Article Series: Part 1: Organizing & Forming Agile Teams Around Value with SAFe®

A pattern for Team Design strategy & self-Formation Workshop events

In this series of articles, Agile Rising’s Scaled Agile experts will introduce and provide recommendations on peer-reviewed and field-tested ideas and patterns for organizing around value while using SAFe as guidance. The patterns include critical features of value stream management, design thinking, Agile, team design strategy, team topologies, team formation & self-selection, and applied Lean and Systems Thinking. It is helpful to have experience and knowledge of the Scaled Agile Framework for Lean Enterprises (SAFe), Lean, and organizational change management prior to reading the articles.

The topics of business agility value streams (BAVS) and managing enterprise value streams through the Value Management Office (VMO) are also introduced in the series as related to team design strategy.

Series Article Topics

Overview for Organizing & Forming Agile Teams Around Value with SAFe

Why do we need new workshops in SAFe?

The current SAFe® Implementation Roadmap is itself an implementation of Kotter’s “Eight-Stage Process of creating Major Change” interweaved with Heath’s concept in the book “Switch” of “scripting the important moves.” The guidance in the framework is sound, but it is not the detailed change management plan that is needed to successfully manage and lead change. It is incomplete by design. The pattern is very effective and, when combined with expert change agents and consultants, it can help an organization adapt the framework guidance into a successful implementation plan.

In order to enhance and grow the body of knowledge in the framework to increase organizations change success we propose the addition of two new workshops to your SAFe implementation plan. These additions fit closely within the SAFe Identify Value Streams & ARTs and Create the Implementation Plan stages of the roadmap.

SAFe Implementation Roadmap, © Scaled Agile, Inc.

Since we are introducing new concepts for team strategy, design, formation, self-selection, and value stream management we needed structure to facilitate the critical collaboration of these concepts at the point of impact of change. To redesign itself, an organization must come together and focus on aligning its strategy, people, and solutions throughout its business or mission by prioritizing organizing around value inclusively.

In Kotter’s words in summary this means:

  • Building a case for change that highlights the future benefits of the restructuring [organizing around value.
  • Engaging employees [and suppliers, vendors, all stakeholders in the value stream] and accelerate (real) results. [focusing on outcomes]
  • Reinforcing (and sustain) the momentum until the work is successful [this is where ADKAR has many great benefits.]

The Team Design Strategy Workshop (TDSW) and Team Formation & Self-Selection Workshop (SSW) are new collaborations and facilitated workshops for SAFe SPCs to utilize in a organizational change management plan and/or SAFe Implementation Plan.

We have already proposed additional change management activities including the addition of the Prosci ADKAR Model used in parallel with Kotter’s Eight Stage process in the Agile Rising Customer Engagement Roadmap for SAFe. This roadmap is a derivative of the SAFe Implementation Roadmap that adds change management activities prior to and after Go SAFe. Later in 2023, we will be revisiting that pattern for an updated second version design after more testing of the new workshops and new ideas to accommodate the iterative and incremental nature of an actual implementation with PDCA loops. This will visually show the learning and implementation loops instead of the current linear perception and view of the roadmaps.

This article series will also give guidance to avoid the pitfalls that Kotter describes in his book “Change” where he introduces important ideas around “Restructuring without killing innovation and your future.”

the challenge

The challenge is in our experience that varied organizations struggle with the pace of change and volume of new concepts introduced over the discovery, training, and planning stages of growth into the plan [SAFe, digital transformation, or other transformation]. This can in some cases result in poorly executed change/implementation plans that leave teams disorganized, disenfranchised, and lacking the necessary energy and focus to accelerate change while enabling Kotter’s balanced “survive” and “thrive” modes.

The advent of value stream management and flow concepts to SAFe gives movement to the cause of business agility at enterprise scale [enterprise agility; mission agility]. For the first time in history we can go to one place to gather and learn key concepts, patterns, and practices on how to achieve business or mission agility. But how do we address complexity at scale and transform traditional executive/administrative offices, PMO’s, disparate teams, silos, suppliers and vendors, competing incentives, and operating models to take advantage of value stream management, organizing around value, and flow?

We have always included systems thinking in the framework [SAFe] guidance and practices but there was a general singular focus on development value streams in how we planned, orchestrated, and influenced change with the SAFe Implementation Roadmap. When we think about organizing around value, SAFe Principle #10, we must consider the entire value stream and system. Organizational Agility, a SAFe core competency, is required as we think about flow and optimization of the whole. This means thinking beyond the operational and development value streams to include Business Agility Value Streams (BAVS) or Mission Agility Value Streams (MAVS).

Interestingly, Ret. Gen. McChrystal introduces a mission agility value stream concept in his book, “Team of Teams.” He was able to organize his teams around value at the point of impact of change. This made the difference in the military strategic and tactical successes — because the teams had mission agility.

We must break out of the technology IT-software-hardware-centric mindset and consider both upstream, side-stream, and downstream value stream flow for the full business [or mission] — seeking to enable and achieve true business agility. Surely software is eating the world. But the rest of the non-software world is still there today. We must accommodate and be inclusive of the whole business.

the solutions

business Agility value streams

The business agility value stream and operational value streams (OVS) are the business. We introduce the business agility value stream to the equation as we expand and capture more of the end-to-end value stream (chain) and focus on faster response to the market. The business of IT, software, support, services, operations, legal, contracts, finance, and other enterprise functions may all be required to deliver value. Let’s capture them all and organize around value. BAVSs transcend the IT, software, and traditional organizational islands and enable value conversations (TBM). The BAVS captures and focuses the work of the OVS and DVS on opportunity and innovation.

New Patterns for Consideration

Organizing Around Value with Design Thinking pattern and the new workshops

To get started we must add some new thinking, patterns, and practices to the SAFe Implementation Roadmap. We must also change some context within the SAFe Value Stream and ART Identification (VSI) Workshop and make full use (early in the digital transformation) of the SAFe Value Stream Mapping Workshop (VSM).

As you will learn in the future series articles, we will add and adapt Design Thinking and Agile development, as well as Scrum events into the workshop design patterns for two new proposed SAFe workshops and derivative for Portfolio Design that are additions to the current implementation roadmap pattern. Value Stream Identification must move beyond the identification of silos and islands from development to include effort and attention toward organizational design for the entire business. We endeavor to optimize the whole.  

New Workshops and techniques proposed provide time and space for design thinking, innovation and creativity

Design Thinking is used to guide innovation and creativity in organizing around value

The proposed Agile Rising TDSW and SSW are collaborative team design and self-formation workshop events that utilize Agile and Design Thinking to assist in the formulation of cross-functional Agile teams that are organized around value per the SAFe principle #10. The “value” and “flow” concepts are instructed and defined in the preceding SAFe Value Stream Identification Workshop (VSI) and are applied in a PDCA feedback loop (or through introductory learning sessions and simulations in most guided transformations using SAFe).

Example template used to facilitate team formation.

We extend the Team Topologies from the standard platform, complicated sub-system, stream-aligned, and enabling patterns to include business patterns for operations and leadership.

– Agile Rising

The outputs of the traditional SAFe VSI are a notional Agile Release Train (ART) or team of teams and its associated OVS, Development Value Stream(s) (DVS) in the form of a set of business canvases, high-level work-value flows, and models. The addition of the new patterns allows time and space for the design and construction of business agility teams and time for designing-in the new topologies for ART and Team patterns. We also extend the Team Topologies from the standard platform, complicated sub-system, stream-aligned, and enabling patterns to include business patterns for operations and leadership.

Extending Team Topologies to accommodate Business Agility

The TDSW and SSW are organized, facilitated, and hosted by the SAFe® Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE) and SPCs.

useful for general digital transformation efforts

It is important to consider that these workshop patterns can be used for a variety of contexts, even outside of a digital transformation using SAFe as guidance. Use these collaborative patterns for tackling the tough problems of service design and aligning your product development organization. There is broad applicability for other frameworks, for example, using patterns and models of Jurgen Appelo’s UnFIX consultants and coaches can take advantage of specified time and space for these workshops.


The goal of this series of workshops is to create an open, inclusive, and psychologically safe space with an invitation to all the systems, value stream, and network stakeholders (remembering business agility) to participate and collaborate in the process of change through change leadership. The collective desired outcome is creating a shared understanding and commitment to a new value stream network and alignment of people into an Agile Release Train (or team of teams).

The achievement of this goal will help fuel the development of new social-business-relational-collaboration networks spanning an entire enterprise scope of operations and enable new working, feeling, and thinking practices in a new system, and set of working agreements that the teams will create in their context and system constraints designed to achieve goals and objectives.

The change leadership desired is born out of a focus on relentless improvement while acknowledging the current and prior successes of the current amazing teams and organization. Change leaders are responsible for capturing and communicating the “Why?” It is imperative that leaders inspire individuals’ innate desire to not just Survive but to enable Thrive mode (Kotter). Existing challenges in the culture with reductionist mindset must be addressed through inspirational, growth-oriented, and positive leadership, ever pragmatic, that is designed for the growth and development of people – our most important, and valuable asset.

What’s next?

Read the next topic article in the series, “What is Team Design Strategy and the Challenges?” where we will learn what Team Design Strategy is and walk through some scenarios to understand the why.


Kotter, John, et al. CHANGE : How Organizations Achieve Hard-To-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times. S.L., John Wiley, 2021.

Kotter, John P. Leading Change. 1996. Boston, Mass., Harvard Business School Press, 2012.

Heath, Chip, and Dan Heath. Switch. Currency, 16 Feb. 2010.

Scaled Agile, Inc. “SAFe 5.0 Framework.” Scaled Agile Framework, Accessed 22 Feb. 2023.

Prosci. “The Prosci ADKAR® Model.”, 2021,

Mcchrystal, Stanley A. Team of Teams : The Power of Small Groups in a Fragmented World. London, Portfolio, 2015.

“What Is TBM?” TBM Council,