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Understanding Scaled Agile Framework Principles

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Last editedOct 20222 min read

Agile refers to a business approach which centres around the constant reassessment and evaluation of plans and strategies according to the results they yield. An agile team, for instance, delivers work incrementally, with improvements made at each stage. The idea behind this approach is that the final product is the absolute best it can be.

Scaled Agile Framework (or SAFe), meanwhile, is a set of principles acting as a guide for implementing Agile practices at any scale. 

Below, we’ll take you through a summary of all 9 scaled agile framework principles so that you can implement them in your business.

Scaled agile framework principles (SAFe)

1.  Taking an economic view

This first principle is based around instilling an understanding of economics at each stage of production. This will include operational costs, costs of potential delays, and even the costs associated with ideation phase. With a clear idea of the economic impact of each decision and step involved in creating a product or service, you’ll be better able to make smart financial decisions. With poor economics being the number one reason for businesses failing, taking an economic view can make or break an enterprise.

2. Apply systems thinking

This principle involves looking at the bigger picture and seeing how each individual system contributes to your overall business aims. In other words, it’s about looking at the optimisation of singular systems, and considering its impact on overall optimisation. Indeed, individuals involved in each system must understand its role within the wider picture.

3. Assume variability; preserve options

The takeaway of the third principle is that you should always have several design options in the works at one time. This is to avoid losing time and resources should one design idea fail, as backups will have already been generated and developed.

4. Build incrementally with fast, integrated learning cycles

Integrated learning cycles refers to the making of prototypes which can be used to gather feedback from customers prior to any official launch. This means that changes and improvements can be made at several stages of production, prior to a finished product being made.

5. Base milestones on objective evaluation of working systems

This principle comes back to economics, stating that objective milestones should be set up to assess the economic cost and benefit at each stage of the development cycle. This helps to make sure that all resources used in development are economically viable, and even beneficial.

6. Visualise and limit work in process, reduce batch sizes, and manage queue lengths

Principle six is fairly self-explanatory. Limiting work may seem counterproductive, however it allows for greater clarity and insight into the efficiency and productivity of the work system. Reducing batch sizes, meanwhile, can speed up systems and improve reliability. Finally, managing queue lengths will reduce wait times in the system. Overall, these practices result in the optimisation of results while avoiding overworking employees.

7. Apply cadence, synchronise with cross-domain planning

In simple terms, applying cadence involves creating a rhythm, with an emphasis on routine and predictability. Synchronising, on the other hand, refers to converging different perspectives. Cross-domain planning, meanwhile, refers to the practice of allowing developers to concentrate on various segments of the development.

8. Unlock the intrinsic motivation of knowledge workers

This is perhaps the most straightforward principle in terms of its aims: to encourage workers to fulfil their highest potential. This may involve creating an optimal work environment and/or minimising limitations and restrictions on workers imagination. Ultimately, when workers are maximally motivated, they produce far better outcomes for themselves and the business as a whole.

9. Decentralise decision making

This crucial final principle refers to the practice of allowing workers at all levels to make decisions, both minor and important. This helps make processes more efficient as it reduces time and energy spent in seeking authorisation for decisions. Overall, it can result in more effective employee management.

By understanding and implementing these scaled agile framework principles, you can hardwire an agile approach into the very DNA of your business, enabling you to accelerate workflows and keep pace with the fast-moving future of work. 

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