Scaled Agile Framework: 10 Core Principles You Should Know


The agile framework has been around for quite a long time, helping industries reach the next level of progress. But even the best can get better by improving their strengths, and this improvement comes in the form of a Scaled Agile Framework.

scaled agile framework

But what is the Scaled Agile Framework? And how is it useful for enterprises? Let’s answer all your questions as we learn everything about Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

What is SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework)?

SAFe or Scaled Agile Framework is a set of workflow patterns for larger organizations that stands on three metaphorical pillars:

  • Team
  • Program
  • Portfolio

The framework provides structural guidance on roles and responsibilities while providing the team additional flexibility during agile software development. SAFe solves all the issues of larger organizations that are having difficulty implementing agile.

With SAFe, organizations can ensure alignment, collaboration, and delivery across many agile teams. Current businesses are constantly growing, and SAFe provides a way for scaling agile within these businesses.

How Scaled Agile Framework Started Its Journey

Lean-agile experts Dean Leffingwell and Drew Jemilo created the scaled Agile Framework. It was released in 2011 but had a different name at the start. In Dean’s book, “Agile Software Requirements,” the framework was originally called “Agile Enterprise Big Picture” or “The Big Picture.”

It described the ways of leveraging existing agile methods and made them fit within the three metaphorical pillars we mentioned earlier.

10 Core Principles of Scaled Agile Framework

Here are the 10 core principles of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)

  • Take An Economic View
  • Apply Systems Thinking
  • Assume Variability, Preserve Options
  • Build Incrementally With Fast, Integrated Learning Cycles
  • Base Milestones on Objective Evaluation of Working Systems
  • Visualize and Limit WIP, Reduce Batch Sizes, And Manage Queue Lengths
  • Apply Cadence, Synchronize WIth Cross-Domain Planning
  • Unlock The Intrinsic Motivation of Knowledge Workers
  • Decentralize Decision Making
  • Organize Around Value

1. Take An Economic View

One of the most important elements of the agile approach is good economics. The SAFe model applies an economic framework and promotes the practices of early delivery. This way, each individual in the decision-making chain can understand the financial implications of delays.

Delivering early isn’t always enough, either. The software development team must understand the economic trade-offs and operate within a lean budget. These responsibilities have to be shared throughout the organization.

2. Apply Systems Thinking

The SAFe framework encourages the team individuals to apply systems thinking in three different areas:

  • The Solution
  • The Enterprise That Built The System
  • Value Streams

SAFe offers a solution where all three parts are interconnected through development processes in any agile project.

3. Assume Variability, Preserve Options

When you’re working with agile, variability is inevitable. Designing software and systems can lead to many uncertainties, and you must be prepared for any of them beforehand.

Your team should always preserve different options by utilizing a set design. Creating multiple set designs before beginning is best to keep the options safe.

4. Build Incrementally With Fast, Integrated Learning Cycles

This principle reduces risk and uncertainty by increasing the range of the initial design. The final solution gets built in increments while each increment improves on the previous ones.

5. Base Milestones on Objective Evaluation of Working Systems

This principle allows better decision-making using an existing working system as a model. This can help with better achievement of milestones with better decision-making. A better way of improving overall decision-making is by involving stakeholders in the decision-making process.

6. Visualize and Limit WIP, Reduce Batch Sizes, And Manage Queue Lengths

SAFe recommends limiting WIP by creating smaller batches of pending objectives.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

-Old Proverb

Doing so reduces the complexity of each step and the amount of overlapping work. Small batch sizes can help with easier validation as well.

7. Apply Cadence, Synchronize With Cross-Domain Planning

A cadence can be described as a rhythmic pattern of events. A dedicated agile team will apply cadence throughout different sprints. Applying cadence allows a team to

  • Address uncertainty
  • Builds better muscle memory
  • Enforces better quality
  • Installs better team collaboration
  • Reduce complexity

8. Unlock The Intrinsic Motivation of Knowledge Workers

The SAFe model offers better incentives for each team member in a dedicated team model. As a team leader, you can motivate individual team members throughout the sprints and post-development activities.

9. Decentralize Decision Making

This principle focuses on reducing queue lengths by decentralizing decision-making. Here, the team is allowed to be autonomous by allowing it to make other decisions. While the team leader is more suited for strategic decisions, leaving the design and development decisions to the team.

10. Organize Around Value

An agile team should focus on providing more value for the customers. Doing so allows the team to offer better deliverables after each sprint and implement customer feedback throughout upcoming iterations and future sprints.

Strength And Weakness of SAFe


  • Make cross-functional team collaboration far more effective
  • The organization can create a transparent environment for self-organizing teams
  • Allows the project to aim for bigger business goals
  • The release schedule has better predictability
  • Functionality and UX are consistent


  • The amount of prerequisite planning required is far from agile
  • Rather than a team-based iterative approach, the approach is often top-down
  • Administrative management is extensive, which defies the agile principle
  • Task definitions can often get very complex
  • Larger teams find it tougher to collaborate

Characteristics of SAFe 6.0 (2023)

During the March Launch 2023 of Scaled Agile, SAFe 6.0 was announced with six simple principles.

  1. Strengthening Business Foundation For Better Agility: Adds updates to the Business Agility Value Stream (BAVS) and, in turn, the overall framework.
  2. Team Empowerment & Clarification of Responsibilities: Empower team members with better incentives and simplify the workflow by clearing up individual responsibilities.
  3. Value Flow Acceleration: Adds properties for the flow with an update to principle #6 of the SAFe, agile framework. The principle also adds eight relevant flow accelerators and four new flow articles.
  4. Enhanced Business Agility: Updates all business and technology articles of the original SAFe framework while highlighting five business and technology patterns.
  5. Future Proofing with AI and Cloud Computing: Complete instructions on integrating new technology and innovations for future-proofing business development.
  6. Better Deliverables With Agile Project Management: Add updated Objectives and Key Results (OKR), and metrics are renamed to Measure & Grow.

Why SAFe Is Great For An Organization

The SAFe framework best coordinates and manages multiple cross-functional teams while following the Agile manifesto. It is also highly effective for implementing agile methodology on far more complex objectives during a product development cycle.

The SAFe framework is also the go-to choice for managing DevOps and QAOps teams, which work similarly to dedicated agile teams with an iterative development approach.

Agile always starts to fall apart when larger teams come into question, and it’s even tougher to implement across an entire organization. This was the primary concern while creating the SAFe framework; each update improves the procedure.

Should You Implement Scaled Agile Framework In Your Organization?

As with every new step, it depends entirely on the situation of your current company. If your organization is undergoing an agile transformation, the SAFe framework is the best way to bridge the gap.

SAFe offers a much more flexible approach and customization options for the entire organization, and it helps everyone understand the agile philosophy better before adapting to different agile processes.

It allows your software development team to offer high-quality software that is constantly improved with customer collaboration throughout the project lifecycle.

To Wrap It All Up

Scaled Agile Framework for enterprises is the trump card for business owners trying to implement agile methodology across the board but struggling with the process.

If your business adapts to agile, the SAFe framework can help you transition smoothly.

What is the role of leadership in implementing SAFe?

Leadership plays a critical role in implementing SAFe by providing support, direction, and guidance to the organization.

What are the benefits of using SAFe in a large organization?

The benefits of using SAFe in a large organization include improved collaboration, faster time-to-market, and increased customer satisfaction.

What is the SAFe portfolio level, and what does it entail?

The SAFe portfolio level is a level of SAFe that focuses on aligning the organization’s strategy with its investments in large-scale development initiatives.

How does SAFe incorporate Lean thinking into its approach?

SAFe incorporates Lean thinking into its approach by emphasizing the elimination of waste, the creation of value, and the continuous improvement of development processes.

What is the SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline, and how does it work?

The SAFe Continuous Delivery Pipeline is a tool used to visualize and manage the flow of value from ideation to delivery.


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