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Accelerating Value Flow with SAFe 6.0

With its roots in Lean, Agile, and DevOps, SAFe has always been a flow-based system. Empowered, cross-functional Agile teams pull work from an economically prioritized backlog and leverage modern tools to deliver the most value in the shortest time.

But the goal of the enterprise isn’t to be Lean, Agile, or have a fully automated DevOps pipeline; the goal is to provide a continuous flow of value to the customer. That is the only way to thrive in the digital age.

But what is flow? Where is it needed? How is it measured? And how is it accelerated? The answers are in the recently released SAFe 6.0. It describes how flow-based systems work and how to optimize them. Of course, the usual suspects of excess WIP and large batch sizes are ever-present and must be continuously addressed, but these are just two factors that influence flow. The figure below illustrates the eight properties of every flow system.

Figure 1. Flow systems have eight common properties
Figure 1. Flow systems have eight common properties

Understanding these properties suggests where interruptions will likely occur in the value stream. Once discovered, those interruptions need to be addressed—relentlessly and continuously. Accelerating flow requires knowledge, coordination, and alignment throughout all levels SAFe.

SAFe 6.0 provides extensive guidance in this regard. It weaves flow-based thinking and practices into dozens of articles, each of which helps specific groups of people manage flow in their particular roles. But it helps when everyone in the organization has a standard, system-level understanding of flow and how their efforts combine to enable organization-wide acceleration.

To that end, we have just published Accelerating Flow with SAFe—an extended guidance article that summarizes the purpose and mechanics of flow in SAFe 6.0. It serves as a flow primer and reference for everyone in the organization and addresses these topics explicitly:

  • What is flow?
  • How flow enables Business Agility
  • How implementing SAFe establishes flow
  • How Value Stream Management established the purpose and “container” for flow
  • How to make value flow without interruptions
  • How to accelerate flow for teams, trains, and the portfolio
  • How to coach implementing and improving the flow

This article provides an overview of flow that aligns thinking across the organization and serves as a table of contents for deeper guidance throughout the Framework. With this information, we believe enterprises can accelerate their flow of value delivery with SAFe.


—Marc Rix and the SAFe Framework team