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Five Aspects Of Governance Where SAFe Falls Short

Do you ever get the sense that organisations that adopt the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), end up just coping with it? We asked ‘what’s gone wrong?’ and ‘how we can fix it?’ starting with five reasons where it breaks down.


Missing the point

SAFe aims to run an agile organisation at scale but it often ends up covering up a fundamental question: how do I run a performance organisation and deliver? The key is not within a complex process but instead, a focus on core behaviours around communication and strategy that evolve a way of working that is useful. We aim to build ways of working that are adaptable.


Communication breakdown

When organisations try to implement SAFe, they often fail in answering the basic question: what is going on? Many SAFe rituals are focused on what to do next, losing sight of larger aims and coordination. Coordination rituals exist but they tend to be too periodic and infrequent to adapt.  For us, a key success factor for agile governance is communication – –where everyone has the best information available to make effective decisions and answer two questions, ‘Am I doing the most valuable thing available to achieve my goal?’ and ‘What am I likely to work on next?’



Although some say that SAFe is built for change, the complaints are that it’s slow and inflexible. Cascading change through an organisation is hard. SAFe participants find themselves labouring under coordination rituals that suck up time and distract from the work that advances towards a goal.


Metrics are not performance-focused.

SAFe is sometimes described as ‘grafting on waterfall management onto agile practice’. The high-level metrics that get reported with SAFe cater to a kind of leadership that is only concerned with ‘is it done yet?’ while providing little insight for leaders who want to know ‘how do we get better? How do we go faster and act on emerging data?’.


A better governance framework for engineering

SAFe may indeed serve a purpose for organisations who have struggled to execute effectively at scale. But, in governance, it often falls short.

At esynergy, we are developing new models for engineering governance that help organisations access a new gear and build performance-driven ways of working. We focus on:

  • Driving performance and continual improvement
  • Building a way of working, not following a way of working
  • Reporting metrics that measure the value delivered
  • Adapting when new information means you need to change


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