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“Many leaders pride themselves on setting the high-level direction and staying out of the details. But big picture, hands off leadership isn’t likely to work in a change situation, because the hardest part of change—the paralyzing part—is in the details.

Any successful change requires a translation of ambiguous goals into concrete behaviors. To make a switch, you need to script the critical moves.”

—Heath and Heath, Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard

SAFe Implementation Roadmap

SAFe is not a trivial framework, and implementing the changes necessary to become a Lean-Agile enterprise is a substantial adjustment for most organizations. Embracing a Lean-Agile mindset, understanding and applying Lean-Agile principles, effectively implementing Agile Release Trains (ARTs), identifying value streams, implementing a Lean-Agile portfolio—and many of the other practices like Built-In Quality and DevOps—all come before realizing the full business benefits of SAFe. And, of course, the culture must evolve as well.

For those just starting down the path, the companion overview article Implementing 1,2,3 provides a high-level overview of the process. But as Heath and Heath note[1], in order to achieve the desired change, leadership must “script the critical moves.” When it comes to identifying those critical moves for adopting SAFe, hundreds of the world’s largest enterprises have already gone down this path (see Case Studies) and successful adoption patterns have become clear. A fairly standard pattern, which we call the SAFe Implementation Roadmap, is shown here in Figure 1.

Figure 1. SAFe Implementation Roadmap
Figure 1. SAFe Implementation Roadmap

While no two adoptions are identical, and there is rarely a perfectly sequential step-by-step implementation in any enterprise, we know that businesses getting the best results typically follow a path similar to that shown in the Roadmap. It includes the following steps:

  • Reaching the Tipping Point
  • Train Lean-Agile Change Agents
  • Train Executives, Managers and Leaders
  • Create a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence
  • Identify Value Streams and ARTs
  • Create the Implementation Plan
  • Prepare for ART Launch
  • Train Teams and Launch ART
  • Coach ART Execution
  • Launch More ARTs and Value Streams
  • Extend to the Portfolio
  • Sustain and Improve

This article serves as a launching pad for you to explore these steps in detail and understand how to apply them to your own implementation. Please be advised that the full set of SAFe Implementation Roadmap articles are still in development and will be released incrementally in the weeks to follow. As each new article is published, links will become active in the list above.

Let’s start with the first article:
Reaching the Tipping Point

Best of luck to you and your SAFe implementation. Stay true to these critical moves, and we are confident you will get the business benefits that you desire.


Learn More

[1] Heath, Chip; Heath, Dan. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard (p. 73). The Crown Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Last update: 16 January,  2017