SAFe® 4.0 Distilled – Notes

First framework published in 2011.

three bodies of knowledge must be understood to undestand SAFE.

  • Agile
  • Systems thinking
  • Lean development

Agile Development

developed in late ninties by Jim Highsmith, Kent Beck, Martin Fowler, Ken Schwaber, Brian Marick and others.  

2001 they (and)  others developed the Agile Manifesto.

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic approach to solution development, which views a system as an interrelated set of elements.


Lean Product Development

the continuous evaluation of existing processes with the goal of eliminating waste and delays.

  • focus on full value stream
  • manage the flow of value (cadence, queues, WIP, etc)
  • respect people and culture
  • Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
  • embrace Kaizen (continuous improvement)
  • empower the leadership

Supposedly SAFE Results in

  • happier more motivated employees
  • 20-50% increase in productivity
  • 30-70% faster time to market
  • 50% reduction in defects

Levels of SAFE

 Team Level –   

Highlights of the team level include the following:
• Each team delivers valuable, tested, working systems at least every two weeks.
• Teams implement user stories and enablers, which describe small pieces of functionality needed to develop features.
• Scrum teams have three to nine team members. Their roles include the Scrum Master, Product Owner, dedicated individual contributors, and any specialty resources needed to deliver value.
• Kanban team roles are less rigorously defined, though many kanban teams implement Scrum roles and team size

Program Level

The heart of SAFe is the program level (Figure 2-4), where Agile teams, key stakeholders, and other resources are dedicated to an important, ongoing solution mission using a construct called the Agile Release Train (ART).

The ART is a self-managing and organizing team-of-Agile-teams that plans, commits, and executes together. Agile teams are dedicated to one, and only one Agile Release Train (ART). Each is responsible for defining, building, and testing stories from their backlog in a series of timeboxed iterations.

ARTs are virtual organizations (typically five to twelve Agile teams), formed to span functional reporting structures and eliminate unnecessary handoffs and steps across silos.

The ART aligns management, teams, and stakeholders to a common mission through a single vision, roadmap, and program backlog.
• ARTs deliver the features (user functionality) and the enablers (technical infrastructure) needed to provide value on a sustainable basis.
• Team iterations are synchronized and use the same duration and start and end dates. Each ART delivers valuable and tested system-level increments every two weeks.
• Program Increments (PIs) provide a fixed timebox for planning, execution, and inspecting and adapting. Solutions can be released at any time, during or at the end of a PI, based solely on the needs of the business.
• Key ART roles include the Agile teams plus Product Management, System Architect/Engineering, and the Release Train Engineer (RTE), who is the chief Scrum Master for the train. Business owners are also part of the ART.
• The system demo synchronizes the work of all teams on the train every two weeks and provides an opportunity for ART sponsors, stakeholders, and customers to assess the value and progress of the solution.
• Frequent or continuous integration of the work from all teams is the ultimate measure of progress.
• ARTs use face-to-face PI planning to assure collaboration, alignment, and rapid adaptation.
• ARTs build and maintain a DevOps pipeline, which is used to continuously develop and release small increments of value.
• ARTs provide common and consistent approaches to user experience using Lean UX principles and practices (see chapter 8, “Executing a Program Increment” for more details).


restarting notes p. 27 Part II – The Foundation of SAFe

House of Lean

Must have Lean/Agile Mindset

based on 1) thinking Lean and 2) Embracing Agility

Roof = Value

pillars = 1) respect for people and values, 2) Flow, 3) Innovation, 4) Relentless Improvement

Foundation = Leadership

Embracing Agility

self-managing and self-organizing

agile manifesto is:

Individuals and  interaction over process and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

responding to change over following a plan

Chapter 4

Lean-Agile Leaders

Eight  behaviors of lean leaders:

  • Exhibit lean mindset
  • lead the  change
  • emphaze life-long  learning
  • develop people
  • minimize contraints
  • decentralize decision-making
  • unlock the motivation of workers
  • evolve the role of development manager

Lead the  change:

  • Establish sense of urgency
  • create powerful guiding coalition
  • develop vision and strategy
  • communicate the vision
  • empower employees for  broad-based action
  • generation short-term  wins
  • consolidate gains and produce more wins
  • anchor new approaches in the culture

the responsibility of  change cannot be delegated


Anchor New Approaches in the Culture

“culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Drucker

Emphasize Lifelong Learning

Develop People

  • leader as expert
  • leader as conductor
  • leader as developer of  people (best)

Future of Leadership

“Leadership in Online Labs” article

  • leaders switch roles
  • transparency of information
  • non-monetary incentives

Inspire and Align with Mission,  Minimize Constraints

Decentralized Decision-Making

  • centralize decision that are infrequent, long-lasting,  and  have  economies of scale
  • decentralize all   others

Unlock the Intrinsic Motivation of Knowledge Workers

Evolve  the Development Manager Role

Chapter 5 – SAFe Principles

principles don’t changes.

practices do.

The nine lean-agile SAFe principles are:

  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-making

Take an economic view

WSJF = Cost of Delay / Duration

The job with the highest WSJF is the next most important job.

Cost of Delay = User Business Value + Time Criticality + Risk  Reduction and/or Opportunity Enablement

Understand Economic Trade-Off Parameters (Cycle Time, Product Cost, Development expense, Risk, Value)

Use Decision Rules

Apply systems thinking

A system must be managed. It will not manage itself. Left to themselves, components become selfish, independent profit centers and thus destroy the system… The secret is cooperation between components toward the aim of the organization. – Deming







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