SAFe can work but only if one remembers two things.
- what the Agile Manifesto says -- the first line in particular, and
- it's always about People --> Process --> Tech/Tools ... in that order.And as I spoke about at the Ignite Waterloo 14 event, people need to remember that to achieve successful results that order never changes.
Want further evidence to this? See . . .
As KenSchwaber wrote on his blog "we cannot buy our way to a better future", it takes hard work. Sadly, as even I have seen all too often, there are way to many armchair quarterbacks out there who think reading a book, a few articles, and attending a 2 or 3 day course will make them experts. The rescue project management contracting I did for a few years about a decade ago proved that is not the case.
Another author posted "While SAFe is about alignment, transparency, program execution and (code) quality it’s about how YOU are going to implement the ideas, principles and practices in YOUR environment. In the end it’s the implementation that matters: It’s you, your colleagues, your shared goals/values and the business value you produce."
Ron Jefferies wrote "SAFe wraps those ideas in a package ... to appeal to today’s managers and executives who do not understand Agile, but who know they have a problem to which Agile may be the solution."
The short answer is that SAFe can be a safe and effective tool if the tool is used to supplement the concepts of an Agile approach and have them applied by true professionals who truly understand and appreciate the concepts behind being big-A "Agile".
A little over a century ago practically anyone could call themselves an engineer. It took the failing of several bridges and one in particular that caused a huge loss of lives for business people, governments, and society at large to appreciate the gravity of the errors in that belief system. True professional engineers wear an iron ring to remind themselves of that. Hopefully one day in the not too distant future business people, governments, and society at large will stop wasting billions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours of people's lives on an annual basis, and they will also appreciate what true professionalism is as it applies to project, program, and portfolio management.