A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding The Four SAFe Core Values

Dive into SAFe's four pivotal principles shaping modern software engineering. Learn how they simplify workflows, boost quality, and drive successful agile transformations.

A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding The Four SAFe Core Values

Software development isn't just about pushing lines of code. It's also about understand the values that drive the code, the teams, and the entire workflow. These principles are the guiding lights that help navigate the challenges in software engineering. Here's where the four core values of SAFe step in.

The four SAFe core values — alignment, built-in quality, transparency, and program execution — enable you to achieve scaled agility by enhancing collaboration, increasing visibility, and improving project execution.

In this article, we’ll help you understand what SAFe is, its benefits, the SAFe core values, and strategies for implementation. We’ll explore how these values provide a framework for aligning your efforts with strategic goals, emphasizing quality from the outset, fostering transparency in communication and progress, and executing programs efficiently.

What Is SAFe?

Scaling agile framework is a set of processes, principles and workflow patterns that helps enterprises scale their lean and agile practices. It offers a structured approach to developing, delivering, and managing complex solutions to execute large projects. To provide a seamless experience for software development, SAFe combines proven agile methods and techniques to create a plan that helps meet customer expectations.

According to McKinsey & Company, companies that successfully embrace enterprise agility can improve their financial performance by 20-30%. It results in improved operational performance, customer satisfaction, and employee engagement.

However, due to the complexity of scaling agile principles across large software teams and departments, organizations face multiple problems while implementing SAFe. Here’s how adopting the SAFe core values helps address these challenges:

  • Complicated organizational structures and sizes make it difficult to adopt SAFe. These core values help coordinate multiple teams and align their work with broader business objectives.
  • It recognizes the need for a cultural shift within the organization and provides guidance to facilitate a sudden transition from legacy systems to agile principles.
  • Strong leadership support and involvement are essential to fully embrace these practices. The framework defines leadership roles and responsibilities to ensure active participation and guidance from leaders throughout the adoption process.
  • Comprehensive training programs include various certifications to train and upskill employees at all levels, bridging the expertise gap during SAFe implementation.
  • It helps integrate SAFe with existing processes, tools, and workflows by providing strategies for making necessary adjustments or replacements to align better with agile principles.

Benefits of Implementing SAFe

Organizations looking to scale agile principles and lean practices across their enterprise can highly benefit from SAFe implementation. Here are some key advantages:

Faster Time to Market

You can expedite decision-making to quickly deliver valuable services to your audience and meet customer requirements. The framework facilitates shorter development cycles, frequent releases, and continuous product delivery. This helps capitalize on opportunities and gain a competitive edge.

Increased Productivity

Agile practices break work into smaller, manageable tasks, fostering collaboration and simplifying day-to-day tasks.

By implementing the SAFe core values, you can promote efficient collaboration and cooperation among team members. This provides everybody with a clear understanding of the product plan and the ability to execute it properly. It also helps avoid unnecessary workloads and delays, increasing overall productivity.

Improved Quality

With continuous testing, inspection, and validation throughout the development process, you can develop higher-quality products and reduce defects. It also ensures you don’t compromise quality in the pursuit of speed to meet customer expectations.

SAFe encourages using metrics to track and measure the quality of work. Software teams can use these metrics to identify areas where quality may be lacking and take corrective actions accordingly.

Higher Customer and Employee Engagement

SAFe enables customers to get involved in the development process by regularly incorporating their reviews and suggestions. These reviews help you understand what and where you need to make improvements. This way, engineering teams can ensure the product aligns with customer needs and preferences, enhancing customer engagement.

Additionally, agile principles cultivate a sense of ownership among team members. This can lead to higher employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall productivity.

Better Flexibility and Adaptability

SAFe's agile principles enable organizations to identify and eliminate inefficiencies to adapt quickly to changing market conditions and customer demands. Also, integrating customer feedback ensures you keep your products and services aligned with evolving customer needs.

The Four Core Values of SAFe

The SAFe core values are fundamental to the SAFe framework, guiding organizations to scale agile and lean practices effectively and achieve better business outcomes.


This core value aligns all organizational levels, from teams to leadership, to ensure they work toward the same goals and objectives. It encourages cross-functional collaboration between stakeholders and production teams. Developer teams working together helps break down silos, enhance communication, and ultimately improve decision-making processes.

To achieve proper alignment, engineering managers must clearly explain workflows and tasks to decision-makers, distribute roles and responsibilities, and set expectations for the execution team.

Built-in Quality

Maintaining quality is the foundation of any business and the key to ensuring customer satisfaction. This step emphasizes the value of focusing on quality at every step of the product development lifecycle. You must incorporate quality practices right from the beginning of the process rather than treating it as an afterthought.

Adopting this SAFe core value can enable your organization to remain relevant and stand out from the crowd. You can strive for technical excellence and build robust designs to minimize defects and improve product reliability.


Transparency is one of the most crucial ingredients in the recipe for an organization’s success. It makes information about work, progress, and impediments visible and accessible to all stakeholders. Doing so promotes open communication, trust, and shared understanding.

This step helps identify issues early, make informed decisions and adjustments as needed, and reduce the risk of misunderstanding and delays. It creates a healthy work environment built around trust and loyalty, resulting in satisfied and productive team members.

Program Execution

The entire product lifecycle revolves around generating a reliable product to achieve valuable outcomes, placing this SAFe core value at the heart of the development process. It helps deliver customers value through automated testing, agile release trains and value streams.

For successful product delivery, managers must hold inspect and adapt sessions and meetings to break down mistakes and accomplishments, helping teams conclude them easily. It promotes accountability and empowers teams to make decisions about delivering value.

Things to Consider While Implementing SAFe

Implementing the scaled agile framework effectively requires you to adhere to several best practices to ensure a successful transformation. Here are some key things to consider:

  • Prioritize Economic Factors: Start by understanding the economic factors driving your organization's goals and decisions. Align SAFe initiatives with the organization's financial objectives to prioritize value delivery based on economic considerations.
  • Embrace System-Wide Thinking: Analyze your organization as a system with interdependent parts. Identify bottlenecks, dependencies, and areas for improving the system's overall performance.
  • Adapt to Uncertainty: Remember that the business environment is uncertain and dynamic. You must develop adaptive strategies and plans that can evolve as conditions change.
  • Build Incrementally: Develop solutions step-by-step based on agile and lean principles. It allows for early feedback and helps adapt to changing requirements.
  • Assess Systems Objectively: Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) and metrics to objectively assess the performance and effectiveness of your SAFe implementation. This enables you to leverage data-driven insights for informed decision-making.
  • Deliver in Small Batches: Embrace small batch sizes for work items to reduce lead time and increase efficiency. You can implement continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices to enable frequent, small releases.
  • Apply Cadence: Implement regular, time-boxed cadences such as program increment (PI) planning, iteration planning, and retrospectives. Cadences create a predictable rhythm for software teams and ensure alignment.
  • Motivate Employees: You must also empower engineering teams by giving them autonomy and ownership over their work. This helps foster a culture that encourages creativity, innovation, and a sense of purpose.
  • Decentralize Decision-Making: Distribute decision-making authority to the teams closest to the work. This lean mindset empowers developer teams to make better decisions on tasks related to their expertise. And you can involve leaders in only making strategically critical choices.


The SAFe core values serve as the guiding principles for successful agile transformations at scale. Embracing these values allows engineering teams, leaders, managers, and developers to better navigate the complexities of large-scale agile implementations, adapt to changing landscapes, and deliver more value to customers while fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

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