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VSM and Industry Frameworks: SAFe 6.0

April 18, 2023

In this post, our first in a series where we’ll investigate the treatment of value stream management (VSM) in the context of industry frameworks, Stephanie McCormick has a look at Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe®) and the recent release of SAFe 6.0.


The new release of SAFe 6.0 highlights a VSM approach and the adoption of flow principles. In this article, we will cover… 

  • SAFe 6.0 update (briefly)
  • Specifically and with detail - SAFe 6.0 addition of VSM
  • What does this mean for broad VSM adoption in the enterprise?

In this article, we will NOT cover …

  • Pros and cons of SAFe or other scaling frameworks


The SAFe 6.0 Release

SAFe is a compiler of lean and agile principles and practices packaged specifically for the enterprise. As SAFe markets the framework for transformation and certifications, they occasionally update their offering to include the latest good practices.

On March 15th, 2023, SAFe released its latest update. Some changes include:

  • An update to the SAFe core values
  • An update to SAFe principle #6 which is now “Make Value Flow without Interruptions” with 8 flow accelerators
  • Expanding the title of Scrum Master to “Scrum Master/Team Coach” with an updated responsibility wheel
  • More content with OKRs (Objectives and Key Results)
  • Expanded guidance for AI, Big Data, and Cloud
  • The specific inclusion of Value Stream Management on their big picture


SAFe 6.0 addition of VSM (Value Stream Management)

You can view the updated SAFe 6.0 big picture and find the addition of Value Stream Management in the upper right-hand corner of the portfolio. In alignment with all components of the SAFe 6.0 big picture, Value Stream Management is clickable and linked to a SAFe 6.0 VSM article

In this article - VSM is a leadership and technical discipline that enables the maximum flow of business value through the end-to-end solution delivery life cycle.


Let’s compare to other descriptions of VSM: 

Value Stream Management Consortium - VSM means you connect from idea to value realization, integrating your DevOps toolchain end-to-end and gain unparalleled insights into what's happening when your teams are delivering value outcomes to your customers.

Gartner describes VSM platforms - Value stream management platforms enable organizations to optimize end-to-end product delivery and improve business outcomes.

SAFe 6.0 demonstrates general alignment with the flow community on the definition of VSM although opinions on the practices and implementation may differ amongst its proponents.


The SAFe 6.0 Value Stream Management article praises the virtues of Lean:

  • Specify & define the value precisely
  • Understand the value stream
  • Enhance flow
  • Use “pull” rather than “push”
  • Pursue perfection

Scaled Agile Framework has always promoted its offering as a product from Lean, Agile, and DevOps with best practices from well-known frameworks and methods - but the relationship to Lean is more explicitly highlighted in SAFe 6.0 material. 


Scaled Agile Framework also explicitly (and more consistently than prior versions of SAFe) discusses “Flow” and “Flow Metrics” in SAFe 6.0:

  • Flow Distribution
  • Flow Velocity 
  • Flow Time
  • Flow Load 
  • Flow Efficiency 
  • Flow Predictability

Amongst our friendly flow aficionados - we know that flow metrics are not new, not universally defined, and not an invention of SAFe 6.0. Nonetheless, SAFe 6.0’s choice to definitively include Flow Metrics shows an acknowledgment of the practice and flow knowledge. We all stand on the shoulders of giants.


What does this mean for enterprise VSM adoption?

Executives (and their entire organizations) feel the pain of poor flow in value streams but have not been united on a common lexicon to communicate those pain points. The vocabulary of VSM is not new - we see this from a 2019 Forbes post.

Despite that - 25% of respondents to the “State of Value Stream Management 2022” survey had not started any steps on the Value Stream Management Implementation Roadmap. Of course, there’s also a huge swath of the industry that did not respond to the survey and is not yet tracking the annual event.


SAFe 6.0, love it or hate it, will put the phrase “Value Stream Management” into the lexicon of enterprise leadership. According to the 16th Annual State of Agile Report, “The most popular framework continues to be the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)”.

That’s a lot of exposure. To borrow a phrase from Mugatu in the cinema hit Zoolander - VSM, it’s so hot right now!


“The most popular framework continues to be the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).
Compared to previous years, SAFe has gone from 37% in year 15 to 53% this year.
Scrum@Scale/Scrum of Scrums also saw a rise after years of decline, from 9% in year 15 back to 28% this year.
Lean Management likewise grew after falling for several years from 2% in year 15 to 8% this year."
Source: State of Agile 2022 by

Stay tuned, our next post in this series will investigate the treatment of VSM in the context of another industry framework: Akshai Anand will look at ITIL4.

If there is another framework you'd like to see covered, feel free to suggest it in the comments.


On the same subject, don't hesitate to consult our previous post:

See also our research and learning from here:

SAFe and Scaled Agile Framework are registered trademarks of Scaled Agile, Inc.

Picture credits: Shutterstock

Stephanie McCormick

Stephanie McCormick

I’m obsessed with flow. I start computer games over and over again to get the flow maximized throughout the game and try to streamline how I cook dinner to be more efficient than a television chef. Now, I’ve turned this into my entrepreneurial passion. My company offers agile coaching to help other organizations maximize their flow.

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