It is not enough that management commit themselves to quality and productivity, they must know what it is they must do. Such a responsibility cannot be delegated.

—W. Edwards Deming

Implementing 123 Abstract

Implementing the changes necessary to become a Lean-Agile technology enterprise is a substantial change for most organizations. Embracing a Lean-Agile mindset, understanding and applying the Lean-Agile Principles, and effectively implementing the SAFe practices all come before the business benefits. And, of course, the culture must evolve, too.

While SAFe is a freely revealed body of knowledge, available to all, it does not implement itself, nor does it prescribe the organizational change management process that is typically required for successful implementation. We leave that to the enterprise, because only they know their specific context, and they—typically assisted by their partners—must own the transformation.

But many enterprises have gone down this path already (see Case Studies), and the lessons learned are now becoming more widely accessible. Based on the learnings from hundreds of SAFe implementations, Scaled Agile, Inc., the owner of SAFe, has developed a basic “Implementing SAFe 1-2-3” pattern for successful SAFe adoption. It provides a simple road map that helps gets everyone aligned to a common implementation strategy.

This article describes an overview of this successful pattern for SAFe implementation, along with pointers to the growing community of service providers who are ready and willing to help your enterprise make this critical transformation.


Figure 1 provides a high-level summary of the “Implementing SAFe 1-2-3” approach. Each of the numbered items in this strategy is described in the paragraphs below, along with links to those who can help.

Figure 1. Implementing SAFe 1-2-3

1. Train Implementers and Lean-Agile Change Agents

Given the scope, challenge, and impact of rollouts, successful adoption of SAFe requires most enterprises to use a combination of internal and external change agents, leaders, mentors, and coaches. These people need to be skilled in teaching and delivering SAFe. To achieve this, Scaled Agile, Inc., provides an Implementing SAFe with SPC Certification program. The audience for this course is internal change agents, external consultants, and those managers and leaders responsible for the implementation. After taking this class, attendees will be able to:

  • Lead an enterprise Agile transformation with SAFe
  • Implement SAFe
  • Launch Agile Release Trains and proctor and continuously improve the trains via Inspect and Adapt workshops

Those who take and pass the optional SPC Certification exam (included) will be licensed to:

  • Train managers and executives in Leading SAFe and act as a SAFe Agilist (SA) certifying agent
  • Train practitioners in SAFe for Teams and act as a SAFe Practitioner (SP) certifying agent

The Implementing SAFe with SPC Certification course is delivered by certified SPC Trainers (SPCT) in open enrollment or on-site settings worldwide.

Service providers who specialize in SAFe can be found at Scaled Agile, Inc., and at Scaled Agile Partners. There are many independent SPCs as well; these can be found at the Scaled Agile SPC membership site.

2. Train all Executives, Managers, and Leaders

It is critical that executives, managers, and leaders understand what is required to lead a Lean-Agile transformation, including how and why SAFe works. To help achieve this, Scaled Agile, Inc., provides a two-day course, Leading the Lean-Agile Enterprise with the Scaled Agile Framework (Leading SAFe). After attending Leading SAFe, participants will be able to:

  • Adopt a Lean-Agile mindset
  • Apply Lean and Agile principles; base daily decisions on this long-term philosophy; understand, exhibit, and teach these principles
  • Understand the practices, roles, activities, and artifacts of the Scaled Agile Framework
  • Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers
  • Learn the practices and tools of relentless improvement and teach employees problem-solving and corrective-action skills
  • Become hands-on in the new process adoption, eliminate impediments, and facilitate organizational change management
  • Take responsibility for Lean-Agile implementation success

The audience for this class is executives, managers, and change agents responsible for leading a Lean-Agile change initiative, whereby they gain the knowledge necessary to lead the SAFe adoption.

The Leading SAFe course is delivered by certified SPC consultant/trainers in open enrollment or on-site settings worldwide. Service providers include Scaled Agile, Inc.; Scaled Agile Partners; and independent SPCs, who can be found at the Scaled Agile SPC member site.

3. Train Teams and Launch Agile Release Trains

The primary value delivery mechanism in the enterprise is the Agile Release Train, but starting these trains is not a trivial task. One proven starting mechanism is an Agile Release Train Quickstart. Suitable after some significant up-front preparation, the QuickStart is a one-week training and immersion program that:

  • Organizes 50 – 100 team members into Agile Teams, training them simultaneously in the principles of Lean, Agile, and SAFe
  • Aligns the teams on the train to a common mission and spends two days in face-to-face support of planning the next Program Increment
  • Introduces prospective Product Owners and Scrum Masters to the skills and activities unique to their roles in the new Agile Enterprise
  • Builds context and a cadence-based, rolling-wave planning and delivery model that continuously incorporates business objective setting and program commitments, effective and reliable program execution, and adaptive feedback

SPCs can provide these services and download and use the SAFe ART Launch Pack (member login required) to prepare for a successful launch. It contains the tools to prepare the organization, programs, teams, and individuals for success and continuous improvement. You may also want to consider licensing the ART Training and Launch Pack Bundle. This bundle provides both the courseware and tools needed to quickly and effectively launch Agile Release Trains.

Supporting Consulting Activities

Once the enterprise has a critical mass of in-house Lean-Agile Leaders, and a few Agile Release Trains rolling, a variety of consulting activities may be applicable and beneficial. These could include coaching the train, training specialist roles, and continuous improvement.

Coaching the Train

By sharing their knowledge and experience, coaches can help teams and individuals improve their newfound skills by:

  • Providing program consulting and team coaching to build the organization’s Lean-Agile capabilities
  • Facilitating Agile Release Train readiness, including program backlog refinement and more
  • Facilitating Inspect and Adapt workshops
  • Facilitating Portfolio planning workshops
  • Implementing relevant metrics and governance
  • Mentoring executives, managers, and other program stakeholders in SAFe adoption
  • Shadowing and mentoring Release Train Engineers

Many of the these activities are supported by various Scaled Agile workshop kits, including Transforming the Organization, Value Stream Mapping, Preparing the ART Launch, Coordinating Large Value Streams, Implementing an Economic Framework, Release Train Engineer Training, Agile Architecture, and more.

Training Specialist Roles

It is important to train specialists—including prospective Product Owners and Scrum Masters—in the principles and practices unique to their roles. Training courses for this purpose include:

Continuous Improvement

Once the transformation is underway, there are a variety of opportunities for sustaining and enhancing improvements in speed and quality that can be best facilitated by the extensive community of skilled professionals. These activities can include Agile Release Train health checks; Portfolio, Value Stream, Agile Release Train, and Team agility self-assessments; and facilitated Inspect and Adapt sessions. For help, we again refer you to your in-house SPCs, Scaled Agile Partners, and other independent SPCs.

Guidance and Governance with Enterprise SAFe

For those who would benefit from being able to modify a custom version of the Scaled Agile Framework website, all SAFe content is available for enterprise

Organizations that are scaling Lean-Agile best practices leverage Enterprise SAFe so they can have access to the most up-to-date content for their teamsand the thought leaders at Scaled Agile.

Enterprise SAFe allows organizations to align around common process objectives while providing the ability to adapt SAFe to their unique needs and culture. Enterprise SAFe allows organizations to create a custom version of the Scaled Agile Framework website while maintaining automated updates as the methodology advances.

Fully Adaptable to Your Organization’s Context

Provisioned by Scaled Agile, Inc., and built on WordPress, Enterprise SAFe supports customization that enables organizations to revise the graphical representation of the SAFe Big Picture as well as the entire SAFe content offering. Content is controlled locally by the enterprise via a set of tools that supports accepting or rejecting framework updates from Scaled Agile, Inc., as well as adding custom content, such as articles, icons, labels, and graphics.

Enterprise SAFe features include:

  • A WordPress publishing platform that allows you to start capturing the specifics of your custom SAFe implementation in a matter of minutes
  • A customizable Big Picture in Adobe Illustrator that allows you to capture key modifications to the framework at the front end of the website
  • A Powerpoint version of all SAFe artwork that allows you to change the graphics that are integral to the story
  • Provisions to modify or extend SAFe with your custom process content
  • Local control of custom content via a set of tools that allow reviewing differences between local pages and content updates, and accepting or rejecting updates
  • Administration utility for easy management of large numbers of user accounts

Enterprise SAFe is provisioned by Scaled Agile, Inc., via a private and secure cloud-based website.

Last update: 30 November 2015