SAFe initiative gains altitude at Air France – KLM

SAFe initiative gains altitude at Air France – KLM

Case Studies

“We wanted to experiment and demonstrate Agile principles and practices across domains. By empowering each business domain, acknowledging specific contexts in domains, fostering sharing, and ‘try and learn,’ SAFe has helped us get on the right track to success.”

Claire Charbit, Program Management NWOW #agile Adoption, Air France – KLM


Hi Folks,

I’m happy to share with you our first case study from the air transportation industry: Air France – KLM, one of Europe’s largest airline groups.

There’s much to appreciate in this story as it illustrates how a small group of committed change agents working with leadership can drive fundamental changes across a massively complex organizational environment. In this case, the transformation involved no less than five airlines, eleven business domains, and diverse cultures at French and Dutch offices, each with unique contexts, operational constraints, and regulations.

The airline group did a lot of things right to set the stage for success and build the runway—pun intended—for a smooth-as-possible transition from what had primarily been a waterfall environment:

  • From the first Program Increment, executives set the tone for the initiative
  • Invested in role-based training for RTEs, Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Agile Team members
  • The company also developed training and workshops for Lean Budgeting, Weighted Shortest Job First, and other practical guidelines
  • Aligned stakeholders on a shared “Definition of Awesome”
  • Brought business domains and Transversal Tracks (business groups that serve all domains, such as HR) together for an Adoption Agile Release Train (ART)
  • A community of 40 coaches support the effort at various levels
  • A common language and ceremonies united groups across two countries and 11 business domains

Today, Air France – KLM has grown to 208 product teams and eight ARTs across Commercial Digital, Cargo, Commercial, and AF Flight Ops.

Since deploying SAFe, Air France – KLM notes greater collaboration between business domains and Transversal Tracks. Within three months, their efforts began paying off in business results in the Cargo group:

  • Time-to-market – Each ART team delivers on its promises every three weeks; the company released 17 times in the live environment in seven months compared to every six months previously
  • Productivity – SAFe teams deliver, on average, more than 20% more effectively than waterfall teams
  • Adaptability – With a PI cycle of 12 weeks, Air France – KLM has been able to pivot its vision three times in the past year, allowing the company to tap into new business opportunities much more quickly and easily
  • Market share – The company gained 20% market share in the small and medium logistics market alone with this flexibility
  • Predictability – The velocity of ARTs builds in more predictability and enables teams to take ownership and show greater craftsmanship
  • Business value – On one offering, the company exceeded expectation by 25%
  • Employee satisfaction – PI Planning results in better transparency and autonomy for the teams
  • Customer satisfaction – Going live with small changes and new functionality every three weeks gives the company a faster feedback loop and more rapid pivoting, enabling groups to deliver greater value in its IT solutions

For more details on how they got these results, check out the case study.

Special thanks to those who helped create Air France-KLM’s SAFe story: Claire Charbit, Program Management NWOW #agile Adoption; Didier Lavielle, Program Management NWOW #agile Adoption; Edwin Borst, Program Management NWOW #agile Adoption; Pieter Bootsma, Executive Vice-President Commercial Strategy; Franck Hasselot, RTE for Cargo Ops; and Odile Moreau, RTE, from BlinkLane Consulting.

Stay SAFe,
—Dean

Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

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