Loading...

SAFe: a collection of comments from leading experts – Part 2

Image from BrownSafe.com Antique Vault Doors

This below is a collection of comments about SAFe from 10 leading experts in Leadership, Management, Tech & Agile and 10 co-authors of the Manifesto of Agile Software Development. This collection is periodically updated as new info become available. Feels free to copy and distribute this post as you please.


<< Go back to Part 1
(7 more leading experts, 3 more Manifesto co-authors)


Mary Poppendieck, December 2019

Mary Poppendieck started her career as a process control programmer, moved on to manage the IT department of a manufacturing plant, and then ended up in product development, where she was both a product champion and department manager.

She is the co-author, with his husband Tom Poppendieck, of the award-winning book Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit. A seminal book for the Agile community that translates the lean manufacturing principles and practices to the software development domain. She is the author of several other successful books and she is a world renewed speaker.

About SAFe she comments here, referring to the slide above (Questions about Agile / SAFe, from the U.S. Air Force CSO Nicolas M. Chaillan):

<< I am often asked what I think about scaled agile frameworks. This slide does a good job of summing up my viewpoint, except for the last point. We need more research on how successful large companies coordinate the work of small autonomous teams to achieve larger goals. >>

The point she disagrees with is this:
– Looking to coordinate your Product Owners’ work? Multiple models exist such as Scrum of Scrums etc. This shouldn’t impact the developers.

Brian Marick and Jon Kern, July 2019

Brian Marick is a programmer and software testing consultant. He is also a co-author of the Agile Manifesto and former chair of the Agile Alliance.

Jon Kern is an aerospace engineer-turned programmer, software architect, and team leader/coach with a focus on methodology and business value. He is also a co-author of the Agile Manifesto.

Brian asked for a comment about SAFe candidly says here “I don’t know enough about SAFe to have an opinion.”

Jon asked for the same comments says here that he want to witness a company doing SAFe before commenting.

The comments on SAFe collected here are indeed from people that speak out of their knowledge and experience and are not afraid to admit when they don’t know enough about a subject to comment on it.

Mike Beedle, January 2017

Mile Beedle was an American theoretical physicist turned software engineer. and he was the author of the first book and earliest papers about Scrum. He was also a co-author and a signatory of the Agile Manifesto.

He wrote that “S_Fe is not Agile”, and he added, “There are many other better choices”. He articulated how SAFe in particular and the Agile Train Releases concept, violate all the values in the Agile Manifesto. A copy of his original post is included in this post.

Alistair Cockburn, 2016

Alistair Cockburn is a methodologist, the creator of Crystal Clear and the Crystal family, and more recently he launched the Heart of Agile movement. He is also a co-author and one of the 17 original signatories of the Agile Manifesto.

During a meetup in London in June 2016 (video from minute 35) he suggested that the money and time spent on installing SAFe could produce much better results when spent instead on improving collaboration and delivery that in turn would move the company attitude and behaviour some distance. He added at that point that he stopped defending SAFe because he thinks there is a better spend of the money.

Jeff Sutherland, 2015

Jeff Sutherland, with Ken Schwaber and others, is one of the creators of the Scrum, and a co-author of The Scrum Guide.
He is also a co-author and one of the 17 original signatories of the Agile Manifesto.

In this article that discusses scaling and Scrum, Jeff Sutherland writes:

<< Scaling: More scaling frameworks come-online everyday. Most I find overly prescriptive and limited in their efficacy. While frameworks like SAFe might be a starting place for companies who do not understand Agile, they are inconsistent with the Scrum guide and codify disfunction that can cripple teams for years. >>

See also: Remove References To Scrum From SAFe!

Martin Fowler, 2014

Martin Fowler is Chief Scientist in ThoughtWorks, so you can imagine that the view of ThoughtWorks on SAFe, also documented here, is congruent with his view. He is also a co-author and one of the 17 original signatories of the Agile Manifesto.

Colourfully, during a panel at the GOTO conference, he jokes saying “SAFe stands for the Shitty Agile For Enterprises, as my friend calls it.”

Dave Snowden, 2014

David John Snowden, a researcher in the field of knowledge management, creator of the Cynefin framework applied in software development and management science, says that SAFe employs ordered world approaches to solve complex problems, and because of that it’s a-priori wrong, wrong in principle.

As a result, SAFe is a backwards not a forwards move. Even more, he says that SAFe “is a massive retrograde step”

Read Dave’s article about SAFe: Is it SAFe?

Commenting to this article Dave adds:

“People keep railing against it because it is a backwards not a forwards move. The fact that it’s a pyramid selling scheme for accreditation and training is a commercial success does not validate it, any more than people voting for Donald Trump validates narrow-minded bigotry. The Agile community needs to face up to the need to improve delivery rather than make money from accreditation in large rollouts that are not (and will not) be sustained. Just like Sick Stigma and others, the big roll out is an excuse to do nothing real and just carry on as before.”

Ken Schwaber, 2013

Ken Schwaber, is a software developer and product manager. He worked with Jeff Sutherland to formulate the initial versions of the Scrum. He is also a co-author and one of the 17 original signatories of the Agile Manifesto.

In a blog post, he equates SAFe with RUP that is an old heavyweight methodology that is worlds apart from Agile.

See also: Remove References To Scrum From SAFe!

Barry W. Boehm, 2012

Barry W. Boehm is a prominent American software engineer and author of the COCOMO costing model and the Spiral Model software process. He comments on the approach embraced by SAFe: “Tailoring-down all-inclusive methods lead to unnecessary expenses in time and resources”, and he adds that it’s the opposite of the Agile approach. (FYI I couldn’t find the original article reporting these quotes, my search concludes that the most probable source of the quotes is the book Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed).

You may also like:

Case studies of unsuccessful adoptions of Agile at scale

Video: The problems of scaled agile frameworks and SAFe

How large successful companies achieved agility at scale

Agile at scale generative principles


Turbocharge your scaling initiative.


See how we can help.
You, your team, your organisation.