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A Look Into The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) Leadership Retreat 2016

09-Jun-2016 12:44:11 Scaling Agile SAFe Events
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This year’s fantastic SAFe Leadership Retreat was hosted in the mountainous setting of Canmore, Alberta, Canada, at the beginning of May. It was the second edition of the retreat, after last year’s inaugural event in Crieff, Scotland.

The SAFe Leadership Retreat is an event where practitioners, change agents, coaches, consultants, and managers have the opportunity to come together, and share in-depth experiences and ideas about the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).



Photo: Phil Gardiner

As attendees, we were privileged to be joined by Dean Leffingwell (creator of the Scaled Agile Framework), Carol McEwan (VP of Community), Jennifer Fawcett and Drew Jemilo (both SAFe Fellows). In all, 50 people attended  the Retreat from all around the world, including North America, Europe and Australia.

For me, the Retreat was an opportunity to learn from fellow practitioners and enterprise adopters. Moreover, it has been a great occasion to personally contribute thought leadership into the evolving framework and the development of Scaled Agile, Inc.



Dean provided participants with an update on SAFe, telling us how the framework is still on a journey that we all need to lead, and participate in. We are all still learning about it, and the framework adoption keeps on growing. Worldwide there are now 3,500 SAFe Program Consultants (SPC) (did you read Darren’s post about becoming a SAFe Program Consultant?) and 50,000 Scaled Agilists (SA).  However, the potential for increasing the number of practitioners is huge.

In my experience we tend to find that the UK lags behind the US by a couple of years. While the framework is extremely popular in the US,  I saw a real growth of SAFe adoption in the UK only last year, when I delivered over a dozen Leading SAFe courses.

Download the SAFe 4.0 white paper

Many enterprises - large and small - are getting outstanding business benefits from applying SAFe. These typically include:

  • 20 – 50% increase in productivity
  • 50%+ increases in quality
  • 30 – 75% faster time to market
  • Measurable increases in employee engagement and job satisfaction.

As you can imagine, with results like these, SAFe is spreading rapidly around the world.

During the retreat, Scaled Agile Inc. was very specific about the sort of input they wanted into their direction and framework.

From this we could mention input on:

  • Course curriculum
  • Course feedback
  • A fellowship program
  • SAFe v5.0
  • Community Events.

In terms of layout, the Retreat was arranged around a number of ‘Open Spaces’, and I was able to participate in a few of them: the direction of v5.0, the fellowship program, the course curriculum and the community open space.

Bearing in mind that SAFe v4.0 was only released at the beginning of 2016, I am not expecting v5.0 any time soon. More likely, we could have a new version at some point in 2017. Even so, that doesn’t mean that we can’t think about new features and get feedback on them before the next big release! One thing that I am very keen to see gain more prominence is ‘Essential SAFe’ , which is a 2-level SAFe model for perhaps the smaller organisations.

On the curriculum front we also had a very lively discussion about the Learning Path for a Release Train Engineer (RTE), with quite a diverse set of opinions. Broadly, I think there was a consensus that it needed to include both demonstrated learning AND field experience.

In terms of community events, we discussed extending the summit from just an annual event held only in Colorado, to EMEA and APAC. In addition, on a more local scale, I’m happy to announce the creation of the London Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe™) Meetup.


The first SAFe Meetup in London will take place on July 7th, followed by future Meetups on September 6th and October 5th. Join the Meetup now and you will get all the latest updates on forthcoming meetings. The group is a place for us to continue to learn and share our experiences with, and around, scaling Agile with SAFe.

Finally, going back to the retreat, it would have been a real shame to travel all the way to Calgary and not get chance to experience the beautiful area. I was extremely fortunate that we had some down time when four of my fellow practitioners decided to take a trip up to Lake Louise – a 2-hour round trip, but well worth the effort for this view:


Once again, attending the SAFe Leadership Retreat proved to be extremely enriching, not only by allowing us to connect to members of the SAFe community, but also by providing us with the chance to contribute to the future development of SAFe. We will hence continue to share with you updates on scaling Agile with SAFe, and be one of your go-to sources for this information.

Don’t miss the upcoming SAFe white paper with updates on the framework, that we will be providing soon.

Download the SAFe 4.0 white paper


Darren Wilmshurst

Darren Wilmshurst

With his strategic C-suite-oriented approach to IT leadership – and his infectious energy – Darren has successfully delivered multi-million pound business transformations for e-commerce sites, ERP implementations, outsourcing and offshoring, including multiple Agile transformations. Read more