Comparing SAFe and FLEX

Here is a comparison of SAFe and FLEX.




How to start All in, all the way Based on where people are, who is driving, and culture
Where to start Start at Essential SAFe Start based on who is driving and what the organization’s challenges are
Attends to culture No Yes
Direction of adoption in value stream Start at program level and move up. Start as high as you can based on who is supporting the adoption
ART formation Gives suggestions in general Provides several patterns

  • Has methods for when have vertical applications using horizontal platforms that are also products
  • Dynamic Mobbing
  • When teams are not quite cross-functional
  • Other structures
Has agreements people make in adoption other than support SAFe No Yes, the guardrails


Uses Middle-up-down management? Yes, implicitly Yes, explicitly

Principles and mindset

Based on Don Reinertsen’s work Partly. Some principles modified and not consistent with Reinertsen’s work Yes. Completely consistent
WSJF Simplified, has flaws & will not resolve disputes of importance relating to strategies from different areas of the business Consistent with slight extension to help calculate business value.
Focus on the work more than the framework No Yes
Systems thinking Not completely Yes
Defined around Levels of the organization Value stream


Value stream network architect No Yes
Business architect Role is implicit. Role is explicit

Portfolio and Product Management

Portfolio management approach is intended for large companies. This requires many roles, more than a small company needs. Based on standard business practices of portfolio management. Includes discussion of Beyond Budgeting when requested.
Explicitly use MBI (or original MMF) No Yes
Level of complexity of portfolio and product management High Low


Planning done incrementally or via flow Incrementally Incrementally or flow
Program increment Length 2-3 months 2 weeks to 3 months (recommend no more than 1 month except in extreme cases

Team Training

When is doing ATDD Training suggested After first round As part of first round. Cost of Scrum/FLEX for teams and ATDD about the same as SAFe for teams
Require ATDD training to have PO, Dev, Test? Recommended, but not usually done Yes


Redefine standard industry terms Yes (MMF) No
Overload standard industry terms Yes (Epic) No
Use specialized standard terms in a way they were not intended Yes (MVP) No

Introductory Training

What does introductory training cover? Two day course. Always the same. 2.5 day course for internal change agents. Includes assessment and tailoring of course for internal delivery of customized course.

Licensed Training Materials

For licensed courses include how to teach them? No Yes
Can training materials be modified for an organization? No Yes (are tailored to company being delivered to)
Has online training for ScrumMasters/Kanban coaches? No Yes
Has online technical training for developers? No Yes