SAFe Lean-Agile Principles - Scaled Agile Framework (2023)

The impression that ‘our problems are different’ is a common disease that afflicts management the world over. They are different, to be sure, but the principles that will help to improve the quality of product and service are universal in nature.

—W. Edwards Deming

SAFe is based on ten immutable, underlying Lean-Agile principles. These tenets and economic concepts inspire and inform the roles and practices of SAFe.

SAFe Lean-Agile Principles - Scaled Agile Framework (2)#1 - Take an economic view#2 - Apply systems thinking#3 - Assume variability; preserve options#4 - Build incrementally with fast integrated learning cycles#5 - Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems#6 - Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths#7 - Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning#8 - Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers#9 - Decentralize decision makingOrganize around Value

Figure 1. SAFe Lean-Agile Principles

Why the Focus on Principles?

Building enterprise-class software and cyber-physical systems is one of the most complex challenges our industry faces today. And, of course, the enterprises that build these systems are also increasingly sophisticated. They are bigger and more distributed than ever. Mergers and acquisitions, distributed multinational (and multilingual) development, offshoring, and rapid growth are all part of the solution. But they’re also part of the problem.

Fortunately, we have an amazing and growing body of knowledge that can help. It includes Agile principles and methods, Lean and systems thinking, product development flow practices, and Lean processes. Thought leaders have traveled this path before us and left a trail in hundreds of books and references to draw on.

The goal of SAFe is to synthesize this body of knowledge, along with the lessons learned from hundreds of deployments. This creates a system of integrated, proven practices that have improved employee engagement, time-to-market, solution quality, and team productivity. Given the complexities, however, there’s no off-the-shelf solution for the unique challenges each enterprise faces. Not every SAFe recommended practice will apply equally in every circumstance. This is why we work hard to ensure that SAFe practices are grounded in fundamentally stable principles. That way we can be confident the practices apply in most situations.

And ifthose practices do fall short, the underlying principles will guide the teams to make sure that they are moving continuously on the path to the goal of the House of Lean: “shortest sustainable lead time, with best quality and value to people and society.” There is value in that, too.

SAFe is based on ten fundamental concepts that have evolved from Agile principles and methods, Lean product development, systems thinking, and observation of successful enterprises. Each is described in detail in an article by that principle’s name. In addition, the embodiment of the principles appears throughout the Framework. They are summarized in the following sections, and each has a full article behind the link.

#1 – Take an economic view

Delivering the ‘best value and quality for people and society in the shortest sustainable lead time’ requires a fundamental understanding of the economics of building systems. Everyday decisions must be made in a proper economic context. This includes the strategy for incremental value delivery and the broader economic framework for each value stream. This framework highlights the trade-offs between risk, Cost of Delay (CoD), manufacturing, operational, and development costs. In addition, every development value stream must operate within the context of an approved budget, and be compliant to the guardrails which support decentralized decision-making.

#2 – Apply systems thinking

Deming observed that addressing the challenges in the workplace and the marketplace requires an understanding of the systems within which workers and users operate. Such systems are complex, and they consist of many interrelated components. But optimizing a component does not optimize the system. To improve, everyone must understand the larger aim of the system. In SAFe, systems thinking is applied to the system under development, as well as to the organization that builds the system.

#3 – Assume variability; preserve options

Traditional design and life cycle practices encourage choosing a single design-and-requirements option early in the development process. Unfortunately, if that starting point proves to be the wrong choice, then future adjustments take too long and can lead to a suboptimal design. A better approach is to maintain multiple requirements and design options for a longer period in the development cycle. Empirical data is then used to narrow the focus, resulting in a design that creates optimum economic outcomes.

#4 – Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles

Developing solutions incrementally in a series of short iterations allows for faster customer feedback and mitigates risk. Subsequent increments build on the previous ones. Since the ‘system always runs’, some increments may serve as prototypes for market testing and validation; others become minimum viable products (MVPs). Still others extend the system with new and valuable functionality. In addition, these early, fast feedback points help determine when to ‘pivot,’ where necessary to an alternate course of action.

#5 – Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems

Business owners, developers, and customers have a shared responsibility to ensure that investment in new solutions will deliver economic benefit. The sequential, phase-gate development model was designed to meet this challenge, but experience shows that it does not mitigate risk as intended. In Lean-Agile development, integration points provide objective milestones at which to evaluate the solution throughout the development life cycle. This regular evaluation provides the financial, technical, and fitness-for-purpose governance needed to assure that a continuing investment will produce a commensurate return.

#6 – Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths

Lean enterprises strive to achieve a state of continuous flow, where new system capabilities move quickly and visibly from concept to cash. Keys to implementing flow are:

1. Visualize and limit the amount of work in process (WIP). This increases throughput and limits demand to actual capacity.
2. Reduce the batch sizes of work to facilitate fast and more reliable flow.
3. Manage queue lengths to reduce the wait times for new functionality.

#7 – Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning

Cadence creates predictability and provides a rhythm for development. Synchronization causes multiple perspectives to be understood, resolved, and integrated at the same time. Applying development cadence and synchronization, coupled with periodic cross-domain planning, provides the mechanisms needed to operate effectively in the presence of the inherent development uncertainty.

#8 – Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers

Lean-Agile leaders understand that ideation, innovation, and employee engagement are not generally motivated by individual incentive compensation. Such individual incentives can create internal competition and destroy the cooperation necessary to achieve the larger aim of the system. Providing autonomy and purpose, minimizing constraints, creating an environment of mutual influence, and better understanding the role of compensation are keys to higher levels of employee engagement. This approach yields better outcomes for individuals, customers, and the enterprise.

#9 – Decentralize decision-making

Achieving fast value delivery requires decentralized decision-making. This reduces delays, improves product development flow, enables faster feedback, and creates more innovative solutions designed by those closest to the local knowledge. However, some decisions are strategic, global, and have economies of scale that justify centralized decision-making. Since both types of decisions occur, creating a reliable decision-making framework is a critical step in empowering employees and ensuring a fast flow of value.

#10 – Organize around value

Many enterprises today are organized around principles developed during the last century. In the name of intended efficiency, most are organized around functional expertise. But in the digital age, the only sustainable competitive advantage is the speed with which an organization can respond to the needs of its customers with new and innovative solutions. These solutions require cooperation amongst all the functional areas, with their incumbent dependencies, handoffs, waste and delays. Instead, Business Agility demands that enterprises organize around value to deliver more quickly. And when market and customer demands change, the enterprise must quickly and seamlessly reorganize around that new value flow.

Last update: 10 February 2021

The information on this page is © 2010-2023 Scaled Agile, Inc. and is protected by US and International copyright laws. Neither images nor text can be copied from this site without the express written permission of the copyright holder. Scaled Agile Framework and SAFe are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc. Please visit Permissions FAQs and contact us for permissions.

  • Dean Leffingwell - SAFe Lean-Agile Principles - Scaled Agile Framework (3)

© 2023 Scaled Agile, Inc. All rights reserved.


What are the principles of Scaled Agile Framework? ›

The four Core Values of alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution represent the fundamental beliefs that are key to SAFe's effectiveness. These guiding principles help dictate behavior and action for everyone who participates in a SAFe portfolio.

Which is SAFe Lean agile principle? ›

#6 – Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths. Lean enterprises strive to achieve a state of continuous flow, where new system capabilities move quickly and visibly from concept to cash.

How many SAFe principles are there in the Scaled Agile Framework? ›

A prescriptive approach won't accommodate every situation. That's why the Scaled Agile Framework® provides 10 SAFe® principles to guide your implementation in any context. SAFe principles are grounded in the immutable, underlying tenets of Agile, Lean, systems thinking, and product development flow.

What are the 4 levels of Scaled Agile Framework? ›

SAFe Full Configuration consists of four levels: Team, Program, Large Solution and Portfolio.

What is SAFe Agile in simple terms? ›

The Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) is a set of organizational and workflow patterns for implementing agile practices at an enterprise scale. The framework is a body of knowledge that includes structured guidance on roles and responsibilities, how to plan and manage the work, and values to uphold.

Is SAFe and scaled agile same? ›

Difference between Agile and SAFe® Agile

So, the main difference between Agile and Scaled Agile is that Agile was designed for small teams with specific roles, whereas Scaled Agile is designed to scale all the way up to the enterprise. Get to know more about agile vs traditional project management.

How are the 5 Whys used SAFe Agile? ›

Once a cause is identified, its root cause is explored with the 5 Whys technique. By simply asking 'why' multiple times, the cause of the previous cause is uncovered, and added to the diagram. The process stops once a suitable root cause has been identified and the same process is then applied to the next cause.

What are the 3 C's in SAFe? ›

The 3Cs: Card, Conversation, Confirmation

Card – Captures the user story's statement of intent using an index card, sticky note, or tool. Index cards provide a physical relationship between the team and the story.

What is basic safety principles? ›

The Four Baselines Of Safety

Recognize. Awareness of safety hazards. Stay informed. Complete training. Identify unsafe conditions.

What is the purpose of the new SAFe principle #10? ›

Reducing handoffs and delays between functional areas, reducing time to market. Bringing together all the research, development, deployment, and service personnel needed to offer whole product solutions.

How many safety principles are in safety policy? ›

Ten safety principles have been formulated, on the basis of which safety requirements are developed and safety measures are to be implemented in order to achieve the fundamental safety objective.

What is the most popular Scaled Agile Framework? ›

SAFe is the most popular framework for Agile scaling. A 2021 survey found that 37% of Agile practitioners use it, largely owing to its multiple configurations, all of which focus on value streams and have well-defined guides and procedures.

What are 3 frameworks for agile? ›

Scrum is the most common Agile framework. Others include the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), Crystal, and Feature-Driven Development (FDD).

What are the three primary keys to implementing flow in Scaled Agile? ›

Three primary keys to achieving flow are: Visualize and limit work in process (WIP) Reduce the batch sizes of work items. Manage queue lengths.

What are two benefits of the Scaled Agile Framework? ›

Leveraging the power of Scaled Agile Framework helps them make quicker decisions, communicate more effectively, streamline operations, and stay focused on the customer.

Why are the 12 Agile principles important? ›

The Agile Principles are important because they provide a guide for how software development should be approached. They emphasize collaboration, customer focus, and continuous improvement. These values are still relevant today and help to make sure that software development projects are successful.

How do you pass a SAFe agile test? ›

Agilist Exam Learning Journey - Checklist
  1. Decide on a learning path whether Scrum Master, Release Train Engineer, DevOps, etc is the right option for you at this point in your learning journey. ...
  2. Research and schedule the course related to the exam.
  3. Study the course materials.
  4. Take (and retake) the practice exam.
Dec 13, 2022

What is Sprint called in SAFe agile? ›

Scrum overview

Timeboxing and Sprints – Scrum work is completed within distinct time periods (aka timeboxes) of two to four weeks, called a sprint (SAFe refers to it as an iteration).

Is SAFe agile exam easy? ›

SAFe Agilist exam is a tough one and not easy to crack, but it is also not impossible to crack the exam.

Why SAFe is better than agile? ›

SAFe Agile vs Agile differ significantly from one another. The amount of iterations they do is one of the most significant distinctions. In contrast to the Agile approach, which has no set time limit for iterations, SAFe is an iterative process with four iterations in a release plan.

Why SAFe is better than Scrum? ›

SAFe takes a more structured approach to scale agile than scrum of scrums. SAFe describes three levels in the organization: portfolio, program, and team. This structure goes good with larger organizations as it applies a tiered approach for the delivery of work.

How is SAFe agile different from Scrum? ›

The core objectives of SAFe® are:

Summing it all together, while Agile is a way of working, a mindset, Scrum is a framework largely based on Agile principles & values and SAFe® on the other hand is a scaling framework that is used for implementing agile at an enterprise level.

What are two primary aspects of Lean agile mindset? ›

Within healthy, innovative product development, teams adopt the two aspects of Lean-Agile mindset; thinking Lean and embracing Agility.

Why do we implement SAFe? ›

To align multiple product owners on the direction for the product. SAFe is often also considered as a solution to align multiple product owners responsible for a product. Work can then trickle down from the program or portfolio backlog to the team backlog, divided per Product Owner.

Which activity is key to successfully implementing SAFe? ›

SAFe Ceremonies

Program Increment (PI) Planning is the most important part of the SAFe. It is quoted that if teams are not doing PI Planning, they are not doing SAFe. PI Planning is essentially a cadence-based event in which all the teams of ART get together where the mission and vision is shared.

What are the three pillars that built on Scaled Agile Framework? ›

Most importantly, SAFE's foundation consists of three metaphorical pillars: Team, Program, and Portfolio.

Why are the 12 agile principles important? ›

The Agile Principles are important because they provide a guide for how software development should be approached. They emphasize collaboration, customer focus, and continuous improvement. These values are still relevant today and help to make sure that software development projects are successful.

How are the 5 Whys used Scaled Agile? ›

Once a cause is identified, its root cause is explored with the 5 Whys technique. By simply asking 'why' multiple times, the cause of the previous cause is uncovered, and added to the diagram. The process stops once a suitable root cause has been identified and the same process is then applied to the next cause.

What are 4 values and 12 principles of agile? ›

Four values of Agile

individuals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and. responding to change over following a plan.

What is the most important agile principle? ›

Agile Principle 1

“Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” It's always been important to keep your customers satisfied.

What is the 80/20 rule in agile? ›

The Pareto Principle, commonly referred to as the 80/20 rule, states that 80% of the effect comes from 20% of causes. Or, in terms of work and time management, 20% of your efforts will account for 80% of your results.

What is key to successfully implementing the Scaled Agile Framework? ›

Getting Started with Implementing SAFe:

They must identify Value Streams and Agile Release Trains (ARTs), implement a Lean-Agile portfolio, build quality in, and establish the mechanisms for continuous value delivery and DevOps. And, of course, the culture must evolve as well.

What is most important in Lean and agile? ›

In both methodologies, the people – the workers – who perform the tasks are more important than the tools they use. When it comes to Agile and Lean, nothing is more important than the final result. This result must create value for the customer and is the only goal of the development process.

What is the purpose of agile principles? ›

Agile principles support observing changing markets, customer needs, and competitive threats and changing course when necessary. How it looks in practice: Product teams are guided by high-level strategic goals and perhaps even themes below those goals.

How do you explain agile methodology? ›

Agile is an approach to software development that seeks the continuous delivery of working software created in rapid iterations. However, the phrase "agile methodology" is misleading because it implies that agile is a singular approach to software development.

What problems does Scaled Agile solve? ›

They help to increase transparency, collaboration, and Agility in the whole organization. Scaling Agile methods are easy, flexible, and can easily cater to all the needs of the organization and it also helps in innovation in a world of ever-changing requirements.

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Dean Jakubowski Ret

Last Updated: 03/10/2023

Views: 5946

Rating: 5 / 5 (50 voted)

Reviews: 89% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Dean Jakubowski Ret

Birthday: 1996-05-10

Address: Apt. 425 4346 Santiago Islands, Shariside, AK 38830-1874

Phone: +96313309894162

Job: Legacy Sales Designer

Hobby: Baseball, Wood carving, Candle making, Jigsaw puzzles, Lacemaking, Parkour, Drawing

Introduction: My name is Dean Jakubowski Ret, I am a enthusiastic, friendly, homely, handsome, zealous, brainy, elegant person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.