Iterating faster with SAFe

Yuval Yeret
3 min readNov 30, 2021

Here’s a frequently asked question in the SAFe community: I wanted to understand what SAFe says about someone who wants to go faster than 2 weeks of iteration? I mean the whole PI concept is based on 5 iterations worth of planning. What if a team/organization wants to develop and synchronize faster than 2 weeks? Is speed going to be compromised by following the standards of PI cadence?

Here’s my take:

Adjusting Cadence Length in SAFe — Can you? Should you?

SAFe considers the 2-week iteration length as a default rather than a rule.

The question you need to consider is what inspection and adaptation cycle you’re looking to accelerate — the Iteration or the PI.

Basically, do you want an opportunity to tactically adjust priorities more frequently than every 2w? Or do you want to adjust a more strategic direction more often than every 8–12w?

With the answer to that, you can experiment either with iteration length and/or PI length. Of course, the cadence length affects coordination overhead — there’s a fine balance.

Additionally, we’re talking about a Planning, Inspection, and Adaptation cadence — NOT the release cadence. Releases are on-demand meaning can be more frequent (or less).

Iteration Goals and PI Objectives provide us with room to maneuver

Another point to remember is that you can adjust iteration backlogs as long as you’re focusing on iteration goals. And even PI objectives can be adjusted — “Assume Variability Preserve Options”. If it’s occasional adjustment it’s not a reason to necessarily use a faster cadence.

Is team-level Kanban the solution to the need for more flexibility in SAFe?

Many teams think Kanban might be the best choice for them if they need more and more flexibility. Kanban CAN be a better fit if your demand is extremely volatile. I would be very careful though. Doing some level of goal-setting and prioritization and planning on a cadence is a powerful way for a team to focus. Do we really WANT to be a strictly reactive team?

Kanban combined with flexibility with some of the capacity we have each iteration can definitely be helpful and is why we recommend all Agile Teams in SAFe use Kanban to limit their WIP and…

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Yuval Yeret

Business Agility Coach | SAFe Fellow and SPCT | Scrum.org PST | CTO and Partner @ AgileSparks