SAFe 6.0: Seven Core Competencies of SAFe

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StarAgile

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Apr 25, 2024

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Over my two decades in Agile environments, I've seen various frameworks come and go, each adding something unique to the Agile discourse. Today, I will discuss about SAFe 6.0.

SAFe core competencies are the most recent update to the Scaled Agile Framework from my experience. The SAFe framework isn't just a set of rules or guidelines; it's a comprehensive strategy for large-scale project management that leverages Agile principles to enhance productivity and deliver value.

In this blog, we'll explore the 7 core competencies of SAFe, uncover how they fit into the bigger business picture, and discuss how companies can leverage these principles for sustainable success. Whether you're new to SAFe or looking to update your current Agile practices, the insights here will help you grasp how these competencies can be implemented to transform and drive innovation within your organization. Let’s delve deeper into what SAFe 6.0 brings to the table and how it can be a game-changer for businesses striving for agility in a dynamic market.

Latest version of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe 6.0)

As someone who has spent over two decades immersed in Agile methodologies, I've closely tracked each update to the Scaled Agile Framework. The launch of SAFe 6.0 has introduced several key enhancements that make it a significant leap forward for enterprises looking to scale their Agile practices. Here are the main updates that stand out to me:

1. Organizational Agility and Continuous Learning: SAFe 6.0 places a strong emphasis on fostering organizational agility and establishing a culture of continuous learning. This approach is critical for businesses aiming to remain competitive in rapidly changing markets. The framework now guides companies not just at the project or team level but extends agile principles to strategic decision-making across the organization.

2. Customer-Centricity in Product Development: This version has refined its focus on customer-centricity, integrating Lean UX and Design Thinking more deeply into the product development process. In my experience, aligning product development closely with customer needs is essential for delivering solutions that resonate well with users and achieve sustained engagement.

3. Enhanced Metrics for Process Optimization: SAFe 6.0 introduces improved metrics and tools for measuring and optimizing workflow across different business functions. These metrics are invaluable for identifying process bottlenecks and improving overall efficiency. From my work with various organizations, having clear, actionable metrics can transform how a business measures success and drives continuous improvement.

4. Increased Emphasis on Strategic Adaptability: The new framework underscores the importance of adaptability not only in operations and delivery but also at the strategic level. This ensures that agility permeates every layer of the organization, enabling quicker pivots and adaptations in response to market or environmental shifts.

5. Rapid Implementation Guidelines: SAFe 6.0 offers more detailed guidance on how to implement these practices effectively across large enterprises. The clarity in implementation can be a game-changer for organizations transitioning to Agile at scale. 

7 Core Competencies of SAFe

Diving into the Scaled Agile Framework, especially this new iteration, I've dissected SAFe seven core competencies that any organization aiming to implement SAFe should master. These competencies are fundamental, ensuring that companies are not only implementing Agile practices but are also evolving with them. Here's my breakdown from years of practice and observation

1. Lean-Agile Leadership: This competency drives the successful adoption of SAFe by championing a Lean-Agile mindset at all levels of the organization. Leaders must model behaviors that encourage everyone to embrace flexibility, learning, and a relentless focus on delivering customer value.

2. Team and Technical Agility: Here, the focus is on the skills and capabilities of Agile teams, including developers and testers. These teams must be well-versed in Agile practices, ensuring they can deliver high-quality increments of customer-centric solutions regularly and effectively.

3. Agile Product Delivery: Aim for a customer-centric approach to defining, building, and releasing a continuous flow of valuable products and services to users and customers. It stresses deployable products each sprint, enhances the DevOps culture, and strengthens the release-on-demand capability.

4. Enterprise Solution Delivery: This one's about applying Lean principles to building and sustaining the largest applications and solutions that require synchronization and coordination across multiple Agile teams. It's crucial to ensure that the larger ecosystem of a project remains responsive and innovative.

5. Lean Portfolio Management: This competency aligns strategy with execution, organizing and re-enforcing project work around clear, achievable outcomes. Portfolio management becomes less about tasks and more about clear outcomes and effective governance.

6. Organizational Agility: Adaptability is key in today’s market. This competency focuses on reconfiguring strategy, structure, processes, people, and technology toward value-producing opportunities swiftly and efficiently to capitalize on emerging opportunities.

7. Continuous Learning Culture: This final competency underpins the others by advocating for a relentless improvement ethos that encourages innovation and fosters environments where learning and problem-solving thrive.

How to use Core Competencies of SAFe Agile in Business

Incorporating the 7 core competencies of SAFe into a business isn't just about implementing a new system it's about transforming organizational behaviors and mindsets. From my extensive experience, I've seen firsthand the dramatic shifts that can happen when these competencies are properly applied. Here’s how I recommend businesses use these competencies effectively:

1. Exemplifying Lean-Agile Leadership:Leaders must lead by example. I would suggest adopting and embodying Agile principles consistently. In a project I led with Cisco, leadership commitment to Agile practices was a critical driver in the project's success, inspiring teams by showing rather than telling.

2. Enhancing Team and Technical Agility:Focus on building skills within your teams to improve their Agile practices. As per my experience, training and continuous upskilling at Philips led to their teams rapidly enhancing their delivery speed and quality, significantly cutting down on time-to-market.

3. Advancing Agile Product Delivery: Develop a customer-centric mindset. This involves understanding and responding to customer needs swiftly. I recommend integrating customer feedback loops continuously, as seen in my work with Amazon, where quick adaptation to customer feedback significantly boosted product success.

4. Optimizing Enterprise Solution Delivery:For large-scale solutions, I advise fostering an environment where multiple teams can collaborate effectively under the SAFe framework. The coordination across teams in a SAFe implementation at Boeing ensured that complex aerospace solutions were delivered efficiently and reliably.

5. Streamlining Lean Portfolio Management:Aligning projects with business objectives is crucial. I suggest using Lean Portfolio Management to maintain focus on delivering value that propels the business forward. At Samsung, this approach helped streamline initiatives that were critical to the company's strategic goals.

6. Cultivating Organizational Agility:Stay adaptable. Businesses should remain ready to pivot and respond to market changes. Implementing this at HP helped them quickly capitalize on new technologies, thus maintaining their market leadership.

7. Encouraging a Continuous Learning Culture: Promote an ongoing learning culture. Encourage experimentation and learning from failures, which I have seen foster innovation at Google. Their embrace of a learning culture leads to continuous improvement and groundbreaking products.

SAFe Core Competencies Implementation Benefits in Long Run

Implementing the 7 core competencies of SAFe offers numerous long-term benefits that can transform how organizations operate and deliver value. Based on my extensive experience in implementing these competencies across various industries, here are some tangible benefits I've witnessed:

1. Increased Employee Engagement and Satisfaction:Adopting Lean-Agile Leadership and promoting a Continuous Learning Culture significantly boost morale and engagement among employees. I've seen this happen at Microsoft, where a dedicated approach to Agile practices led to enhanced team dynamics and reduced turnover. Employees felt more involved and valued, which in turn increased their commitment and productivity.

2. Enhanced Product Quality:With a focus on Team and Technical Agility and Agile Product Delivery, companies consistently report improvements in the quality of their outputs. For instance, during my consultancy with Intel, the rigorous application of these SAFe competencies led to a noticeable enhancement in software quality and a reduction in defects, directly impacting customer satisfaction.

3. Faster Time to Market:The adoption of Enterprise Solution Delivery and Lean Portfolio Management allows for more efficient decision-making and resource allocation, reducing cycle times. In a project I guided at Dell, this streamlined approach helped cut their product development lifecycle by nearly 40%, enabling quicker responses to market opportunities and competitor movements.

4. Improved Customer Satisfaction:A customer-centric approach in Agile Product Delivery ensures that products and services are continuously aligned with customer needs and expectations. Salesforce has excelled in this area; their use of SAFe principles to incorporate customer feedback into every iteration of product development has resulted in higher customer retention rates and increased sales.

5. Greater Strategic Flexibility:Organizational Agility allows companies to pivot quickly in response to market changes. This adaptability was crucial for Spotify during its expansion into new markets. The flexibility afforded by SAFe enabled them to customize offerings by region without compromising on speed or quality.

6. Sustainable Business Growth: Overall, these competencies contribute to a robust framework that supports sustainable growth. The systemic implementation of SAFe at IBM has demonstrated how aligning projects with strategic goals leads to sustained performance improvements and better risk management.

Conclusion

Reflecting on our deep dive into SAFe 6.0 and its seven core competencies, it’s evident how these elements can profoundly uplift an organization's ability to adapt and thrive. Practical and actionable, the principles of SAFe drive significant enhancements across industries. They sharpen product quality, speed up market readiness, and boost satisfaction levels for customers and teams alike.

For firms aiming to maintain a competitive edge, mastery in SAFe principles is key. Gaining a SAFe certification or undertaking a specific SAFe course can prove invaluable. These educational pathways, especially the SAFe Agile certification, equip professionals to spearhead Agile transformations effectively.

If boosting your Agile practices is on your agenda, consider the Leading SAFe Certification Course from StarAgile. This program is crafted to arm you with essential tools and insights needed for effective SAFe implementation. By joining this course, you position your organization for success, optimizing the benefits of Agile on a larger scale. Embark on this transformative journey with StarAgile, and lead the charge in Agile mastery.

FAQs

1. What exactly is SAFe 6.0?

SAFe 6.0, or the Scaled Agile Framework, is a set of organization and workflow patterns intended to guide enterprises in scaling lean and agile practices. This version focuses heavily on enhancing organizational agility and continuous learning to adapt swiftly to market changes and emerging opportunities.

2. How can obtaining a SAFe certification benefit me professionally?

Earning a SAFe certification enriches your knowledge and skills in applying Agile practices at scale. It prepares you to lead Agile transformation initiatives in large enterprises, making you a valuable asset to any organization that aims to enhance its project management and product development processes.

3. Is SAFe only applicable to large organizations?

While SAFe is indeed designed for application in large-scale settings, the core principles of agility, lean thinking, and product development flow are beneficial for smaller organizations too. The framework can be adapted to fit the size and needs of any organization looking to implement Agile practices.

4. How does SAFe integrate with other Agile methodologies?

SAFe does not replace other Agile methodologies but rather complements them by providing a structure that can incorporate various Agile practices such as Scrum, Kanban Methodology, and XP at a larger scale. It coordinates these practices within a larger, cohesive strategy to enhance overall enterprise performance.

5. What are the 7 competencies of SAFe?

The 7 core competencies of SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) are:

  • Lean-Agile Leadership
  • Team and Technical Agility
  • Agile Product Delivery
  • Enterprise Solution Delivery
  • Lean Portfolio Management
  • Organizational Agility
  • Continuous Learning Culture

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