B3, the Brazilian Stock Exchange, Aligns Teams and Delivers Faster with SAFe

How do you adapt your organization’s culture so it’s more responsive to customer needs and can compete with emerging alternatives without disrupting what’s working or adding unnecessary layers of complexity—all while undergoing a major paradigm-shifting merger? This was the challenge facing Latin America’s largest stock exchange, B3 S/A Brasil Bolsa Balcao (B3), back in 2019.

Recently, Marcio Tambelini, SPC and Lean Agile Transformation Coordinator at B3, sat down with us at the 2023 SAFe® Summit Nashville to discuss his organization’s journey with SAFe over the past few years. He talked candidly about the challenges that led to B3 considering Agile methodologies, what motivated them to adopt the Scaled Agile Framework®, and their results. 

  • Challenges
  • Process
  • Results
Leaders at B3 gather in person to prioritize and align work for the PI as part of the Brazilian company’s multi-year SAFe initiative.


Every organization has its own operating culture and norms. In the case of a merger, the challenge becomes combining those norms and establishing a new, unified way of working. 

This was the situation facing B3 in 2019. At that point, B3 was two years into a merger that had ushered in a new era of its history. BM&FBOVESPA, a leading regional exchange, had joined forces with CETIP, a merger securities clearinghouse, creating B3. The combination positioned B3 as a key player in Latin America’s financial landscape. But it also created a need for shared values and common goals. 

“We had a distance between these areas, and every area had different problems,” said Tambelini.

A growing number of competitors were also emerging in the Brazilian market, putting additional pressure on B3 to deliver new features, capture new markets, and respond to challenges faster and more predictably. 

When leaders started exploring options for improving their culture, they were drawn to Agile for its focus on speed and collaboration. They were also interested in SAFe to provide the necessary training for scaling Agile practices.

“We decided that Agile would bring us common objectives and common challenges,” said Tambelini. “This was very important for us because each area had personal problems and personal challenges. So we decided to work together, and Agile methodology was the best way to resolve this problem for us.”

Leaders at B3 gather in person to prioritize and align work for the PI as part of the Brazilian company’s multi-year SAFe initiative.


B3 started small with one Portfolio, using SAFe to guide the adoption of Agile principles at scale. In 2021, after proving the value of the Agile approach, they decided to upgrade to a SAFe Enterprise subscription. This would allow them to make training and resources available to the entire organization and better align the Agile adoption of separate teams. 

By 2023, Agile practices had spread throughout B3. They had formed 32 value streams, with 121 Agile teams and more than 1,400 people working in those value streams. They had also begun expanding Agile values beyond development teams and into the operations side of the business.

“At B3, we’re working toward business agility, not just Agile … there are many initiatives in other areas like Human Resources, infrastructure, finance, and others,” said Tambelini.

He said the creation of value streams was particularly important to leaders because before, the various parts of B3 had functioned with different challenges and objectives, making it hard to track progress and align efforts. Value streams enabled them to see how each part of the organization played a critical role in delivering a product or service to the market.

Another way B3 brought teams together was by adopting shared metrics like Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) and key performance indicators (KPIs). They also shifted their mindset from “projects” to “products” to help teams better visualize the customer and focus on the end value delivered. 

“This has given us the opportunity to enhance our customer-centric approach, delivering products and services that align more closely with their needs,” said Tambelini.

Leaders at B3 gather in person to prioritize and align work for the PI as part of the Brazilian company’s multi-year SAFe initiative.


Tambelini said the results have been overwhelmingly positive, helping to secure B3’s position as the leading stock exchange in Latin America. 

“All the portfolios that we started in the last two or three years had many kinds of good results, especially when we’re talking about the clients,” he said. 

One of the biggest benefits has been the ability to deliver value to clients in a much shorter time cycle. Before, delivering a new product or feature could take up to a year. Now, B3 developers can roll out new features for clients throughout the year, much faster than was previously possible.

Within B3’s largest portfolio, which represented 70 percent of their revenue, the challenge had become managing layers of complexity among clients, markets, and regulators. So before proposing any drastic changes, leaders started by mapping out the interdependencies among platforms and teams. 

Their initial priority with this portfolio was to bring alignment and transparency to the work. They chose to adopt Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) because they believed that starting at the top and focusing on the financial aspect among leaders and stakeholders would bring much-needed clarity and direction to the rest of the process.

“Our understanding grew, and we identified points of contact and bottlenecks,” said Tambelini. “We proposed value streams that could bring productivity gains and increase deliveries to the clients.”

Instead of budgeting for projects, they began budgeting for products, enabling B3 to increase speed and become more responsive as an organization.

“This action has been instrumental in our evolution, leading to significant gains with both customers and regulators,” he said. “We’re able to respond to new challenges, become more efficient, increase customer experience, and capture new markets.”

Juan Saldivar, Latin America business development director at Scaled Agile, Inc., said B3’s journey is one of many inspiring examples of how SAFe is helping businesses in the LATAM region transform, compete, and become more customer-centric.

“On the development side, they’ve seen shorter cycles, and, in one product release that I know of, they were able to get ten times the expected number of customers,” said Saldivar. “I think they realized the power of SAFe when building new solutions and new products and getting an attractive solution to market.”


B3’s adoption of SAFe has proven highly successful, enabling leaders to overcome merger challenges and dynamic market pressures and begin to operate as one organization. Starting with one portfolio in 2019 and then expanding in the following years, they’ve been able to reduce delivery times and increase the value created. Their story proves the importance of approaching change intentionally, holistically, and with the customer at the center. 

Check out these additional resources to learn more:

How to Prepare Your Lean-Agile Center of Excellence for Success

Wouldn’t it be great if transformations could go on autopilot? 

Unfortunately, despite what we wish for, they can’t. They need strong and resilient teams driving transformations to success. 

In this blog, you’ll learn how to set up your Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) for success. Everything in this blog is from our experiences in the field. 

Our story begins at the very first LACE Summit, where we met for the first time. Heads of LACE teams from across the globe were brought together, where we were able to collaborate, exchange ideas, and benefit from each other’s experiences. This took place on October 6, 2022, when Amadeus welcomed Orange, Renault, Vodafone, and Scaled Agile, Inc. to the Amadeus headquarters in Sophia-Antipolis, France. 

We left the LACE summit with practical examples of

  • LACE team setups
  • Challenges
  • Pitfalls
  • Best practices
  • Recommendations 

The event was not only fun but a real eye-opener.

What to Consider When Setting up Your Lean-Agile Center of Excellence

We identified four focus areas when creating a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence:

  • Setup
  • Reporting line 
  • Diversity of capabilities
  • Prioritization process

LACE setup

You have many options for LACE setup.

It’s important to consider your progress in the transformation journey and transformation ambition.

Most LACE teams have a Hub-and-Spoke setup. This includes relays in the organizations they support (SAFe® champions). Most LACE teams include HR and Finance in their decision process and roadmap. 

Based on input from other LACE teams, it’s not easy to map a LACE organization. The organization has plenty of connections and direct or dotted links with other groups. 

You usually start with a small team of change agents representing different areas. They’re willing to drive the change, experiment, and learn fast. These team members may only dedicate a limited part of their capacity to the transformation at the beginning. But they’re willing to go the extra mile. 

Skills in the LACE are global and include R&D, HR, Finance, Product Management, Design Thinking, and Communication. Use external consultants as you develop the skills of your internal change agents at the start of the journey. The goal of these external partners should be to enable your LACE team to drive transformation on their own. 

As the scale of your transformation increases, you will also need to scale your team. You may need to create new transformation teams to support simultaneous transformations in different areas (portfolios). 

At Amadeus and Vodafone, we use the Hub and Spoke model. This enables decentralized decision-making and concurrent transformation initiatives in different areas. It also brings alignment on important transformation topics with a strong Hub. 

At Amadeus, we also have SAFe champions. We nominate these champions and train them on SAFe SPC curriculum. Once trained, they become strong change agents in the organization. They sustain the change in alignment with the LACE support. 

The most critical success factor when you start is nominating a strong authentic leader. This leader understands the business and the challenges the company is facing. It should be someone eager to drive the change and with energy and resilience to resolve impediments and roadblocks along the way. Pairing two leaders—one from Business and one from IT—will increase alignment of the transformation from the get-go.

Reporting lines

Since most transformations start in IT, organizations create a Head of LACE position in IT. The role usually reports to the Chief Information Officer (CIO) or Chief Technology Officer (CTO). This underpins the importance of the transformation. It also creates a direct line of communication with executives within the organization. 

But, in this case, the Business Executive Sponsor is crucial to the transformation. They enable acceptance of the transformation team in the Business organization. Otherwise, there is a risk that business engagement will lack. People will perceive the transformation as IT only. 

At Amadeus, there is a double reporting line of Head of LACE both to the CTO and a dotted line reporting into HR. This double reporting enables the LACE to dig into engineering perspectives. It also gives them a transversal mandate to guide the people and culture evolution. 

Agile Coaches usually report to one line organization led by the Head of LACE. This ensures

  • Alignment
  • Consistency of implementation approach
  • Fast upskilling
  • Knowledge-sharing 

It’s important to note that a successful LACE is a collaboration, not a line organization. The LACE needs more cross-functional and cross-departmental capabilities. These capabilities anchor the change in the organization.

Diversity of capabilities

Depending on your transformation goals and environment, you’ll need different skills and capabilities. Your transformation will evolve. This means your required skills and capabilities will also evolve. New challenges and impediments will come up. 

A typical LACE team can include the following skills and capabilities:

  • Agile Coaching and Training
  • Agile Methods and Tooling
  • Change Management and Communication
  • Design Thinking
  • DevOps
  • Representation of Finance, HR, line managers, and change agents 

In a regulatory and compliance environment, include the following experts in your LACE team:

  • Tooling
  • Compliance
  • Process

Prioritization process

Transformation requires focus. Change agents and change champions have jobs that keep them busy. Other priorities get in the way. Transformations can feel like you’re changing tires on a highway at full speed. 

To counterbalance conflicting priorities, try the following:

  • Upfront investment in alignment
  • Involving line managers of your change agents
  • Negotiating transformation goals as part of yearly performance goals

A small team of dedicated SPCs can speed up your transformation. When you start to scale on an enterprise level, the impediments will get bigger and harder to address. 

At Amadeus, the LACE runs the transformation. They use SAFe Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) for prioritization. They use an Agile Release Train for the execution. 

A Strategic Portfolio Review (SPR) drives the transformation LPM. The SPR includes executives from all business units. These executives share:

  • Priorities
  • Roadmap
  • Major achievements
  • Impediments where the LACE needs top management support 

Amadeus holds the SPR quarterly. 

They also organize bi-weekly Portfolio Sync meetings. These meetings include executive representatives. They address Epics and operational progress of the transformation train. 

Some of the SPR members are also Business Owners of the transformation train. This generates better alignment and valuable discussions with the team members.

Prioritization at Amadeus
Prioritization at Amadeus

Lean-Agile Center of Excellence Challenges and Tips

The Lean-Agile Center of Excellence will face challenges throughout the transformation journey. The following two challenges are particularly critical to overcome.

  • Executive engagement
  • Transformation ownership

Challenge 1: Executive engagement

Transformation is not a sprint but a marathon. It’s not enough for executives to give their buy-in at the beginning of the transformation. They shouldn’t expect business results with minimal effort. 

Many transformation teams struggle to get continuous executive engagement needed for sustainable change. 

To keep executives engaged, always start with the WHY. Define the clear business outcomes you want to achieve. You don’t need to get engagement from all executives at once from the very beginning. Start with one. Build trust. Show quick incremental improvements, and let them become your biggest advocate.

Challenge 2: Transformation ownership

As the LACE team, avoid becoming a ‘Doctor’s office’. People should not come to you for quick pain relief and fast results with the least effort. With this method, if something is not working, it immediately becomes your fault. 

Ownership of the transformation and business results should stay in the delivery organization. The LACE team is an enablement team. They partner with different business areas to

  • Become a catalyst of change
  • Drive continuous improvement culture
  • Help address roadblocks on the way to success

Tips for solving these challenges

Here are some tips for solving the two challenges mentioned in the previous section. 

Engage your executives in your roadmap 

Train executives. Coach them. Involve them in the planning through retrospectives, system demos, and other formats. 

Why is this important? 

You’ll need their support to get everyone on board. Then you’ll need their approval (and even more so, their sponsorship) to implement changes in the organization. 

Don’t get out of breath

You are of no use if you run out of energy. Take time with your work. Make sure your teams have the right workload to avoid feeling like they’re gasping for air. Don’t be too wrapped up in meeting your own goals and forget to engage your team.

Changing for the sake of change won’t be enough for your teams

People need a compelling reason to change. Engage colleagues by building a vision and defining a burning platform. We’ve seen this work in many transformation journeys.

Change agents should work as a team and support each other

Organizational transformation is tedious work, and it is not a one-person job. Use PI (Planning Interval) planning to align priorities. Ensure the team works toward the same objectives. 

Celebrate success together as a team and boost motivation 

Short-term wins encourage team members to be more engaged and positive about the work. 

Some people believe SAFe and agility are for technical people, like engineers. But this is not always true. Practicing Agile ways of working means planning work and delivering value based on the customer’s wishes. By this, all aspects of a company should be Agile. 

So, your transformation team needs representation from everywhere. This includes business, HR, Finance, Procurement, and more. They will be your change agents in different areas of the business.

A Checklist to Keep Your LACE on Track

Setting up a LACE team can be overwhelming. Oftentimes, as an internal team, you may only have one chance to get it right. 

Here’s a checklist based on experience from the trenches to help your LACE team get it right on the first try. 

1. Design a purpose-driven transformation that ensures continuous executive engagement.

  • Secure a transformation sponsor at the executive level
  • Define common objectives (OKRs) with your sponsor
  • Connect to strategy and define transformation narrative
  • Involve executive leaders in prioritizing the LACE backlog of  transformation initiatives

2. Define and evolve your LACE vision/mission, transformation scope, capabilities needed, and your operating model.

  • Host a LACE Kickoff to define your vision, mission, ways of working, initial scope, and metrics
  • Ensure nomination of HR and Finance representatives and establish a good mix of Business and Technology representatives in your LACE team
  • Co-create transparent rules of engagement between your LACE team and transformation the initiatives you’re supporting
  • Join forces and connect with the strategy team in your organization, Cultural Center of Excellence, or Digital Transformation office (when applicable) to support broader enterprise transformation and cultural change
  • Drive alignment on vision, mission, and why story when you scale across the organization and make your transformation inclusive to all transformation teams
Amadeus Lean-Agile Center of Excellence Canvas

3. Invest time in communication, focusing on different and sometimes unique needs of stakeholders. Remember, there is no successful transformation without successful communication.

  • Create an engaging communication strategy and communication plan for different target groups
  • Experiment; be bold and creative 
  • Promote transformation stories, testimonials, and learnings in different formats (e.g. regular demos, newsletters, videos, podcasts, etc.)
  • Organize regular Agile events or internal Agile conferences to bring your transformation stories to life and connect change agents and enthusiasts in the organization
  • Don’t forget that executives represent a crucial communication target group; invest time in understanding their communication needs

4. Adapt to change, scale with alignment, and measure success.

  • Evolve your transformation scope over time and adjust your LACE capabilities depending on the current focus area of transformation
  • Scale transformation with SPC Champions in different areas and connect them via Community of Practice to drive excellence, community spirit, and pride in driving transformation together
  • Measure NPS of your LACE team for different transformation initiatives you are supporting

Additional LACE Resources

If you’re interested in setting up and driving a successful LACE, we would love to invite you to the next edition of the LACE Summit. It will be planned at Amadeus Sophia-Antipolis, France in October 2023. Join us to hear and share about your favorite topic. Stay tuned! 

Here are some additional LACE resources:

About Sandra Bellong

Sandra Bellong, Head of Lean-Agile Center of Excellence at Amadeus, is a senior people manager, project manager, and Agile/SAFe specialist with a strong background in business analysis and development design. She is a dynamic, engaged, and motivated actor in Agile transformations, process and methodology improvements, and always in the scope of high customer satisfaction. 

Connect with Sandra on LinkedIn.

About Alena Keck

Alena Keck, Head of Lean-Agile Center of Excellence at Vodafone, is passionate about helping large global companies reach the full potential of business agility and overcome challenges of Agile transformation at scale. Her mission is to be a strong change agent who creates strong transformation teams and growing Lean-Agile leaders. Her motto is “Transformation is a Team Sport.” 

Connect with Alena on LinkedIn.

Three Key Components of Healthy Agile Transformations

Improving your health is important so you can live a longer life. The same goes for your Agile transformation.

Certain habits improve your transformation’s health. Like eating healthy and working out do for our bodies.

I’ve seen these habits improve and sustain Agile transformations in many organizations:

  • Change leaders pave the way
  • Strategy connects directly to the work
  • People strategies activate engagement

Each of these habits signals your organization embraces real change. And embracing change is the foundation of a sustainable Agile transformation.

Restating the three bullet points

Change Leaders Pave the Way

Leadership is the most important part of a healthy Agile transformation. I’d go as far as saying leaders can make or break transformation efforts.

So leadership teams must lead the change for it to stick. They do this by leading by example at all levels of the organization (from the portfolio to Agile teams).

Change leaders also follow SAFe® Lean-Agile Principles and Core Values when making decisions.

Principles and values guide decisions

Leaders should embrace and demonstrate the principles and values in their leadership roles. And consult them when making a change to one of their transformation strategies.

Easterseals demonstrates one way to apply this thinking in this customer story. The company applied SAFe starting with Lean-Agile leadership. They placed change leaders in key roles. And then added the principles and structures to guide their decisions.

Some organizations disregard the principles and values to tailor SAFe. They make this modification to fit SAFe into their culture. But this creates an anti-pattern.

These modifications may include:

  • Changing the names of the roles identified in the Framework
  • Picking and choosing which ceremonies to hold
  • Training leaders on SAFe without proper leadership coaching and guidance

SAFe is not a prescriptive framework. Yet it’s important to maintain its foundational principles and values. This ensures a healthy Agile transformation.

Read more about how to apply the SAFe Core Values in a work setting here.

Operational excellence objectives facilitate improvements

Change leaders extend their reach through Lean-Agile Communities of Excellence (LACE). LACEs should share transformation learnings across portfolios. This aligns each portfolio to Lean-Agile practices and leadership. It also helps to create a Continuous Learning Culture.

Transformation leaders in the LACE should also spearhead improvement initiatives within the organization. Also, they should focus on cross-training initiatives. This solves bottlenecks and other flow issues.

Leadership sponsorship extends beyond sustaining to accelerating change

In a healthy Agile transformation, leadership doesn’t stop at sponsoring the change. They go as far as participating in and accelerating the change.

When this does not happen, the following pattern can occur.

A Fortune 100 large enterprise pivoted from Waterfall to Agile. (Notice Lean was not even part of the conversation).

Leadership did not choose the method for this transformation. Instead, they pushed this decision to the leaders in each business unit.

You can only imagine what happened. Some business leaders chose SAFe. Others tried a hybrid approach and pulled practices from several Agile frameworks. Others decided to ‘baby step’ it and start with small teams. None of the teams in this ‘small team’ example took into account all the dependencies on the other teams.

Six months in, one leader asked: “Where can I get a holistic view of our product delivery and how we are tracking against all our initiatives?”

With so many frameworks and practices in play, there was no easy way to answer this.

Other impacts?

Business units often worked on initiatives with other business units. But they did not have a common cadence. Or alignment on dependencies or ceremonies. It became chaotic to figure out how to execute together to deliver on business requests.

If leadership selected one framework and language, that would have united the organization. And made the transformation smoother.

This example demonstrates why leadership needs to extend beyond sponsorship to participation. It ensures a transformation’s health and, thus, long-lived success.

Strategy Connects Directly to Daily work

Leadership is in place. Now what? Everyone in a healthy Agile transformation engages in their work. To improve employee engagement, show employees how their work makes a difference.

Make this connection through transparency about your strategies. Show how they align with your enterprise’s Vision and Mission.

How do you make this a healthy habit? By sharing updates during all hands or other standing company-wide meetings.

One way Scaled Agile, Inc. shows its employees how they’re impacting enterprise strategy is through color coding. We assign each strategic theme a specific color (on brand, of course). In System Demo, the agenda is color-coded by the corresponding strategic theme.

screenshot of recent system demo with color coding by strategic theme
Agenda from a recent system demo

This transparency is important, especially when the strategy must pivot. It’s important employees understand the following before any work stops or changes:

  • Learnings from the pivot
  • The reason for the pivot

Be thoughtful about how you communicate this information with your organization. This is work that many spend the majority, if not all, of their time on. It’s important to be sensitive to this.

Porsche shared an example of strategy transparency at the 2021 SAFe Summit. Their executive leadership committed to how they wanted to work. And which KPIs they would drive with their products. Leadership did this on stage in front of the entire digital division. This commitment launched the digital sector into its first ARTs and PI Planning.

This shared strategy gave employees a reason to stay engaged with their work. They knew they were working towards a common goal across the digital department.

Once employees understand company strategy, they can connect it to their daily work. This connection is important for improving engagement too. Engagement is the final piece of maintaining a healthy Agile transformation.

People Strategies Activate Engagement

One indicator of a transformation’s health is its most important asset: people. To keep your transformation healthy, you must keep your people happy. One way to do this is through actively engaging them in their roles.

Generate future-focused learning opportunities with paths for Agile roles

If employees see growth opportunities, they will likely remain at their current company.

See these recently updated articles for career development inspiration:

Each article includes role descriptions by category. These descriptions provide opportunities for growth in each of these Agile roles.

specific responsibilities for each Agile role

Organizations can create paths and learning opportunities based on these role-specific focus areas.

Refresh engagement strategies to align with the current workforce

When employees were asked, “What’s one thing that keeps you from being engaged?” they responded with the following reasons:

  • No autonomy
  • Lack of safe space
  • No clear career direction
  • Lack of vision and inspiration
  • Missing feedback

As mentioned in the previous section, engagement creates happier, more motivated employees. Happier and more motivated employees sustain a healthy Agile transformation.

If your engagement strategies need a refresh, try these suggestions:

  • Overhaul outdated engagement strategies
  • Align intent with your organization’s social purpose
  • Facilitate a relational and emotional connection with employees
  • Generate future-focused learning opportunities
  • Transform your ceremonies into learning socials
  • Connect individual contributions to the organizational vision
  • Minimize disruptions to allow for flow
  • Look for patterns of inattentional blindness
  • Meet people where they are
  • Co-create a path to re-engage

To learn more about people engagement strategies, watch my talk from the 2022 SAFe Summit. It’s on the SAFe Community Platform: In It to Win It! People Engagement Strategies to Propel your SAFe Transformation. (Tip: Command + F search the talk title or scroll to the Leading the Change section of the page.)

Connect people to the Vision, Mission, and each other

In a remote/hybrid post-COVID environment, it can feel like you’re working on an island. It’s hard to feel connected to the people you no longer share an office space with.

This connection is important for creating a healthy Agile transformation. Connect people to the following to remind them what they’re working for:

  • The organization’s Vision
  • The organization’s Mission
  • Each other

It gives them the drive to work through the uncomfortable parts of transforming.

Ways you can connect people in your organization:

  • Schedule volunteer opportunities for teams
  • Add standing mystery 1:1s to the company calendar
  • Share rotating appreciations for individual team
  • Highlight positive customer experiences, interactions, or success milestones
  • Champion learning networks


It takes work to maintain your health. Maintaining the health of your transformation is no different. Incorporate these three components into your Agile transformation. It will give you a strong foundation for sustainable change. And prolong your Agile transformation life.

Other resources to incorporate into your transformation routine. You can think of them like supplements if we’re sticking to the health metaphor:

About Audrey Boydston

Audrey Boydston is a senior consultant at Scaled Agile

Audrey Boydston is a senior consultant at Scaled Agile and an experienced SPCT, Lean-Agile coach, trainer, and facilitator. Her work focuses on continuous learning, building fundamentals, re-orienting around principles, and helping clients—from senior executives to developers—build networks and communities that support their transformations.

View all posts by Audrey Boydston

SAFe Metrics at the Team Level: Sales Ops

Contextualizing SAFe metrics: sales ops edition

SAFe® provides the strategic concepts and guidance that help steer transformations. And while the Framework metrics article focuses on high-level metrics like KPIs, OKRs, and strategic themes, some teams can struggle to contextualize SAFe metrics and measurement domains like flow, outcomes, and competency.

This is especially true for non-technical teams.

Even when metrics are captured, improvement areas might remain blurry without a shared understanding of what the metrics mean and show.

Diagram of metrics at the portfolio, Solution, ART, and team levels

How do teams with different skill sets, business objectives, and types of work all use the same measurement domains to gauge success? How do they know if they are on track to achieve PI Objectives and Iteration Goals?

We asked Scrum Masters from five different teams to answer five questions about the metrics they use to measure flow, outcomes, and competency. Their answers were illuminating, and we’re excited to share the results in a new article series titled “SAFe Metrics for Teams.” Each article will highlight one or more teams and take a close look at how they use SAFe metrics in their own domains.


  • Sales Ops
  • Communications
  • Multimedia
  • Customer Success
  • Product Development


  • What metrics does your team use to track outcomes?
  • How do these metrics help your team define and plan work?
  • What flow metrics does your team use?
  • How has your team used metrics to drive continuous improvement?
  • How does your team self-assess competency?

Let’s get started!

Applying SAFe® Metrics for a Sales Operations Team

Sales ops teams are charged with enabling the sales team to hit their growth targets. This means sales ops should do work that creates a better, faster, and more predictable sales process, including:

  • Lead management and routing
  • Database integrity
  • Enablement training
  • Sales team onboarding
  • Continued learning and development
  • Contract management solutions
  • Sales process optimization
  • Much more  

By nature, sales ops work is often routine and process-heavy. It’s a lot of “run the business” or “business as usual” (BAU) work. Despite its sometimes repetitive nature, the pace and volume of this work will affect sales team objectives. Agile marketing teams are often in a similar position. 

Plus, enterprise-level sales are getting more complicated. There’s more technology, data, tools, and systems than ever. For sales leaders, this complexity means spending more time managing systems and less time working with teams and growing territories. As sales teams face increasing pressure to become more customer-centric and responsive, the demand for Agility also grows.

How can sales ops teams embrace the same Agile spirit and practice that drives other business areas like development and IT? More specifically, how can a sales ops department employ measurements like flow, outcomes, and competency in the same way as other SAFe teams?

For Kate Quigly, a senior Scrum Master with the sales ops team, it starts with the right mindset and clear goals focused on helping sales teams embrace Agility in their planning and operations. We asked Kate to lift the lid on her team’s process for using metrics, pursuing improvement, and applying SAFe measurement domains. Below, Kate explains how the sales ops team makes SAFe guidance work for them.


Question: What metrics does your team use to track outcomes? How do these metrics help your team define and plan work?

Answer: Outcomes are the perfect opportunity to assess which work is worth doing and what value is delivered. Here are the metrics we use to measure outcomes:

PI Objectives

The nature of our work makes it fairly simple to craft SMART PI objectives. Here’s an example of a good PI objective for a typical sales ops team:

  • Example: “To grow strategic accounts by five percent in Q1 2023, create three account plans per region, and complete five live training sessions with sales by the end of Q4 2022.”

This objective would align with our team’s mission to bolster the sales team’s performance and operations in several ways:

  1. It empowers sales to develop their account plans in the future. With this capability, sales can immediately take action to capture new opportunities in expanding regions.
  2. It’s written to help sales achieve growth targets, which could be a strategic theme and/or PI Objective for the entire ART.
  3. It enables future work that will contribute clear business value.

Team Business Value

Business value assignments are where we learn whether the right work was planned and completed correctly. We can use business value scores to understand the following:

  • Did we plan the right mix of work? For us, this could mean uncovering the wrong balance of BAU work vs. “user-facing” projects.
  • Were we able to complete our committed objectives? If not, why?
  • Were our objectives clear and measurable?
  • Are we delivering value?  

Iteration Goals

Iteration goals keep us focused on the most important work. Because iteration goals are not always reflected in a single story, we can check each iteration to see if visible work is actually contributing to our iteration goals (and PI Objectives). We want to discover if completed stories actually support the iteration goals. If there’s misalignment here, and we’re planning proper capacity, trouble could be around the corner.

Team Purpose Statement

While objective metrics are critical, qualitative assessments also matter. We often refer to our team purpose statement to check whether planned work needs to be rephrased, reexamined, or re-scoped to align with our core purpose.


Question: What flow metrics does your team use?

Answer: Since we’re a relatively new team, we’re still honing the best set of metrics. I recommend using a variety of metrics as each one can highlight valuable insights. Right now, we use the following metrics most often:

Flow Velocity

  • Team velocity should be a stable, predictable measurement that helps the team forecast capacity for future work. Velocity metrics should never be compared across teams or used as a productivity measurement. Too much emphasis on achieving the right number can cause teams to “game” the system.  
  • I use some standard questions to spark conversations, including:
    • Is our team velocity significantly dropping? Let’s discuss why.
    • Is our team velocity significantly increasing?  What’s the cause of this increase?
  • In particular, we look at the number of rollover stories from one iteration to the next. The root cause of these rollover stories can reveal issues with prioritization, role competency, and dependencies. This analysis helped our team discover a missing toolset needed for data management work.

Flow Time

We use cycle time scatterplot charts to show lead time and cycle time. These charts capture when an item starts and finishes. Low cycle time means the team is performing well and value flows fast to customers. Items with high cycle time are easy to identify and retrospect on.

Measuring flow time helped us find a recurring delay within the legal department. The delay caused an issue with generating new contracts, which are critical for our internal customers (sales) to finalize their work within a fixed timeline. 

This data helps us talk about problems in a new way by asking the following:

  1. Why did some items take so long to complete? What could we have done differently? Are there action items we can do to improve?
  2. Our average time to finish an item is X amount of days. What improvements would lower this for even more efficiency? 

Flow Distribution

Distribution is crucial for understanding whether we’re spending time on the right mix of work types. The team believes (rightly) that BAU work should be shown and recognized. Common BAU work includes:

  • Analyze closed lost/won deals
  • Data cleanup
  • Contract updates
  • Onboarding/offboarding tasks
  • Training, onboarding, and enablement 

However, I’ve had to coach the team on how to incorporate this type of work into Scrum, and how to balance BAU with “new development” work, which we affectionately call “special projects.” For our team, special projects would include work like:

  • Salesforce automations
  • New system implementation for key account management

For us, all of these metrics roll up into two primary dashboards. We frequently use the following charts to check our progress:

screenshot of an iteration cumulative flow diagram
Iteration cumulative flow diagram
screenshot of a release flow diagram
Release cumulative flow diagram
Burndown chart
  • Iteration and Release cumulative flow diagrams help visualize the work. These diagrams show cycle time, work in progress, and throughput.
  • This metric surfaced an interesting “stair step” pattern, which could indicate rushing at the end of the iteration. Once identified, we were able to find some key bottlenecks that are unique to the sales environment.
  • Burndown charts. These charts can predict the team’s likelihood of completing the committed work in a given time period. By visualizing the work in this way, you can see if delivery is on track, will complete early, or will be delayed.

Question: How has your team used metrics to drive continuous improvement?

Answer: These metrics help us identify mistakes, whether it’s a missed dependency, unclear acceptance criteria, or errant planning. For example, I’ve seen our team continually battle context switching, indicated by a large amount of work in progress (WIP). 

The context switching was causing us to miss more meaningful opportunities. For sales ops, this could mean putting new dashboards on hold and instead prioritizing new account research. During team retros, we can use questions like the following to identify improvement areas: 

  • Are there too many items “in progress” which can result in costly context switching?  
  • Are there too many items “in progress” which can signal a bottleneck problem in our workflow?
  • Is there a large amount of work that is “not started” that may cause us to delay or miss upcoming milestones?

Improvements tested:

  • Stop starting and start finishing by limiting WIP
  • Swarming or pairing to complete work faster 

Teams identify and embrace metrics depending on how you set the stage and approach these conversations. Again, for us, the priorities are clarified by focusing on the most valuable work instead of giving all planned work the same priority level. We must continually ask: “what’s the most value we can deliver this week, this iteration, and this PI?”


Question: How does your team self-assess competency?

Answer: As a new team, we’re focused on the team and technical agility assessment, which was just distributed to the team. I am very excited to use this as another tool to start team conversations about improvement areas.

Bonus Tips

Kate shared a few other key ways that sales ops teams can “think” Agile and adapt SAFe practices to their business domain:

  • Will the planned work allow sales team members to be more decentralized, productive, and empowered in their job?
  • Is the planned work only planned because “that’s the work we do”? 
  • What work would support cross-functional capabilities for sales teams/members?
    1. Example: A standardized sales deck with editable fields to eliminate dependence on graphic design support.
  • What processes can be automated to create economies of scale?
    1. Example: An automated, repeatable de-duplication process for faster and more accurate CRM data management.   

Overall, changing their way of thinking about work and measuring value has helped the sales ops team embrace Agile principles and improve alignment across the ART. As a result, they have better tools for visualizing, categorizing, and prioritizing BAU work with critical projects while also seeing the real value they deliver.

About Kate Quigly

Kate is a Senior Scrum Master at Scaled Agile, Inc. She has many years of experience coaching Agile teams with high energy and creativity.  She is passionate about lifelong learning, experimenting with teams, and creating a collaborative culture. Connect with Kate on LinkedIn.

About Madi Fisher

Madi is an Agile Coach at Scaled Agile. She has many years of experience coaching Agile teams in all phases of their journeys. She is a collaborative facilitator and trainer and leads with joy and humor to drive actionable outcomes. She is a true galvanizer! Connect with Madi on LinkedIn.

Large Solution Refinement: Paving the Super-Highway of Value Delivery

This post is the second in a series about success patterns for large solutions. Read the first post here.

Backlog refinement is integral to the Scrum process because it prevents surprises and maintains flow in iterative development. Regular backlog review ensures the backlog is ready for iteration planning. An Agile team understands how much they still need to refine the backlog items before the next iteration planning and beyond.

When applying SAFe® to large, complex, cyber-physical systems, you must expand backlog refinement to include more viewpoints. The complexity of a large solution is rarely fully comprehended by one or a few individuals, and the size of the large solution exacerbates the impact of risks that can escape into large solution planning.

So how do we find the balance between overpreparation, which limits ownership and innovation by the solution builders, and under-refinement, which can undermine the solution and the flow of value delivery?

To answer these questions, we adapted the following success patterns for large solution backlog refinement.

Use the Dispatcher Clause

The dispatcher principle guides large solution refinement by preventing the premature dispatch of requirements to Agile Release Trains (ARTs), solution areas, or Agile teams. Premature dispatching can cause risks like:

• Misalignment in the development of different solution components
• Missed opportunities for economies of scale across organizational constructs
• Sub-optimization of lower priority solution features

In contrast, making the right trade-off decisions at the right level drives holistic and innovative solutions.

Key stakeholder viewpoints that are often overlooked include marketing, compliance, customer support, and finance. Ensuring these voices are heard during refinement work can prevent issues that might remain undetected until late in the solution roadmap.

For complex solutions, we discovered that a planning conference is more effective than pre-and post-PI Planning events alone. This event mimics a PI Planning event and is intended to align upcoming PI work across ARTs and solution areas. To keep the conference focused and productive, it should only include representatives from the participating ARTs. We will cover specific planning conference details in a later blog post.

The goal of the planning conference is to provide a boundary for the large solution refinement work. Preparation for key decisions that can be made in the planning conference should be part of the refinement work. But making key decisions is part of the planning conference. However, key stakeholder inputs that cannot be reasonably gathered during the planning conference should be included in the refinement work.

For example, in Figure one, a review of the key behavior-driven development (BDD) demo and testing scenarios by a customer advisory board is valuable input in refinement. The customer advisory board will not attend the two-day planning conference, so their advance input provides guardrails on the backlog work that’s considered.

Agree on the Definition of Ready

The definition of the readiness (DoR) criteria for a large solution backlog is often multidimensional. Consider, for example, the architectural dimension of the solution. The architecture defines the high-level solution components and how they interact to provide value. The choice of components is relevant to system architects in the contributing ARTs and stakeholders in at least these areas:

• User experience
• Compliance
• Internal audit and standards
• Corporate reuse
• Finance  

Advancing the backlog item—a Capability or an Epic—through the stages of readiness often requires review and refinement from the various stakeholders.

Figure one is an example Definition of Ready Maturity Model. It shows the solution dimensions that must be refined in preparation for the solution backlog. Levels zero to five show how readiness can advance within each dimension. The horizontal contour lines show that progression to the intermediate stages of readiness is often a combination of different levels in each dimension.

Applying SAFe for Agility
Figure 1. Definition of Ready Maturity Model example

This delineation is helpful when monitoring the progression of a backlog item to intermediate readiness stages on a Kanban board.

The key to balancing over-preparation and under-refinement is to distinguish between work that an ART or solution area can complete independently without a high risk of rework. For example, final costs could be prohibitively high without a Lean business case to scope the solution. Another common high-risk impact of under-refinement is unacceptable usability caused by the siloed implementation of Features by the ARTs.

The Priority BDD and Test Scenarios in Figure one represent how features are used harmoniously. These scenarios provide guardrails to help ARTs prioritize and demonstrate parts of the overall solution without significant rework of a PI.

Identifying the dimensions, levels, and progression of readiness is a powerful organizational skill for building a large solution.

Leverage Refinement Crews

Regular large solution refinement is necessary to ensure readiness. The complexity of a large solution warrants greater effort and participation than Solution Management can cover. And the number of key decisions grows in direct proportion to the size of a solution.

Our experience shows that roughly 10 percent of those who participate in large solution development should participate in a regular refinement cadence. If the total participation is 450 people, then 45 representatives from across ARTs or solution areas should set aside time for weekly refinement iterations.

Backlog refinement for a large solution requires more capacity than a typical backlog refinement session. The refinement crews determine a cadence of planning, executing, and demonstrating the refinement work. One-week iterations, for example, help drive focus on refinement to ensure readiness.

We also discovered that refinement crews of six to eight people should swarm refinement work within iterations. These groups are usually created based on individual skills and their representation within stakeholder groups. Alignment with crews and dimensions or skillsets is determined during the planning of refinement iterations. The goal is always to move the funnel item to the next refinement maturity level in the next iteration.

Our experience says that each refinement crew requires at least three to four core participants. The other crew members can come from stakeholder organizations outside the Solution Train.

Readiness progress must be reviewed on a regular cadence with solution train progress. Progress can be represented in the Solution Kanban between the Funnel and Backlog stages, as shown in Figure two. In our example, these stages replace the Analyzing state provided as a starting point in SAFe.

Applying SAFe for Agility
Figure 2. Refinement Stages in Solution Kanban

The organization must also allow each refinement step to vary over time, as it makes sense for the solution. For example, as the development of the solution progresses toward a releasable version, the architecture should stabilize. Therefore the readiness of the backlog item in the architecture dimension should progress very quickly, if not skip some readiness steps. As solutions approach a major release, the contributors’ capacity can shift from readiness to execution of the current release or readiness for the next release.

Because refinement happens in a regular cadence of iterations, weekly, for example, the refinement crews should be empowered to make these decisions in refinement iteration planning.

Employ Dynamic Agility

So is there a definitive template of dimensions with levels and a step-by-step process for determining the DoR? Not quite. And we don’t think that a prescriptive process is best for most organizations.

Instead, we advocate for using the organizational skill of dynamic agility.

As the size and complexity of a solution grow, so do the number and type of variables: compliance type, hardware types, skills required, size of the development organization, size of the enterprise/business, specialization of customer types, and so on. This complexity is augmented by company culture challenges, workforce turnover, and technology advancements in emerging industries.

Individuals’ motivation and innovation suffer when they get lost in the morass of complexity. When things don’t get done, more employees are added to help fix the problem. This workforce growth only magnifies the complexity again.

In contrast, the organizational skill of dynamic agility stimulates autonomy, mastery, and purpose for individuals within teams, teams-of-teams, and large solutions.

Consider the House of Dynamic Agility represented in Figure three.

Applying SAFe for Agility
Figure 3. House of Dynamic Agility

How can dynamic agility be applied to large solution refinement? DoR identification and maintenance of its dimensions and levels happen through a regular cadence of the right events. How often should these occur, for how long, and who should attend? What elements will represent and communicate the DoR? What roles are best suited to own and facilitate the management and use of DoR over time? How will collaboration across the organization happen most efficiently for maximum benefit? These questions are best determined in the context of the large solution.


Large solutions require a balance of preparation and execution to achieve an optimal flow of value. Conducting backlog refinement in preparation for a large solution planning conference and PI Planning lets decomposed work items be implemented without risk of rework. Avoiding over-specification in refinement allows ARTs to innovate and accomplish within the guardrails of refinement. Enabling large solutions to leverage dynamic agility builds ownership, collaboration, and efficiency in a large-scale endeavor.

Look for the next post in our series, coming soon.

About Cindy VanEpps, Project & Team, Inc.

Cindy VanEpps -  SAFe® Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT)

From crafting space shuttle flight design and mission control software at Johnson Space Center to roles including software developer, technical lead, development manager, consultant, and solution developer, Cindy has an extensive repertoire of skills and experience. As a SAFe® Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) and Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE) expert, her thought leadership, teaching, and consulting rely on pragmatism in the application of Agile practices.

About Wolfgang Brandhuber, Project & Team, Inc.

Chief Scrum Master, and Agile Head Coach in various Agile environments

Dr. Wolfgang Brandhuber has been a Scrum Developer, Product Owner, Scrum Master, Chief Scrum Master, and Agile Head Coach in various Agile environments. His passion is large solutions. Since the advent of the large solution level in the Scaled Agile Framework in 2016, he has set up and helped solution trains improve their complex systems. During his 18 years as a professional consultant, he worked over 16 of those in the Agile world and more than nine years with SAFe. Among other certifications, he is a certified SAFe® Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT), a Kanban University Trainer (AKT), and an Agility Health Trainer (AHT).

About Malte Kumlehn, Project & Team, Inc.

Malte Kumlehn, Project & Team, Inc.

Malte helps deliver complex ecosystems, people, Cloud, AI, and data-powered digital transformations toward business agility. He pioneers intelligent operating models for portfolios with large solutions as a SAFe® Fellow, advisory board member, and executive advisor in this field. He guides executives in developing the most challenging competencies that allow them to deliver breakthrough results through Lean-Agile at scale. His experience has been published by Accenture, Gartner, and the Swiss Association for Quality over the last ten years.

Learn more about Project & Team.

Creative Tension – Implementing SAFe Properly

How to use the gap between where you are and where you want to be

This post is part of the ongoing Practice Makes Permanent blog series. Read the first post here.

OK, so your Lean-Agile transformation is stalling. It’s not delivering the increased value and reduced delivery times you expected. Your teams are struggling and perhaps updating their resumes. You thought that implementing the Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®) would bring you these outcomes, but you’ve discovered you’re not using all Ten Critical Success Factors of SAFe. Perhaps you’ve discovered that you’re not actually implementing SAFe correctly as you intended, which means you’re probably not gaining the full value of what the Framework has to offer. The key to taking full advantage of this realization is to be encouraged rather than discouraged. We can’t improve until we see the improvements that are needed. The purpose of this article is to help you see that these discoveries should be cause for celebration, not concern.

One of my favorite books (and authors) is Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline. In his book, Peter describes the concept of creative tension as ”the tension between vision and reality.” It’s the concept of discovering the gap between where you are and where you want to be and using that gap as energy to make improvements. Think of it as a transformational snowball effect.

SAFe guidance depicts the perfect scenario where an organization exemplifies all seven core competencies, delivering high quality and accurate value to customers, and having the kind of culture and work environment that makes it a great place to work. Then we look at the current reality and realize we have a long way to go to reach this nirvana state of business agility.

Sometimes that gap seems insurmountable, unachievable, and perhaps just unrealistic. As we identify that first improvement opportunity and implement that first improvement effort, we start to see some excitement and engagement. We’re still a long way from that nirvana view, but we’re starting to make progress. And that creates more energy for the next effort. So, we take on the next improvement effort, and there seems to be just a bit more engagement and hope that we can move forward. And that’s where we start to see the snowball effect of relentless improvement.

Implementing SAFe Properly
The snowball effect.

For each improvement we make, we gain more energy, engagement, and willingness to change. And we start to go faster. And faster. And faster. And now, that relentless improvement pillar seems to make more sense, and in fact, becomes part of our DNA. As Peter Senge stated, “The most effective people are those who can ‘hold’ their vision while remaining committed to seeing current reality clearly.”

Positive change is contagious. It brings excitement and hope to the organization. That energy must start somewhere. So, as Taichi Ohno said, “If you are going to do Kaizen continuously … you’ve got to assume that things are a mess. Too many people just assume that things are all right the way they are … If you assume that things are all right the way they are, you can’t do Kaizen. So, change something!”

My point is to change something with a huge grin on your face because you can see the snowball effect of creative tension pulling you upward.

Implementing SAFe Properly
A team celebrating its small wins.

So, when you see that gap between your current reality and where you want to be, you should view it as an opportunity, not a negative situation. In other words, you should view every improvement opportunity with excitement and anticipation of where you can go next on the journey toward business agility.

As change agents, we’ve learned that empathy along the transformation journey is vital. We know how hard it is, so we fully understand why you skipped some of the steps. But now is the time to restart or renew that journey. In subsequent posts, we will talk about specific activities and components we can use the creative tension approach to jump-start a Lean-Agile transformation. The goal of this series is to help you find the next opportunity to accelerate that snowball effect in your transformation.

Check back soon for the next post in the series.

About Dwayne Stroman

Dwayne is an Enterprise Transformation Coach and Trainer and SAFe® Program Consultant Trainer

Dwayne is an Enterprise Transformation Coach and Trainer and SAFe® Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) with more than 20 years of experience. He is ultra-passionate about helping large organizations learn how to build the right products and deliver optimal value through learning and customer validation. Dwayne uses his SPCT role to help several Fortune 100 companies, as well as many growing companies in finance, retail, healthcare, and logistics, realize the benefits of a Lean-Agile mindset. Connect with Dwayne on LinkedIn.

Practice Makes _______ : SAFe® implementation

Find true success with your SAFe® implementation

A big part of my personal life revolves around motorcycles, specifically road racing and coaching. When I’m working with new racers or track riders who want to improve their skills, the first thing I do is ask them to complete this sentence: “Practice makes _____.”  Almost everyone says “perfect!” But usually, the opposite is true. When racers go out on the track and continue to repeat bad habits, such as not moving their eyes down-track or using poor body position, they simply cement the wrong technique, which is more difficult to correct later. I always teach riders to focus on learning the basics and build on these good techniques until they become permanent. We all start with the belief that practice makes perfect. However, if you practice the wrong things, the only thing you perfect is the wrong approach. (Note: I want to thank Nick Ienatsch from the Yamaha Champions Riding School (YCRS) for helping me see the importance of learning the right skills before starting to practice. Working with Nick and the crew at YCRS and ChampSchool taught me so much about the importance of getting the basics right.)

SAFe practice
The author coaches the basics in an off-track drill.

Switching sports metaphors, a favorite phrase from football coaches (Marv Levy may have been the first to use this) is to “learn how to do it right and then practice it until you never get it wrong.”  That’s how we bake in the right techniques, and where practice makes permanent is our ally.

When implementing SAFe®, it’s common to bring in old habits from your organization’s history. It’s hard to break free of these past practices but it’s even more difficult to change them once they’ve been brought into the transformation effort. There are many common anti-patterns that organizations practice and make permanent, including:

  • Multiple Program Backlogs (whether real or virtual) make it difficult for the teams or ART to focus on the most important thing to work on; this damages Lean flow due to context switching.
  • Leadership believing that their job is to direct work, which is in direct opposition to SAFe Principle 8 (unlock intrinsic motivation) and SAFe Principle 9 (decentralize decision-making).
  • Not using the IP iteration for its vital purpose to be a buffer for capacity and to support ongoing innovation, improvement, and synchronized planning.
  • Using PI planning as a readout of assigned plans, rather than allowing the teams to use team breakouts to discover the best plan to meet business needs.
  • Objectives given to the teams rather than teams creating their own objectives. When teams review the vision and roadmap and then create their own objectives, they gain engagement and alignment with business and Product Management to demonstrate they understand the value needed.

A common issue we see is organizations treating SAFe as a buffet where you can pick and choose what you implement and what you don’t. While SAFe is highly configurable and is not at all prescriptive, there are key elements that you must implement for real success. These 10 critical success factors are the basic components that you learn and practice until you never get them wrong.

This doesn’t mean that you must be perfect to start. Learning to implement SAFe correctly is just like learning to ride both fast and safe. You learn the proper techniques and continue to inspect and adapt until you get it right, then practice these techniques until they become instinctive. That’s when the speed comes.  The same concept applies to your SAFe implementation—learn the 10 critical success factors and practice them until they become instinctive. You will make mistakes along the way because getting these factors right takes time and effort. But if you continue to focus on these basics, they become part of the culture and the norm for your organization.  That’s when you experience the true value of a SAFe implementation.

Practice Makes Permanent Blog Series

In this blog series, I aim to share my experiences from the field in helping organizations master and apply good, basic, Lean-Agile and SAFe practices to promote successful SAFe implementation.

Upcoming topics I plan to cover include PI planning, the Program Backlog, and SAFe roles. My hope is that as part of this effort, you will be able to achieve business agility through the Lean-Agile mindset.

Read the next post in this series here.

About Dwayne Stroman

Dwayne is an Enterprise Transformation Coach and Trainer and SAFe Program Consultant Trainer

Dwayne is an Enterprise Transformation Coach and Trainer and SAFe Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) with more than 20 years of experience. He is ultra-passionate about helping large organizations learn how to build the right products and deliver optimal value through learning and customer validation. Dwayne uses his SPCT role to help several Fortune 100 companies, as well as many growing companies in finance, retail, healthcare, and logistics, realize the benefits of a Lean-Agile mindset. Connect with Dwayne on LinkedIn.

Meet the People Translating SAFe® for the World – Helping to Adopt SAFe

Globalization is an important growth strategy for Scaled Agile. Localization of SAFe content enables our customers worldwide to participate and learn in their own native language. And it helps drive the adoption of SAFe across international markets. 

We need several key ingredients to create a great global product. One of them is people. Since I started working at Scaled Agile, one of the most rewarding experiences was building a global SAFe In-country Review (ICR) team comprised of SAF SAFe experts —known as SPCs and SPCTs—from around the globe. All of them are highly experienced Agile coaches and transformation leaders who are changing the way people work in their respective countries. I’ve had the utmost pleasure of working closely with this team and I can tell you that they are fantastic people!

At Scaled Agile, translation quality, including that of our glossary, is critical. We don’t simply translate a term. We make sure every term has been discussed and thoroughly vetted by our passionate ICR team. Does the term or concept exist in the target language? If the concept can be translated in multiple ways, which one is most appropriate given the context? Do we use the traditional translation of the term or the anglicized version? Does the transliteration make sense instead? These are just a few examples of the questions that our ICR team addresses on a regular basis. 

After all, the glossary is an integral part of the learning experience. And we need to ensure that SAFe content is well-translated and of high quality. Thanks to our ICR team’s effort, the SAFe glossary is now available in 13 languages.

The holiday season is a perfect time for reflection. I’d like to take a moment to recognize the contribution of the ICR team and properly thank everyone who contributed. The list below includes past and current ICR team members (listed in alphabetical order by the first name). These individuals went above and beyond to contribute to the SAFe community by sharing their knowledge and devoting their time. They’re helping to make SAFe more accessible to learners worldwide.

Translating SAFe

I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to our special ICR team because we couldn’t have done it without you! I look forward to working with everyone in the new year as we will continue to update the SAFe glossary and focus on courseware translations. 

Wherever you are, whatever you are celebrating, I wish everyone a healthy, happy holiday season!

Interested in becoming an ICR? Please ›click here to learn more.

About Yuka Kurihara

Yuka Kurihara

Yuka is Director of Globalization Services at Scaled Agile, Inc. She has 20+ years of experience building corporate globalization strategies and leading localization technology and operations in enterprises of all sizes. Connect with Yuka on LinkedIn.


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Next: Aligning Global Teams Through Agile Program Management: A Case Study

Connecting OKRs, KPIs, OVSs, and DVSs – For Successful SAFe® Implementation

The title of my post may read like acronym soup but all of these concepts play a critical role in SAFe, and understanding how they’re connected is important for successful SAFe implementation. After exploring some connections, I will suggest some actions you can take while designing, evaluating, or accelerating your implementation.

KPIs and OKRs

The SAFe Value Stream KPIs article describes Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) as “the quantifiable measures used to evaluate how a value stream is performing against its forecasted business outcomes.

That includes:

  • Health of day-to-day performance
  • Work to create sustainable change in performance

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are meant to be about driving and evaluating change rather than maintaining the status quo. Therefore, they are a special kind of KPI. Objectives point towards the desired state. Key results measure progress towards that desired state. 

But how do these different concepts map to SAFe’s Operational Value Streams (OVSs) and Development Value Streams (DVSs)? And why should you care?

Changing and Improving the Operation

Like Strategic Themes, most OKRs point to the desired change in business performance. These OKRs would be the ones that company leadership cares about. And they would be advanced through the efforts of a DVS (or multiple ones). 

For example, if the business wants to move to a subscription/SaaS model, that’s a change in the operating model—a change in how the OVS looks and operates. That change is supported by the development of new systems and capabilities, which is work that will be accomplished by a DVS (or multiple ones). 

This view enables us to recognize the wider application of the DVS concept that we talk about in SAFe 5. Business agility means using Agile and SAFe constructs to develop any sort of changing the business needs, regardless of whether that change includes IT or technology.

Whenever we are trying to change our operation, there’s a question about how much variability we’re expecting around this change. Is there more known than the unknown? Or vice versa? Are we making this change in an environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity? If yes, then using a DVS construct that employs empiricism to seek the right answers to how to achieve the OKR is essential, regardless of how much IT or technology is involved. We might have an OKR that requires business change involving mainly legal, marketing, procurement, HR, and so on, that would still benefit from an Agile and SAFe DVS approach.

These OKRs would then find themselves elaborated and advanced through the backlogs and backlog items in the various ARTs and teams involved in this OKR. 

In some cases, an OKR would drive the creation of a focused DVS. This is the culmination of the Organize around Value Lean-Agile SAFe Principle. This is why Strategic Themes and OKRs should be an important consideration when trying to identify value streams and ARTs (in the Value Stream and ART identification workshop). And a significant new theme/OKR should trigger some rethinking of whether the current DVS network is optimally organized to support the new value creation goals set by the organization.

Maintaining the Health of the Operation

As mentioned earlier, maintaining the health of the operation is also tracked through KPIs. Here we expect stability and predictability in performance. It’s crucial work but it’s not what OKRs or Strategic Themes are about. 

This work can be simple, complex, or even chaotic depending on the domain. The desire of any organization is to bring its operation under as much control as possible and minimize variability as it makes sense in the business domain. What this means is that in many cases, we don’t need Agile and empiricism in order to actually run the operation. Lean and flow techniques can still be useful to create sustainable, healthy flow (see more in the Organizational Agility competency). 

Whenever people working in the OVS switch to improving the OVS (or in other words working on versus in the operation), they are, in essence, moving over implicitly to a DVS. 

Some organizations make this duality explicit by creating a DVS that involves a combination of people who spend some of their time in the OVS and some of their time working on it together with people who are focused on working on the OVS. For example, an orthopedic clinic network in New England created a DVS comprising clinicians, doctors, PAs, and billing managers (that work the majority of their time in the OVS) together with IT professionals. Major improvements to the OVS happen in this DVS.

Improving the Development Value Stream

The DVS needs to relentlessly improve and learn as well. Examples of OKRs in this space could be: improving time-to-market, as measured by improved flow time or by improving the predictability of business value delivered, as measured by improved flow predictability. It could also be: organize around value, measured by the number of dependencies and the reduction in the number of Solution Trains required. 

This is also where the SAFe transformation or Agile journey lives. There are ways to improve DVSs or the overall network of DVSs, creating a much-improved business capability to enhance its operation and advance business OKRs. 

Implementing OKRs in this space relates more to enablers in the SAFe backlogs than to features or capabilities. Again, these OKRs change the way the DVS works.

Running the Development Value Stream

Similar metrics can be used as KPIs that help maintain the health of the DVS on an ongoing basis. For example, if technical debt is currently under control, a KPI monitoring it might suffice and hopefully will help avoid a major technical debt crisis. If we weren’t diligent enough to avoid the crisis, an objective could be put in place to significantly reduce the amount of technical debt. Achieving a certain threshold for a tech debt KPI could serve as a key result (KR) for this objective. Once it’s achieved, we might leave the tech debt KPI in place to maintain health. 

It’s like continuing to monitor your weight after you’ve gone on a serious diet. During the diet, you have an objective of achieving a healthy weight with a KR tracking BMI and aiming to get below 25. After achieving your objective, you continue to track your BMI as a KPI.

Taking Action to Advance Your Implementation Using OKRs

In this blog post, we explored the relationship between operational and development value streams and the Strategic Themes and OKRs. We’ve seen OVS KPIs and OKRs as well as DVS OKRs and KPIs. 

A key step in accelerating business agility is to continually assess whether you’re optimally organized around value. OKRs can provide a very useful lens to use for this assessment. 

Start by reviewing your OKRs and KPIs and categorize them according to OVS/DVS/Change/Run.

You can use the matrix below.

Run-focused OKRs

If you find some OKRs on the left side of the matrix, it’s time to rethink. 

Run-focused OKRs should actually be described as KPIs. Discuss the difference and whether you’re actually looking for meaningful change to these KPIs (in which case it really can be an OKR—but make sure it is well described as one) or are happy to just maintain a healthy status quo. 

You can then consider your DVS network/ART/team topology. Is it sufficiently aligned with your OKRs/KPIs? Are there interesting opportunities to reorganize around value?

This process can also be used in a Value Stream Identification workshop for the initial design of the implementation or whenever you want to inspect and adapt it.

Find me on LinkedIn to learn more about making these connections in your SAFe context via an OKR workshop.

About Yuval Yeret

Yuval is a SAFe Fellow and the head of AgileSparks

Yuval is a SAFe Fellow and the head of AgileSparks (a Scaled Agile Partner) in the United States where he leads enterprise-level Agile implementations. He’s also the steward of The AgileSparks Way and the firm’s SAFe, Flow/Kanban, and Agile Marketing. Find Yuval on LinkedIn.


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Adopting ABC – AI, Big Data, and the Cloud

How the Business Agility Value Stream will prepare you to win in the post-digital economy with AI, big data, and the cloud.


At the 2021 Global SAFe Summit, Dean Leffingwell presented the idea that we are at the threshold of a new technological revolution. A post-digital economy that’s being driven by the adoption of ABC: artificial intelligence (AI), big data, and the cloud. Dean further explained how the Business Agility Value Stream (BAVS) creates a system that will allow businesses to rapidly react to the insights provided by ABC.

If you’re anything like me, listening to Dean’s talk generated many different ideas. In fact, several weeks passed before I went back and re-listened to the keynote to identify the core intent of the talk.

Those insights are what I’m sharing with you today: an understanding of the BAVS and how the concepts of ABC fit into the future of organizations using SAFe.

The Business Agility Value Stream

The value stream construct has been discussed in every version of SAFe dating back to SAFe 2.5 (2013). However, the conversation wasn’t top-of-mind until SAFe5 and the introduction of SAFe Lean-Agile Principle #10, Organize Around Value.

Now, and rightfully so, every organization that seeks to embrace SAFe is challenged to identify and optimize how value reaches the customer via their operational value streams (OVSs). We then challenge organizations to go a step further and optimize the relationship between the OVS, its supporting development value streams (DVSs), and the Agile Release Trains (ARTs) that realize them by considering complexities of the business architecture, technical architecture, and how the people who support the systems are dispersed. 

We do our best to support SAFe enterprises and SPCs in this difficult conversation with the Value Stream and ART Identification workshop, and the newly released Value Stream Mapping workshop (both are available on the SAFe Community Platform). Even with the assets and expert consulting available, changing and optimizing the system to focus on outcomes instead of outputs is no small undertaking. And for what purpose?

Though optimizing these value streams is a goal, we must also consider why optimized value streams are so important and what to do with them.

Enter the BAVS.

business agility stream

Powered by optimized OVSs and DVSs, the BAVS puts those charged with strategy in a position to: 

  • Sense market opportunities
  • Formulate a hypothesis to exploit the identified opportunity via the Lean Business Case
  • Gain alignment and approval to pursue an MVP through Lean Portfolio Management (LPM)
  • Organize around value by introducing the MVP to existing ARTs (or if needed, standing up a new ART)
  • Leverage the tools of Agile product management and design thinking
  • Develop a customer-focused solution
  • Deliver the MVP in 2–6 months via the continuous delivery pipeline
  • Monitor the solution in LPM to determine if the hypothesis holds true or needs to be reconsidered
  • Continue to deliver value and learn until the business opportunity has been fully leveraged

What is ABC?

With the system optimized and the BAVS in place, you are likely now left wondering how the enterprise is expected to sense emerging business opportunities. Though expertise and experience continue to play a role in how opportunities are addressed, we can no longer afford to guess where the next opportunity lies. Partly because an uninformed guess is full of risk to revenue, team stability, and market reputation, but mostly because uninformed guesses could rapidly destroy a business. In the post-digital economy, the amount of time required for an organization to recognize an opportunity, ruminate about how to address it, and then put the plan into action is far greater than the window of opportunity will remain open.

This is where ABC comes in—its three elements power the modern decision engine. 


There are bound to be some really cool applications for AI, but I suspect that the majority will be less dramatic than its portrayal in Hollywood. For many of our organizations, AI will be put to use to address customer service, mitigate fraud and other risks, optimize development processes, and identify emerging trends in data. In terms of the BAVS, when leveraged, AI will serve as the trigger that identifies market opportunities and threats that the BAVS will respond to through business insights, operational efficiencies, and intelligent customer solutions.

Big Data

For AI to work effectively, the algorithms require access to large amounts of data—the more the better. Fortunately, many companies have decades worth of historical data and are collecting more each day. The problem that many organizations are addressing is how to pool that data into an easily accessible common format, but that is a conversation for another day. 

Data is the answer. And for it to power organizations, it cannot be bound by organizational politics or structures. The key to enterprise success in the next digital age is in the organization’s data. We only need to ask the right questions of the data. 


With so much data and so much analysis required to make sense of it all, we are fortunate to live in the age of infinitely scalable infrastructure via the cloud. Imagine 15 years ago the amount of work required to bring 100 new CPUs online to address a complex problem. An undertaking of this magnitude would have required new servers, racks, bandwidth, electricity, and a facility to store the new hardware. It would have taken months to a year or longer to bring online.

Today, we can scale our infrastructure to nearly infinite capacity with the touch of a button, and descale it nearly as fast. We have the capacity (cloud), we have the resources (data), and we have the capability (AI) to win in the post-digital economy. The only thing that stands in the way of exploiting those elements is changing our system of work to keep pace.

What Will You Do with ABC?

The purpose of the Scaled Agile Framework is to help organizations thrive in this technological revolution and those that are sure to come. The mission of SAFe is to work differently and build the future. The path to achieving our mission and purpose is constantly evolving with the world of business and technology. Though we don’t claim to have all of the answers, we’re confident that we can provide the tools and intent to help organizations solve for their own unique context.

The BAVS is the latest evolution of a perspective that started nearly eight years ago with improving the delivery of technology to the enterprise. We’re excited to see what organizations do with ABC and how their BAVS delivers value and change to the world. Especially as all we do becomes more interconnected and the true possibilities of the near-limitless potential of people become more apparent.

About Adam Mattis

Adam Mattis is a SAFe Fellow and a SAFe® Program Consultant Trainer (SPCT) at Scaled Agile with many years of experience overseeing SAFe implementations across a wide range of industries. He’s also an experienced transformation architect, engaging speaker, energetic trainer, and a regular contributor to the broader Lean-Agile and educational communities. Learn more about Adam at adammattis.com.


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