9 Common Anti-Patterns when Implementing SAFe® (2024)

The number of individuals practicing SAFe®, the world's leading framework for business agility, has grown exponentially since its launch 10 years ago. It took 7 years to reach half a million trained, but only two years to double that number to 1 million, announced in 2021 SAFe summit.

9 Common Anti-Patterns when Implementing SAFe® (1)

The framework is practiced globally across all industries from government and healthcare to aerospace, automotive, and financial services. Over 20,000 enterprises have people trained in SAFe, and since 2017, multiple sources, including Gartner and Digital AI's State of Agile, report SAFe holding a commanding lead over any other scaling frameworks. In 2022, SAFe makes 53% of the response globally, while DIY framework has been dropping.

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BUT, the market share doesn't mean neither SAFe is well received nor it is easy to do, actually the biggest competitor is bad implementation.

Here're common mistakes

  1. lack of collaborative leadership and ownership result in lack of commitment & lack of understanding

there's a common trap when people see SAFe PI Planning, it feels so simple and right thing to do: "why not do the planning together? Go for it!

Guess what, it is not that simple because the magic of PI Planning is crystal clear alignment between strategy and execution, create predictability and trust, instead of looking into hoping magic will happen when you through money and people to a problem, that is not properly understood in the first place. The attendance of business owner is non-negotiable.

Some may say, I have some other priorities and meetings and can't attend PI, just think that for a second:

"are you telling the teams that the company is spending the effort of 50 to 125 people for 8-12 weeks work, and you don't even bother to join?! What happens if there is change of scope or important decision to make during PI Planning"?

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The important question is:

What are the most important priority and expected business outcome? How to measure if it is successful?

It shouldn't be IT or transformation who gives order, but rather real business owner(s) themselves, leaders who are accountable for the results, and he or she needs to be there either virtually or physically.

According to the book "extreme ownership", as a leader, you must fully understand and believe in a mission, before you can convince others to embrace it and lead them to do what’s needed to succeed. A true leader takes 100% ownership in his/her domain, including the outcome and everything that affects it.

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Great leaders ensure there’s a sound planning process that includesmission clarity, evaluation of options and risks, engagement of all levels, post-action debrief, and systematization of the planning process.

Great leaders prioritize the wider mission over their personal ego. They’re willing to learn, accept good ideas from others, and own up to their mistakes. They also of manage their team members’ egos to keep everyone focused on the team mission.

2. skip value stream resulting in lack of alignment & clarity on expected business outcome

One of the core value of SAFe is alignment, naturally in large organization different departments have different goals, incentives and challenges wish how to solve them. your organization needs to make sure everyone involved to the ART is working together, engaged in synchronized work and active collaboration, and not working at cross-purposes. There're many reasons of misalignment such as lack of psychological safety, lack of clarity.

Therefore before launching the train, it is critical to spend the time and go through value stream workshop with involved stakeholders, to visualize and align clear expectations from each other, how value flow through the departments and how people contribute to the flow of value.

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3. Agile Release Train not organized around value without common goal

Still today many organizations believe by introducing agile processes, roles and events will make agility magically appear, but rather, leaders that create holding environment and incentives to organize around value, ensure aligned autonomy with vision to drive problem solving through decentralized decision making with knowledge workers, rapidly inspect and adapt.

Senior executives don't care which agile framework to use but their language is: result, result, result with speed. Well, you can not force people to work more, or work faster, instead, organize around value to identify waste, reduce hand-overs and accelerate flow of value by forming cross functional agile release trains, as shown below.

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4. map SAFe roles and responsibilities to hierarchy

There is a common critic that SAFe is using hierarchy to organize work rather than self-organized teams, well, things are not always what they seem to appear.

It is not uncommon that "true agilest" are critical to SAFe. They complain about the framework as being just another hierarchy, far from what they think is Agile. And, of course, many implementations of SAFe do follow traditional decision patterns, where Agile teams are merely executing on predefined solutions instead of being creative value creators.

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However, SAFe should not be viewed as a traditional hierarchy. It is all about synchronizing and aligning a large organization based on how knowledge, value, competence and organizational decision making approach, where work on different levels is required to guide and facilitate many teams.

Dean Leffingwell. In this original definition, he says, "The Agile Release Train largely manages itself; we don't ‘program manage’ it. However, we do have to facilitate and manage the process effectively".

There's no ART leadership, or ART management team, but rather a group of people who work as servant leader to the agile release train to encourage collaboration and ensure flow of information, manage by exception.

5. Taking shortcuts on change management

The brain likes what it already knows. If you've never had the chance to watchThe Backwards Brain Bicycle, then please watch it now before reading on.

It amazed me to see when people thinking transformation is about changing people, well, how often have you tried to convince your partner or family member about changing themselves? Does it work? Ok, it might work few times, but imagine to multiply that question to a whole organization with thousands of people who have diversified background, can you really change each one of them? By the way, clock is ticking there's not much time while you are trying to change everyone.

So the point is not trying to change people, but rather change the context to encourage collaboration and see the bigger picture with change of behavior incremental, so that the habit of collaboration grows

In SAFe, the implementation plan is deeply embedded into the work that a SPC or change agent is suppose to do, don't overload people but rather help them on the journey (more details here) and understand where they are. Every transformation in enterprise, if not treated with care, can fail miserably, change management plays an important role. So follow the book here.

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6. blindly follow the book

wait a second, "did you just say that we need to follow the implementation roadmap, and now you say 'don't follow the book', isn't this contradicting?"

Not ready, because there're "context dependent" or "context free" cases, in the context free case, do as the book says, such as implementation, in the "context dependent" cases, you need to adjust based on the situation of an organization, rather than copy paste from another company, which might have entirely different services, corporate culture, decision making approach, products and services, which will not work by blindly following the book.

Especially keep the agile principle of Simplicity in mind and not create over-complicated solution, events or roles that have no meeting to be there in the first place. Don't force people to provide status updates if there're no problem to solve, as long as they should regular iteration review with customers and users.

In many occasions SAFe actually doesn’t tell you precisely what to do, this may sound crazy but true: sometimes it is not comprehensive enough, this is when you always keep the value and principles in mind, which sets some guidelines to think about as you figure out what makes sensein your context.

7. wishful thinking that skills and competence is available

While agile gave teams control over their way of working, many people did not have a basic understanding of Agile values & principles, events & practices. This resulted in teams iterating through process tweaks in blind hope of finding the combination that would help them improve their delivery. People lacked a common language to effectively discuss the process problems, the education to solve them, and the experience to evaluate performance.

Adding events, processes and artifacts without looking into existing as-is, can easily overload leaders and participants of the ART, getting confused about what we are trying to achieve, and lose self-motivation due to lack of direction and help.

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8. forcing people into agile release train or solution trains

Recently a friend from a Switzerland based company contacted me: "do I need to attend the full PI planning for 2 days, even I have nothing to do with other teams, isn't this waste of time?"

My response was, did you coach or trainer "explain to you the idea of development value stream and team topologies?" He said no. unfortunately it's not uncommon that teams, who are perfectly capable of managing their own backlogs and deliverables, are dragged to PI Planning.

well, everyone who have attended "Leading SAFe" or "SAFe for Teams" would know, that there're 4 types of teams, and 3 interaction modes, depending on the way how they are organized, visualize the value stream and understand how demand flows through so that the interaction is most effective and not blindly follow every single SAFe events, even 90% might be irrelevant. As a matter of fact, the more deployment team can do themselves, the better it is to keep it that way.

9. manage dependencies rather than creating conditions to eliminate them

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The more dependencies, the less chances the feature/stories will be done by the end of an iteration. Thus, the more time it takes for the feature on average to go from Program Backlog queue to the market (cycle time).As a result, agility is reduced because the organization is challenged to deliver potential value to the market quickly.This causes organizational stress. While it is easy to say "don't manage dependencies, eliminate dependencies", or "upskill people to T-shaped" or "improve decoupling of application design", in practice, until a team can change, deploy, run and maintain applications in a loosely decoupled environment, pragmatic approaches are required to solve the problems around dependencies, therefore it's important to continuously improve Business/Technical strategy on architectural design, know-how / expertise sharing of people, invest in DevOps and release management, they can all contribute to need of managing dependencies.

To summarize:

first principle of SAFe is "take an economic view", eliminate your dependency, descale whenever possible, however if there's a large endeavor SAFe can help, especially in large complex organizations, but when you are implementing it, be aware this is a change management journey:

change is hard, but nothing worth doing is ever easy. Changing an organization's habits and culture is like moving mountains, a lot of them. Leaders and people resist change, they won't begin to change until you really see there's benefit to continue, When things go wrong, quickly understand why, inspect and adapt, acknowledge it's part of the journey but be sure getting better next time, step by step, stay laser focus on satisfying the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software/solutions, because at the end of the day, SAFe is not the goal, rather business outcome.


  1. Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win (New Edition)
  2. Scaled Agile Framework
  3. Digital AI's 16th State of Agile Report
  4. Henrik Kniberg: Spotify Engineer Culture
  5. https://qualityandinnovation.com/2019/02/20/lack-of-alignment-disease-symptoms/
  6. https://www.andrewmyersart.com/things-are-not-always-what-they-seem/
  7. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/safe-new-hierarchy-mats-janemalm/
  8. https://www.jeremiahlee.com/posts/failed-squad-goals/#collaboration-is-a-competency
  9. https://www.internships.com/career-advice/search/no-relevant-experience
  10. https://www.emagiz.com/en/blogs-en/digital-transformation-in-hybrid-it-landscapes/
  11. Digital Tango
9 Common Anti-Patterns when Implementing SAFe® (2024)


What are anti-patterns in SAFe? ›

The anti-pattern

A very common anti-pattern in PI Planning is when teams focus on one iteration at a time, attempting to create a solid plan for iteration one, followed by a deep dive in iteration two, and so on. This is dangerous because we're not seeing the big picture of the whole PI.

What are the common anti-patterns during program increment PI planning? ›

7 sins of Agile PI Planning, most common anti-patterns.
  • Product management does not provide a vision or roadmap. ...
  • Planning tasks for the IP Sprint. ...
  • Features considered as objectives. ...
  • Load in Sprints equals the capacity. ...
  • Business value — 10 for all. ...
  • Averaging the confidence vote. ...
  • Omitting planning retrospective.
May 19, 2022

What are the anti-patterns for Agile testing? ›

8 Anti-patterns Damaging Your Team and How to Avoid Them
  • Miscommunication. ...
  • Unclear Requirements and Scope Creep. ...
  • Scope Stretching. ...
  • Scrum Master Acts as Team Lead. ...
  • Scrum Master Avoids Conflict and Doesn't Like to be Challenged. ...
  • Sprint Backlog Being Regularly Changed Mid-Sprint.
Jan 3, 2022

What are famous anti-patterns? ›

They generally also add "technical debt" - which is code you have to come back and fix properly later. The six anti-patterns I will discuss in this article are Spaghetti Code, Golden Hammer, Boat Anchor, Dead Code, Proliferation of Code and the God Object.

Which of these are anti-patterns? ›

Anti Patterns at Daily Scrum
  • Noise from Outside. The Daily Scrum is open to all the stakeholders, where the team members discuss their progress in the Sprint. ...
  • Discussing work in details. ...
  • Current Problems. ...
  • Skipping Daily Scrum. ...
  • Not preparing for the meeting.

What is considered an anti-pattern? ›

An antipattern is just like a pattern, except that instead of a solution, it gives something that looks superficially like a solution but isn't one. Anti-patterns are the opposite of best practice, which is a solution that has been proven to be effective.

What are the scrum anti-patterns? ›

The following are Scrum Master antipatterns that may impair your team:
  • Excessive Tailoring. ...
  • Complacent with Status Quo. ...
  • Solves Problems for Others. ...
  • Competes Against Other Teams. ...
  • Avoids Conflict. ...
  • Follows the Same Retrospective Format Every Sprint. ...
  • Does Not Like to be Challenged/Questioned. ...
  • Assign Tasks to Team Members.

What are some deployment anti-patterns? ›

4 DevOps Antipatterns and How to Break Them
  • Wrong Perception of Your DevOps Team. The perception you have of your DevOps team matters. ...
  • Poor Choice of Technology. ...
  • Unclear Responsibilities in Teams. ...
  • Wrong or No Code Deployment.
Dec 1, 2020

What is anti-pattern in PMP? ›

Anti-patterns are worst practices. They are common solutions to common problems that aren't really solutions at all. They cause more issues than they solve. Allowing them to creep into your development or managerial ranks will lead to long-term ill effects and the need to unlearn many bad habits.

What are two typical anti-patterns with Product Owner? ›

Nevertheless, some Product Owner anti-patterns during the Daily Scrum may be as follows: Planning meeting: The PO hijacks the Daily Scrum to discuss new requirements, refine new work items, or have a micro (Sprint) planning meeting. The talkative PO: The Product Owner actively participates in the Daily Scrum.

What are some anti-patterns of DevOps? ›

Top 10 DevOps Anti-Patterns – enov8
  • Anti-Pattern 1: DevOps Is Merely Merging Development and Operations Teams (DevOps Anti-Patterns) ...
  • Anti-Pattern 2: Agile and DevOps Are the Same. ...
  • Anti-Pattern 3: DevOps Is All About the Tools. ...
  • Anti-Pattern 4: You Need a Dedicated DevOps Team. ...
  • Anti-Pattern 5: DevOps Is Only About Automation.

Are there different types of patterns? ›

There are 3 types of pattern: Shape Pattern. Letter Pattern. Number Pattern.

What is an anti-pattern give an example and briefly explain the same? ›

A pattern is an idea of how to solve a problem of some class. An anti-pattern is an idea of how not to solve it because implementing that idea would result in bad design. An example: a "pattern" would be to use a function for code reuse, an "anti-pattern" would be to use copy-paste for the same.

What causes anti-patterns? ›

The main reasons that antipatterns spread are:
  • Inexperience.
  • Unreadable code.
  • Cut-and-paste development.

What is anti-pattern in testing? ›

What is anti-pattern testing? Its standard testing anti-pattern is hardcoding test data into scripts, automated tests, and production code. Developers tend to create static test cases by writing in specific values or expected results in the code too early before a system has been deployed.

What is hard code anti-pattern? ›

Hard coding requires the program's source code to be changed any time the input data or desired format changes, when it might be more convenient to the end user to change the detail by some means outside the program. Hard coding is often required, but can also be considered an anti-pattern.

What is the N 1 anti-pattern? ›

The N+1 antipattern happens when a query is executed for every result of a previous query. If left unchecked, N+1 queries result in the gradual slowdown of the performance of an application, as they result in multiple expensive trips to the database.

What are big stories considered an anti-pattern? ›

Question: why are big stories considered anti-pattern they make it difficult to apply iterative development they do not support pair work they make it difficult to estimate compliance efforts they make it difficult to estimate testing efforts.

What are architectural anti-patterns? ›

• “An AntiPattern describes a commonly occurring. solution to a problem that generates decidedly negative consequences.” • Happens because an architect… - Does not have sufficient knowledge or experience. solving a particular problem.

What is an example of anti-pattern in software engineering? ›

In software engineering, anti-patterns include the big ball of mud (lack of) design; the God Class (where a single class handles all control in a program rather than control being distributed across multiple classes); and Poltergeists (ephemeral controller classes that only exist to invoke other methods on classes).

What are design anti-patterns? ›

“An anti-pattern is a common response to a recurring problem that is usually ineffective and risks being highly counterproductive.” Note the reference to “a common response.” Anti-patterns are not occasional mistakes, they are common ones, and are nearly always followed with good intentions.

What anti-patterns can emerge during the scrum of scrums? ›

In conclusion, the anti-pattern that can emerge during the Scrum of Scrums is when Scrum Masters report on the teams' task status each day. Instead, the focus should be on identifying and addressing risks and impediments collaboratively between teams to ensure a successful program or project.

What are the 8 stances of a Scrum Master? ›

As a Scrum Master, I'll try to be a servant-leader, facilitator, coach, conflict navigator, manager, mentor, teacher, impediment remover, and change agent.

What are the 8 preferred stances of a Scrum Master? ›

This white paper contains Professional Scrum Trainer Barry Overeem's personal experiences acting as a Scrum Master and the 8 stances he's documented with an in-depth perspective: The Scrum Master as a Servant Leader, Facilitator, Coach, Manager, Mentor, Teacher, Impediment Remover, and Change Agent.

What is the sprint goal anti-pattern? ›

Sprint Planning Anti-Patterns of the Scrum Master

The Product Owner is responsible for the business objective of the upcoming Sprint. They hence need to guide the Scrum team's effort during Product Backlog refinement to provide an appropriately prepared, actionable Product Backlog before the actual Sprint Planning.

What are the 4 deployment environments? ›

The major deployment environments used in software development are production, staging, UAT, development, and preview environments (or in other words, ephemeral environments").

Which anti-pattern could affect microservices? ›

Anti-patterns in Microservices (Don't Do These)
  • 1: Not Just Your Code. A common anti-pattern in microservices is thinking that microservices deal with just code and nothing else. ...
  • 2: Avoiding the Monolith. ...
  • 3: Versioning, or Lack Thereof. ...
  • 4: Too Much at Once.
Jun 30, 2022

How do you deal with Antipatterns in scrum? ›

The solution is to focus on the evolution and training of the Product Owner and the Scrum Master so they fully understand their roles and how to function. This doesn't just mean understanding the rules of Scrum, but also functioning in a more evolved way – a way that develops the people around them.

Which is a scrum retrospective anti-pattern? ›

From my perspective, the top three Sprint Retrospective anti-patterns are: not making the Retrospective a safe place, forcing team members to participate in an exercise they consider a waste of their time, and not taking the Retrospective seriously in the first place.

Is mediator an anti-pattern? ›

Most people think that the Product Owner being the one-point-contact (mediator) to talk to stakeholders is a great way of reducing wastage and unnecessary discussions. While, apparently it might look like a helpful pattern but actually it turns out to be an anti-pattern .

What are the 5 stances of Product Owner? ›

The preferred Stances are The Visionary, The Collaborator, The Customer Representative, The Decision Maker, The Experimenter, and The Influencer.

Which design pattern is also called anti-pattern? ›

The most well-known anti-pattern is the spaghetti code. There is little to no structure in the code. A programme or system with spaghetti code appears to have very little software structure.

What is the difference between a pattern and an anti-pattern? ›

Anti-Pattern is a counter word used to describe Patterns. In this, pattern that is frequently used but is ineffective to a problem and has gone wrong is called anti-pattern. Anti-Pattern is used mostly as viable solution to a problem but due to some reasons in gets wrong.

Is repository an anti-pattern? ›

A generic repository is a type that comprises of a set of generic methods for performing CRUD operations. However, it's just another anti pattern and is used frequently with Entity Framework to abstract calls to the data access layer.

What are the 4 key components of DevOps? ›

Key components of DevOps lifecycle
  • Continuous development. ...
  • Continuous integration. ...
  • Continuous testing. ...
  • Continuous deployment. ...
  • Continuous monitoring. ...
  • Continuous feedback. ...
  • Continuous operations.
Mar 27, 2023

What are the 9 patterns? ›

9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, 81, 90, 99, 108. After listing the multiples of nine up to 108, we added the digits of each multiple and discovered that each answer was equal to 9 (with 99; 9 + 9 = 18; then 1 + 8 = 9).

What are the nine 9 natural patterns? ›

Natural patterns include symmetries, trees, spirals, meanders, waves, foams, tessellations, cracks and stripes.

What are the 4 types of patterns? ›

It involves the study of different patterns. There are different types of patterns, such as number patterns, image patterns, logic patterns, word patterns etc.

What is the usage of anti-patterns? ›

AntiPatterns effectively describe the measures that can be taken at several levels to improve the developing of applications, the designing of software systems, and the effective management of software projects.

Are exceptions an anti-pattern? ›

According to many references like here and here, using Exceptions to control application flow is an anti-pattern that is not recommended. (Because of performance issues, Less readable and etc).

Are dark patterns the same as anti-patterns? ›

In contrast to patterns, an anti-pattern (sometimes also written 'antipattern') presents a solution that is proven not to work for solving a particular problem. A dark pattern describes a design solution intended to trick or otherwise deceive the user.

How do you overcome patterns? ›

How to Break Out of Patterns
  1. List down the past 5–10 times you have been in such a situation. ...
  2. List down the factors for each situation that led to the outcome. ...
  3. Identify the commonalities across the factors. ...
  4. Drill down into the cause of the factors. ...
  5. Identify action steps to address the cause.

What is anti-pattern in cyber security? ›

An antipattern, just like a software design pattern, is a structured narrative. Design patterns focus on solutions whereas antipatterns focus on commonly recurring problems and then address the problems with one or more candidate solutions.

What are anti-patterns scrum values? ›

Scrum Anti Patterns During the Sprint Retrospective
  • Getting Personal. Bringing out personal ill feelings and disaffection while reflecting on the faced issues can never lead to anything productive. ...
  • Rushing or Skipping Retro. ...
  • No Actions Taken. ...
  • Snitching. ...
  • Lack of Openness.
Dec 13, 2022

What anti-patterns can emerge during the scrum of Scrums? ›

In conclusion, the anti-pattern that can emerge during the Scrum of Scrums is when Scrum Masters report on the teams' task status each day. Instead, the focus should be on identifying and addressing risks and impediments collaboratively between teams to ensure a successful program or project.

How do you deal with Antipatterns in Scrum? ›

The solution is to focus on the evolution and training of the Product Owner and the Scrum Master so they fully understand their roles and how to function. This doesn't just mean understanding the rules of Scrum, but also functioning in a more evolved way – a way that develops the people around them.

What are the 5 types of value Scrum? ›

What are the five Scrum values? The five Scrum values are commitment, focus, openness, respect, and courage. In Scrum methodology, these values serve as a guide for individual and team behavior, intending to boost collaboration and increase the odds of project success.

Which is a Scrum retrospective anti-pattern? ›

From my perspective, the top three Sprint Retrospective anti-patterns are: not making the Retrospective a safe place, forcing team members to participate in an exercise they consider a waste of their time, and not taking the Retrospective seriously in the first place.

What are the anti-patterns of DevOps? ›

Top 10 DevOps Anti-Patterns – enov8
  • Anti-Pattern 1: DevOps Is Merely Merging Development and Operations Teams (DevOps Anti-Patterns) ...
  • Anti-Pattern 2: Agile and DevOps Are the Same. ...
  • Anti-Pattern 3: DevOps Is All About the Tools. ...
  • Anti-Pattern 4: You Need a Dedicated DevOps Team. ...
  • Anti-Pattern 5: DevOps Is Only About Automation.


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