A Deep Dive into SAFe 6’s 4 Core Values

  • Scaling Agile
Created on :
April 11, 2023
Saket Bansal
Updated on :
July 13, 2023

When we talk about a framework, it’s easy to take them as a set of rules and guidelines that tell us what to do and how to do it. But to truly understand a framework, it’s essential to look beyond the surface and understand the underlying values and beliefs that drive it.

The SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) is a system for achieving business agility that integrates a variety of bodies of knowledge, such as Agile, Lean, systems thinking, DevOps, and value stream management, among others. The result is a comprehensive guide for achieving business agility that is broad, deep, and scalable. However, what truly sets SAFe apart are the four deeply held beliefs that underpin it: AlignmentTransparencyRespect for People, and Relentless Improvement. These beliefs are core to the practice of SAFe; without them, the practices in the framework will fail to deliver the intended business results.

Understanding these core values is key to unlocking the full potential of the SAFe framework. In addition, they serve as a foundation for creating a culture of collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement that is essential for achieving business agility. By adopting these beliefs and integrating them into the framework, organizations can maximize the benefits of SAFe and deliver high-quality products that meet customer needs, achieve strategic objectives, and remain competitive in the marketplace.


Alignment is crucial for any organization, whether it’s a football team or a group of musicians playing in a band. Just like a football team needs to be in sync to score a goal, or a band needs to be in tune to create great music, organizations adopting the SAFe framework need to be aligned to deliver value in the shortest sustainable lead time. Without alignment, significant delays and quality concerns will inevitably arise, making it hard to achieve business agility.

To ensure alignment in your SAFe implementation, here are some key tips to follow:

  • Communicate the vision, mission, and strategy: SAFe emphasizes the importance of keeping the enterprise’s vision, mission, and strategy constantly present to ensure that everyone in the organization is working towards a common goal. It’s like a football team knowing what their end goal is to work together effectively. Without alignment towards a common goal, achieving business agility becomes challenging.

  • Connect strategy to execution: Alignment should not only be limited to the alignment of vision but it should also be executed in the daily activities of the SAFe team members. In SAFe, the SAFe Portfolio plays a vital role in ensuring alignment between strategy and execution. It’s like a band ensuring that each member is playing the right tune to create great music. SAFe Portfolio needs to align its work to the most important priorities to achieve business results.

  • Speak with a common language: Inconsistency in how the organization describes important roles, processes, events, and artifacts can lead to misalignment. SAFe provides a common language and promotes practices such as backlogs, ART (Agile Release Train) boards, solution intent, portfolio vision, and more to maintain a shared understanding of the work and the resulting solutions.

  • Constantly check for understanding: Regular reinforcement is essential to create alignment. SAFe events and artifacts are tools that help the SAFe organization stay aligned. It’s like a football team huddling and strategizing before each play. The SAFe organization needs to have regular check-ins to ensure everyone is on the same page.

  • Understand your customer: Alignment should be focused on customer needs. What’s the value of alignment if the organization is not focusing on what the customer needs? SAFe promotes continuous exploration with customer centricity and design thinking to gather inputs and perspectives from diverse stakeholders and information sources. It’s like a band being aware of their audience’s preferences to create great music. SAFe needs to understand their customer to deliver high-quality products that meet their needs.


Solution development is a complex process. It involves multiple factors or stages that can be difficult to fully understand or manage. When things don’t go as planned, decision-making can be hindered by a lack of transparency. Without openness, facts are obscure and decision-making is based on speculation and assumptions. This can lead to poor outcomes. Therefore, building trust is essential for creating a culture of transparency within an organization. A transparent culture promotes openness, honesty, and creates an environment where everyone can rely on one another.

SAFe offers several suggestions to cultivate transparency within an organization:

  • Creating a trust-based environment is key to building transparency within an organization. This requires that people at every level of the organization are willing to trust others and be trustworthy themselves. It requires making and keeping commitments, and trusting others to do the same. When things go wrong, the focus should be on learning and adapting from the situation rather than blaming people.

  • Communication is another critical component of transparency. Clear communication of facts is essential to ensure that everyone has the information they need to make informed decisions. In a trust-based environment, information is shared openly and honestly without blame to resolve issues quickly and effectively.

  • Mistakes happen, and they can be valuable learning moments. In a transparent culture, mistakes are addressed as “learning moments” to create the psychological safety needed to quickly surface and resolve errors. This is like a sports team learning from their mistakes to improve their performance in the future. The SAFe framework promotes various learning points to help organizations embrace a culture of continuous improvement.

  • Visualizing work is essential to transparency. In SAFe, the Lean/Kanban idea of visualization is extensively used to make information accessible, expose problems, and create empathy about the work. All work at every level is captured in a continuously refined backlog. Tools such as Kanban boards, PI objectives, solution intent, collaboration tools, and shared knowledge repositories support the aim of keeping work visible and accessible to all.

  • Providing ready access to needed information is also essential for transparency. With visualization and various collaborative events, such as product demos and metrics, information should be readily available to the right people. This ensures that everyone has the information they need to make informed decisions and work effectively together.

Respect for People

In the fast-paced knowledge industry, it’s important to recognize that the workers often possess unique expertise that their bosses may not have. To make the most of their competency, we need to engage them rather than micro-manage. This is where Lean and Agile approaches shine, with Respect for People as a core tenet of working. SAFe takes this a step further by advocating respect for people in all aspects of the new way of working.

A healthy work culture that practices respect for people produces engaged employees, increases creativity, fosters transparency in information exchange, collaboration, accountability, and results in lower attrition rates.

SAFe offers several suggestions to cultivate a culture of respect for people within an organization:

  • Enhance Individual Creativity and Honor Teamwork: SAFe encourages everyone on the team to engage in planning and reviewing their work. Leaders in SAFe have a role to play in enhancing individual creativity and teamwork.

  • Value Diversified Views: SAFe provides multiple platforms to ensure that teams listen to and value perspectives and viewpoints different from their own. Examples include team backlog estimations and design thinking tools.

  • Develop People Through Training, Mentoring, and Coaching: The Innovation and Planning Iteration in SAFe promotes various activities to ensure team and individual learning remains a focus for leaders. SAFe demonstrates its belief in continuously developing teams and individuals to become self-organized and engaged.

  • Know Your Customer and Respect Them: To create successful products and services, it’s important to have a deep understanding of your customers and treat them with respect. Lean and Agile methodologies acknowledge that customers include not only external stakeholders but also people within the organization who consume your work. By treating all customers with respect and empathy, you can better understand their real problems and develop products and services that truly meet their needs.

  • Build Long-term Partnerships: Building strong, long-term partnerships with suppliers is essential for success in developing complex systems. Respect is key to creating these partnerships. Suppliers should be held in the same high regard as customers and should be challenged to improve. By creating these types of relationships, both parties can benefit from the partnership and work towards a shared goal of success.

Relentless Improvement

Continuous improvement is essential to achieving excellence in Lean principles. Even though perfection may not be attainable, striving towards it inspires organizations to constantly improve their products and services. This leads to happier customers and greater profitability. Improvement requires a learning mindset because it can be challenging to identify the root causes of issues. Thus, continuous improvement is achieved through a series of small incremental changes and experiments. By learning from these changes, organizations can work towards finding the most effective solutions to problems.

To create a culture of relentless improvement within a SAFe enterprise, several steps should be taken.

  • Make improvement a part of the culture. In today’s fast-paced market, organizations must prioritize improvement activities and integrate them into their culture. This involves focusing on solving customer problems in a way that exceeds their expectations and surpasses competitors. Failure to embrace a culture of relentless improvement and urgency could lead to lost customers and, ultimately, the collapse of the organization.

  • A culture of problem-solving is also critical for continuous improvement. It involves identifying the gap between the current and desired states and using an iterative process to reach the target state. The iterative Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) cycles provide a framework for iterative problem-solving, enabling both small adjustments and breakthrough innovations. The goal is to create a culture where everyone is constantly striving to improve.

  • Regular reflection and adaptation is also crucial. SAFe emphasizes the importance of dedicating time for relentless improvement. Improvement efforts should be treated with the same level of importance as any other story or feature because improvement requires real work and consumes capacity from teams.

  • Improvements should be based on objective measurements and empirical evidence. This enables the organization to focus on the work needed to solve problems without blaming individuals or pursuing changes that don’t truly address the original problem.

  • Creating room for innovation is key. Improvements should aim to enhance the efficiency of the entire system that generates a steady flow of value, rather than optimizing individual teams or subsystems. All members, regardless of rank, should adopt an improvement mindset. However, enhancing one area, team, or domain should not negatively impact the overall system.

To achieve business agility and deliver high-quality products that meet customer needs, organizations can adopt the core values of SAFe: Alignment, Transparency, Respect for People, and Relentless Improvement. These values create a culture of collaboration, innovation, and continuous improvement, allowing businesses to remain competitive in the marketplace and achieve strategic objectives. Attending the Leading SAFe Course is recommended for a comprehensive understanding of the SAFe framework.

Find more details on SAFe Core Values here

Name Date Place
SAFe Certification and Training 31 May 1, 6 & 7 June 2024 Chennai More Details
SAFe Certification and Training 8 & 9 June 2024 India More Details
SAFe Certification and Training 29, 30 June & 7 July 2024 Bangalore More Details

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