use it in your business.

The Leading SAFe certificate has become the standard for Lean-Agile enterprises. It broadens your scope in the industry regarding value and career opportunities. The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) is the most widely adopted enterprise Agile approach according to most survey data, with 33% using it according to a Forrester Survey on Global Agile Software Application Development. 

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KnowledgeHut Agile Online Courses also help learners get certified after acquiring knowledge which will not only provide a salary raise in your present organization but also offers several other benefits.

What is safe agile? What is a minimum viable product safe? What is a safe agile methodology? All these questions will be answered in this article which is detailed below. 

What is the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)?

The Scaled Agile framework includes organizational patterns, best practices, processes, and concepts for implementing agile approaches in bigger businesses. In addition, the corpus of knowledge about roles and duties, managing tasks, and applying suitable values is included in the SAFe framework structure.

Large teams managing complex projects at many levels, including program, portfolio, and project levels, should use the SAFe approach. The popularity of SAFe is a result of its organized and systematic approach. 

An agile framework created for development teams is called the Scaled Agile Framework, or SAFe. Its three symbolic pillars are team, program, and portfolio. SAFe also offers product teams freedom. Additionally, it aids in addressing some of the difficulties bigger businesses encounter while implementing Agile. Finally, SAFe comprises a significant knowledge base of tried-and-true best practices. Similar to how development teams utilize SAFe to produce successful software solutions. 

What is the Scaled Agile Framework's History?

The SAFe framework gained popularity in the product industry in 2011. Agile Software Requirements author Dean Leffingwell, a software industry veteran, first referred to the SAFe framework as the "Agile Enterprise Big Picture." Lean, Scrum, Kanban, and XP are a few examples of agile frameworks that a project manager may apply to the team, program, and portfolio, according to the "Big Picture" strategy. 

The entire body of knowledge and success patterns in SAFe is now free. Yet, one of the most well-known agile frameworks is still SAFe. 

What are the SAFe Agile Principles and Values? 

Fundamental SAFe Principles 

The fundamental principles of SAFe outline the culture leaders must promote and the conduct that belongs to that culture for the framework to operate as intended. 

1. Alignment

SAFe mandates that organizations establish planning and reflection cadences at all organizational levels. With these in place, everyone knows the company's current situation and objectives and how everyone should work together to meet those objectives. In addition, all portfolio levels remain aligned by routinely synchronizing people and activities. As a result, information moves swiftly upward and downward, in contrast to conventional top-down command and control arrangements. 

2. Innate quality

The SAFe framework states that one should never sacrifice quality for agility. Teams must specify what is "done" for each job or project under SAFe. In addition, every working agreement must include quality development principles. SAFe claims that built-in quality has five essential components: flow, architecture and design quality, code quality, system quality, and release pace. 

3. Transparency

SAFe promotes behaviors that foster trust, such as organizing work in smaller batch sizes so one may identify issues earlier. This offers real-time visibility on the status of the backlog at all levels and examines protocols for adaptation. 

4. Program Implementation

The core of SAFe drives everything in the framework and is an effective program implementation. Therefore, teams and programs must consistently provide high-quality, functional software and commercial value. 

5. Leadership

Lean-agile leadership conduct is essential for safe leadership since no one else can alter the system or provide the conditions for embracing all fundamental ideals.

SAFe Values 

The concepts of the Scaled Agile Framework are intended to enhance the business by promoting lean-agile decision-making across organizational and functional boundaries.  

1. Consider the economy

Everyone involved in the decision-making process must comprehend the financial consequences of delays to achieve the lowest sustainable lead time. Early and frequent delivery isn't always sufficient. According to SAFe, the project manager must share their duties with other company members to comprehend economic trade-offs and sequence tasks for optimal value.  

2. Use the systems approach

SAFe promotes systems thinking in three critical domains: the solution, the company creating the system, and the value streams.  

Team members should understand how their position fits the overall picture since large solutions have many interwoven elements. When considering enterprise building. Those who adhere to SAFe should consider the organization's people, management, and processes. Leaders and managers must maximize value transfer across organizational and functional barriers. 

3. Assume variation; protect your options

Designing software and systems are, by nature, an uncertain task. This philosophy resolves uncertainty by incorporating the idea of set-based design, which calls for keeping various needs and design possibilities for a longer length of time throughout the development cycle. The set-based design uses empirical data to further focus on the chosen design alternative. 

Set-based design, similar to placing a strategic wager, assists in guiding decision-making in uncertain situations by specifying the possibilities and desired results.  

4. Base milestones on an unbiased assessment of operational systems

A functional system has already been shown to offer a more reliable basis for decision-making than a requirements document or any external evaluation of success. Moreover, the early involvement of stakeholders in such feasibility determinations promotes systems thinking and trust-building. 

5. Consider and set limits, reduce batch sizes, control queue lengths, and manage work in progress (WIP)

Stakeholders can better see how work progresses by limiting work throughout the process. 

The three components of this concept, or "flow," are the main strategies for increasing throughput and speeding up value delivery. 

One may use this in software development by minimizing the amount of work that overlaps, the level of complexity of each task, and the overall quantity of work undertaken at one time. Small batch sizes also make it possible to continuously check to see if the project is moving in the right direction. 

This concept aims to provide direction on optimizing this for the best outcomes. 

6. Synchronize with cross-domain planning and use cadence 

Through sprints or iterations, agile teams naturally use cadence. Developing a rhythm for every scenario minimizes complexity, deals with uncertainty, develops muscle memory, upholds quality, and fosters cooperation. When these cadences are in sync, individuals and activities may function like cogs in a wheel, where decisions are made using learned knowledge, and incremental planning is done. 

7. Encourage knowledge workers' intrinsic motivation

This idea is one of our favorites and was inspired by well-known management guru Peter Drucker and novelist Daniel Pink. It involves maximizing team potential and assisting leadership in switching from a command-and-control mentality to coaching and serving their teams. 

8. Decentralized decision-making

Teams are free to complete their tasks since queue times are cut down, and an economic strategy is used to decentralize decision-making. On matters of strategic importance, however, leaders should retain the right to make decisions while allowing teams to decide on all other issues.

How Does SAFe Work? 

SAFe is not agile. In essence, this scalable architecture consists of a number of process patterns. Enterprises may scale their agile and lean processes with the use of these patterns.

The approach is best understood as an extensive body of information. All of that information relates to tried-and-true methods and best practices.

The most well-known agile framework is this one. Businesses frequently flock to this approach. This is a result of its adaptability, sustainability, and ability to be customized. So that you have a higher chance of having a successful implementation phase, let's speak more about how it functions. 

Scrum should be used as a good starting point for organizations. 

The crew is essentially being trained on the procedures and their specific tasks. Your lean-agile center and implementation strategy are then created. Following that, you put the implementation strategy into action and expand your deliverables to include the portfolio you're working on. 

The primary guidelines for applying the approach are as follows: 

  • Flow: This is what you intend to achieve as a team 
  • Capacity: This is the quantity of work that the project team can manage without disrupting the flow. 
  • Capacity: This is the quantity of work that the team can manage without disrupting the flow. how the project team intends to control flow and capacity. 
  • Feedback: This is how your organization maintains focus and evaluates project performance. 

This framework has four tiers i.e team, program, portfolio and large solution. To complete all four tiers of this strategy, you frequently incorporate the real team. 

SAFe Agile Methodologies
safe agile methodologies

SAFe provides a wide range of development environments with four different formats. Whichever SAFe structure you employ for organizational agility must be wisely chosen. 

The following list includes the four configurations: 

1. Essential SAFe

The fundamental building element of various SAFe setups is essential SAFe. It comprises all the vital components required for the SAFe framework's benefit and starting point for implementation. In addition, it provides complex solutions for large teams. 

2. Portfolio SAFe

The fundamental purpose of Portfolio SAFe is to help businesses integrate agile development into value streams and ARTs. The idea of lean-agile budgeting permits decision-makers. The use of the Kanban system also incorporates WIP restrictions and portfolio visibility. Objective metrics support governance and improvement.  

3. Large-scale SAFe

Large-scale SAFe configurations offer complex solutions without the aid of portfolio management. It is extensively utilized in the aerospace, automotive, and defense sectors. This is mainly used by organizations that don't require a project portfolio to finish the project within the scheduled time. 

4. Full SAFe

Full SAFe is a comprehensive SAFe framework comprising all the SAFe levels- Team level, Value Stream level, Portfolio level, and Program level. Organizations widely use this to get complex solutions to deliver the product. 

SAFe Agile Process Flow  

safe agile process flow

While there are 12 fundamental steps that businesses should take to implement SAFe, it's crucial to remember that each one should be adjusted as necessary to meet your organization's requirements. 

  1. Recognize and express the necessity for change 
  2. Find and educate change agents on SAFe procedures. 
  3. Get the leaders and executives on board. 
  4. Instead of just using agile project management inside certain domains, establish a Lean agile center of excellence to achieve optimal performance throughout the entire organization. 
  5. Determine the value streams and agile release trains (ARTs), which are primarily a combination of personnel, internal procedures, and technological advancements that will benefit your clients. 
  6. Set goals and a schedule for achieving your SAFe transformation's vision. 
  7. Establish parameters for each ART rollout by building agile teams, educating staff, and conducting readiness evaluations. 
  8. Teams should be trained, and everyone should know what their duty is. 
  9. Implement your ART 
  10. By educating teams, guiding ART execution, and providing each ART the time and attention it needs to succeed without missing stages or diligence, additional ARTs and value streams may be launched. 
  11. Increase target accomplishment and corporate success by extending it to the portfolio level. 
  12. By looking for methods to take advantage of fresh possibilities and making changes, you may maintain and enhance operational performance across the whole firm. 

What Are the Strengths & Weaknesses of the Scaled Agile Framework?

The Pros of the Scaled Agile Framework

1. Shortened time to market 

SAFe reduces the time-to-market. Leading businesses may better address customer demands by coordinating cross-functional agile teams around value. They may make speedier choices, communicate more clearly, streamline processes, and maintain customer focus by utilizing the Scaled Agile Framework's capabilities. 

2. Enhancements to the Standards 

One of the fundamental principles of SAFe is "built-in quality," which emphasizes the significance of incorporating quality into each stage of the development cycle. Scaling agile with SAFe helps businesses make quality a shared responsibility rather than a last-minute priority. 

3. Productivity growth 

By enabling high-performing teams and teams of teams to cut out wasteful tasks, and spot fix delays, SAFe offers quantifiable increases in productivity. 

Better Engagement of Employees 

Employees that are happy and more engaged work harder. Helping knowledge workers attain autonomy, mastery, and purpose is one advantage of expanding agile with the Scaled Agile Framework. In addition, organizations using SAFe have the resources to reduce employee fatigue and boost satisfaction.

Drawbacks of SAFe

1. Too much technical language is a drawback of the scaled agile architecture. 

Technical language is necessary for the Scaled Agile framework. However, remembering words like runways, guardrails, program increments, and release trains is difficult. In addition, SAFe has altered specific terminologies such as sprint to iterations. It has thus evolved into a problematic component of the Scaled Agile architecture. 

2. Lack of enthusiasm for new ventures 

SAFe was created for industries on a big scale. Therefore, a start-up with less than forty people cannot be successful.  

3. Top-down suggestion 

The Scaled Agile Framework employs the top-down, strict management style. The heads of the company and senior management have the power to make decisions. However, there is no remaining autonomy for the project managers. As a result, they are burdened, and the other workers are left in the dark. For this reason, employees see the Scaled Agile Framework as different from conventional frameworks. 

4. Epics are not defined correctly. 

Epics are the current long-term projects that are being worked on. According to the Scaled Agile Framework, epics are extensive organizational activities that one must first assess for their potential return on investment (ROI). 

5. Not suitable for small teams 

The Scaled Agile framework was initially designed to assist large enterprises in tackling complex projects. However, the framework can burden small teams and organizations that do not need portfolio management or program increment planning.

Primarily, in the instance of start-ups, the initial phases of a firm depend on adapting and changing new principles to survive in the market. Therefore, a complex structure makes it difficult for these young and tiny teams to find their own identity and market.

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How Does Safe Compare to Other Scaled Agile Frameworks? 

Many significant companies prefer SAFe over other agile techniques. However, a few other agile frameworks have lately gained popularity. You may choose wisely if you know how SAFe differs fundamentally from these frameworks. Let's contrast SAFe with these agile frameworks: 

  • Scrum@Scale vs. SAFe 

In the Scrum@Scale methodology, a network of scrum teams join to create an ecosystem. As a result, Scrum@Scale is less prescriptive but provides an answer to a crucial query: Will adding more team members reduce productivity or improve performance? 

  • Large-Scale Scrum vs. SAFe

In contrast to SAFe, Large-Scale Scrum (LeSS) prioritizes roles, structure, and artifact simplicity. LeSS has two configurations: LeSS for two to eight teams and LeSS Huge for more than eight. In contrast to SAFe's four variants that may support larger groups and more sophisticated solutions. 

Their views on software development are a crucial distinction between SAFe and LeSS. LeSS uses a democratic model, whereas SAFe uses total content authority for product owners. LeSS also places a greater emphasis on consumers than SAFe, which highlights a variety of criteria. 

LeSS and SAFe have many characteristics. For example, lean thinking, systems thinking, and other comparable guiding ideas are all stressed by both. In addition, leSS places a lot of emphasis on waste reduction and constant development. 

  • DA vs. SAFe

A toolbox called Disciplined Agile (DA) can assist businesses in determining which method of operation makes the most sense. In DA, we emphasize decision-making enablement to steer the strategic direction. 

Should You Use Scaled Agile Framework?

SAFe is most well-liked by corporate firms since many features concentrate on removing the typical difficulties teams have when expanding agile.

In other words, SAFe might be an excellent option to connect the dots if your company is starting to switch to agile. This is because it adopts a more direct approach than, say, Disciplined Agile (DA), which requires an organization to understand the agile concept fully.

However, it's critical to remember that SAFe's top-down approach to project management may undercut some core agile characteristics, such as shared ownership and adaptability. 

SAFE Certification and Training 

Depending on the topic, SAFe training modules generally last two to four days. A multiple-choice certification test in the discipline of interest is prepared for by further study and preparation once the course is finished.

SAFe offers a host of certifications to almost anyone working with the framework. For example, one may undertake training to become a Certified SAFe Agile Product Manager or a Certified SAFe Product Owner/Product Manager. 

Additionally, there are certifications available for Architects, Scrum Masters, Train Engineers, Software Engineers, and DevOps for highly technical personnel.


SAFe brings several new elements to the table, most notably by enabling enterprises of a particular scale to adopt a more agile method for their software development. However, the scaled agile framework's benefits and drawbacks will simplify the decision-making process. Additionally, it will help you decide which teams need to adopt SAFe and how much preparation is necessary. 

Adopting SAFe requires being informed about the possibilities and requirements of your company to choose the best course of action.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What are the four levels of the scalable, agile framework?

The four stages of SAFe are the team level, program, portfolio, and substantial solution levels. At the team level, several groups are engaged in active work. At the program level, numerous teams work together to offer solutions through an "Agile Release Train" (ART), which consists of 50 to 130 employees working in sub-teams to provide value. At the large solution level, it is required to use two or more Agile Release Trains. Whereas, at the portfolio level, processes for strategic governance and lean budgeting are used. 

2. What is the main purpose of SAFe in Agile? 

Aligning development with broader corporate objectives is one of SAFe's main objectives. SAFe leverages lessons from tried-and-true agile approaches to produce a platform that satisfies the needs for software development inside significant business initiatives. 

3. How do you start SAFe in Agile? 

Finding a value stream that generates consistent outcomes across the board is crucial to an organization's adoption of SAFe. Consider the following inquiries while identifying a value stream: 

  1. Who is endorsing this notion? 
  2. Which business leaders are open to change? 
  3. Where are prospective team members situated physically? 
  4. How are the team members split up? 

It's crucial to realize that with SAFe, you don't merely "dip your toe in the water." It would be best to go "all-in" after choosing the best course of action. The company must make a full adoption or nothing at all.


Rajesh Bhagia

Blog Author

Rajesh Bhagia is experienced campaigner in Lamp technologies and has 10 years of experience in Project Management. He has worked in Multinational companies and has handled small to very complex projects single-handedly. He started his career as Junior Programmer and has evolved in different positions including Project Manager of Projects in E-commerce Portals. Currently, he is handling one of the largest project in E-commerce Domain in MNC company which deals in nearly 9.5 million SKU's.

In his role as Project Manager at MNC company, Rajesh fosters an environment of teamwork and ensures that strategy is clearly defined while overseeing performance and maintaining morale. His strong communication and client service skills enhance his process-driven management philosophy.

Rajesh is a certified Zend Professional and has developed a flair for implementing PMP Knowledge Areas in daily work schedules. He has well understood the importance of these process and considers that using the knowledge Areas efficiently and correctly can turn projects to success. He also writes articles/blogs on Technology and Management

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