Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®)

An overview of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®)


The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) is a set of organization 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 work, and values to uphold.

SAFe® is designed to help businesses address the significant challenges of developing and delivering enterprise-class software and systems in the shortest sustainable lead time. It helps organizations achieve the benefits of Lean-Agile development at scale by providing a framework that supports larger, more complex solutions.

Levels of SAFe®

The framework is divided into three main levels: Team, Program, and Portfolio.

  1. Team Level: This is where the actual work is done. SAFe® uses Agile teams organized into Agile Release Trains (ARTs) to plan, execute, and deliver value.

  2. Program Level: This is where multiple teams coordinate and collaborate. SAFe® introduces a Program Increment (PI) planning event, which is a cadence-based, face-to-face event that serves as the heartbeat of the ART.

  3. Portfolio Level: This is where strategy and investment funding is decided. SAFe® aligns strategy with execution by organizing programs into a portfolio, which is a collection of investments in a set of value streams.


SAFe® is based on Lean-Agile principles, which are guidelines for applying the framework effectively. Here are some of these principles:

  • Take an economic view: Make decisions based on the economic benefit to the organization.
  • Apply systems thinking: Consider the entire system, not just individual parts, when making decisions.
  • Assume variability; preserve options: Expect changes and keep options open to adapt to those changes.
  • Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles: Develop and test small parts of the system at a time to learn quickly and make adjustments.
  • Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems: Use actual working systems to measure progress, not just documents or plans.
  • Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths: Limit the amount of work in progress to improve flow and reduce delays.
  • Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning: Use a regular, predictable rhythm for planning and synchronization across teams and domains to ensure alignment and focus.
  • Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers: Create an environment where people are empowered to take ownership, collaborate, and make decisions.
  • Decentralize decision-making: Push decision-making authority to the lowest possible level, where the people closest to the work can make informed decisions quickly.
  • Organize around value: Organize teams and trains around the delivery of value to customers, rather than around functional silos.

These principles help organizations apply SAFe® in a way that promotes flexibility, learning, and efficiency.

Rather than a prescriptive methodology, SAFe® provides a flexible framework that can be configured based on an organization’s specific needs and context when scaling agile.

The complexities come in with all the specific roles, events, and practices SAFe® recommends, but at its essence, it’s about synchronizing multiple agile teams to deliver larger solutions incrementally and efficiently.

Last updated: April 26, 2024