SAFe® 4.6 Competencies

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Nader Talai

Scaled Agile Framework®, SAFe® Version 4.6 provides a lens through which Lean-Agile organisation can gauge their business agility and achieve the results that companies of all sizes who have adopted SAFe have achieved.

Scaled Agile Framework, SAFe 4.6 has the following five competencies

  • Lean agile leadership
  • Team and technical agility
  • DevOps and release on demand
  • Business Solutions and Lean Software Engineering
  • Lean portfolio management

Lean Agile Leadership

It is a foundational competency which identifies the two key roles of the Lean-Agile Leadership as Lean-Thinking Manager-Teachers and Leads the transformation.


  • Lean-Thinking Manager-Teachers requires that leaders acknowledge that they first need to learn and then they need to teach and coach others. This requires the leaders to lead and manage work through the values and principles of SAFe and exemplify these through their daily interactions and behaviours. As life long learners the leaders acknowledge that their learning is continuous and they lead organisations and embed relentless improvement. Teaching and coaching others to do the same.
  • Lead the transformation requires the leaders to guide the organisation through its SAFe transformation journey pointing the way and creating alignment towards achieving the business results. The changes required to become a Lean-Agile organisation is substantial and the leaders are guided by the SAFe implementation road-map which is a success pattern that has emerged as the result of hundreds of successful implementations and shown below.


SAFe® for Lean Enterprises

SAFe Values

  • Alignment
    The key to autonomy and decentralized decision making, when we have a shared purpose and are aligned on achieving it.
  • Built-in Quality
    We can not inspect for quality at the end it needs to built in the ways of working.
  • Transparency
    Knowledge work is invisible, we need transparency to provide visibility across the organisation. 
  • Program Execution
    SAFe is built on the ability for the Agile Release Trains to execute and deliver. Alignment, Built-in Quality and Transparency pave the way for Program Execution.

SAFe Principles

Take an economic view 

An understanding of economics drives decisions. Economic variables such as development cost, production cost, delivery lead time, and value directly inform decision-making.

Apply systems thinking 

Everyone understands and commits to the common goals of the larger system. The whole is optimized, instead of the parts.

Assume variability; preserve options 

Decisions are delayed until the last responsible moment; alternatives are constantly and aggressively explored.

Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles

Cadence-based learning cycles are used to gain knowledge, evaluate alternatives and inform decision-making.

 Base milestones on an objective evaluation of working systems 

Progress is measured by objective measures, rather than traditional phase-gates.

Visualize and limit WIP, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths 

Small batches of work, controlled Work in Progress (WIP), and small queues ensures fast flow of value and learning.

Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning 

Regular synchronization continually aligns all system builders and ensure all perspectives are understood and resolved.

Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers 

Knowledge workers exhibit curiosity and have fundamentally different motivations. Leaders are responsible for creating an environment in which these workers can thrive.

Decentralize decision

Autonomy empowers individuals and enhances motivation. Leaders support decentralized decision-making by equipping teams and individuals with the knowledge and judgement needed to make good decisions.

Team and Technical Agility

Agile teams are cross-functional, accountable and committed to a common goal who have all the skills they need in the team to turn an idea into working software. Technical Agility describes the engineering practices that teams need to build reliable, maintainable and scalable software and systems. The technical agility includes Extreme Programming (XP) practices, Behavior Driven Development (BDD) and others.

Organizing Around Value

Most organisations are designed around functions and optimized for functional optimization, value flows across functions. SAFe teams are organised as Agile Release Train (ART) which is a structure that spans functions and each team is cross-functional with team members that have all the necessary skills.


DevOps and Release on Demand


  • Continuous Exploration fosters innovation and creates alignment on what should be built by continually exploring market and customer needs, and defining a vision, road-map, and set of features for a solution that addresses those needs.
  • Continuous Integration improves quality, reduces risk, and establishes a fast, reliable, and sustainable development pace. As teams work on backlog items, they implement rapid cycles of developing, building, testing end-to-end, and staging, which remove waste and delays from the continuous delivery pipeline.
  • Continuous Deployment moves changes from staging into production where they’re readied for release.
  • Release on Demand gives the business control over when the new software value becomes available and to how many customers—value delivery becomes a routine, not an extraordinary event.

This delivery approach makes it possible for teams to work on all of the dimensions of the continuous delivery pipeline in parallel. Continuously explore user value, integrate and demo value, deploy to production, and release value whenever the business needs it.

Business Solutions and Lean Software Engineering

SAFe is designed to help people build the world’s most important systems, solutions that often require collaboration with hundreds or thousands of contributors including external suppliers. The Business Solutions and Lean Software Engineering competency address this need by replacing the traditional phase-gate approach with a flow-based one.

Lean Portfolio Management

Each SAFe portfolio manages a set of value streams for a specific area of business. The Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) competency describes how organisations can implement lean approaches for strategy & investment funding, portfolio operations and governance.

This competency requires abandoning many of the traditional approaches to investment funding, portfolio operations and governance and adopt new ones by funding value streams, continuous governance and lean portfolio operations.


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