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    March 7, 2024

    Navigating Lean Portfolio Management in SAFe®

    Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) is a core competency of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) that helps organizations navigate the complexities of delivering value in a lean-agile environment. Unlike traditional portfolio management, SAFe's LPM doesn't rely solely on a designated department or a chief manager. Instead, it focuses on a collaborative approach to financial decision-making, opportunity flow, governance, and fostering a new way of working. This article delves into the essence of LPM in SAFe, providing practical insights for organizations looking to embrace business agility.

    The Structure of Lean Portfolio Management

    Seven core competencies, with customer centricity as its linchpin, are at the heart of SAFe's approach to business agility. Among these, Lean Portfolio Management stands out not just for its importance but also for its unique structure. Unlike the other six competencies, which are defined by three distinct dimensions, LPM is represented by three interlocking triangles that form a larger triangle. This geometric arrangement symbolizes the three essential collaborations within LPM, emphasizing the integrated nature of lean-agile portfolio management.


    The Collaborative Essence of LPM

    In the realm of LPM, roles are not confined to specific titles or departments. Instead, the focus is on the functions and responsibilities critical to managing the portfolio effectively. These include:

    • Financial Decision-Makers have authority over financial investments and are pivotal in steering the portfolio in alignment with strategic goals.
    • Influencers of Financial Decisions: Those who, while they may not make the final decisions, significantly influence the direction and allocation of resources.
    • Governance and Flow Facilitators: Teams or individuals responsible for ensuring that opportunities are efficiently processed through the backlog and that governance standards are met.
    • New Way of Working Advocates: Entities like the Lean-Agile Center of Excellence and the Value Management Office champion adopting and implementing lean-agile practices to maximize value delivery and return on investment.

    This structure underscores the absence of a one-size-fits-all approach. Depending on the organization's size and portfolio complexity, the roles and responsibilities within LPM can vary, reinforcing the idea that effective portfolio management is a collective effort rather than the purview of a single individual.


    The Three Collaborations of LPM

    LPM in SAFe is underpinned by three crucial collaborations, each represented by a point of the triangle:

    • Strategy and Investment Funding: Involves enterprise executives responsible for fiduciary decisions and capital investments, ensuring that strategic funding aligns with the organization's goals.
    • Agile Portfolio Operations: Engages business owners and other stakeholders who oversee the ROI of solutions and foster operational agility to respond to market changes.
    • Lean Governance: This includes enterprise architects and other roles focused on maintaining a sustainable architectural runway that supports strategic initiatives and ensures that the business's innovative efforts can be realized with technical feasibility.
    Practical Implications for Organizations

    Adopting LPM within SAFe is not about filling a specific role or establishing a new department. It's about recognizing and enabling the right collaborations across the organization. For enterprises seeking agility at scale, this means fostering a culture where strategic decision-making is fluid, transparent, and inclusive. LPM encourages ongoing dialogue among executives, business owners, and architects, moving away from quarterly planning silos to more frequent, iterative engagements that drive alignment and adaptability.

    In essence, Lean Portfolio Management within the SAFe framework champions a holistic, collaborative approach to portfolio management. By recognizing the interdependent nature of strategy, investment, operations, and governance, organizations can more effectively navigate the complexities of today's business landscape, ensuring that their investments are aligned with customer needs and strategic objectives. As with many aspects of SAFe, the key to success in LPM lies in collaboration, adaptability, and a relentless focus on delivering value.

    Interested in learning more about LPM and its impact on your organization? Join me for one of our upcoming SAFe 6.0 LPM Courses, or check out LPM for the Whole Business.


    Tag(s): SAFe , Sustainable SAFe , LPM

    Phil Gardiner

    As leader of Applied Frameworks’ SAFe Practice, Phil is responsible for large-scale transformations and guiding change agents as they learn to apply the Scaled Agile Framework. Phil has served as a leader, coach, and consultant at some of the world’s largest companies as well as government organizations such as the US Department of Defense. Prior to becoming a consultant in 2015, Phil spent sixteen years at AT&T as a leader and internal change agent, working to bring products and services to market faster through the use of technology and Lean-Agile methodologies. Phil is a SAFe Fellow, and a Certified SAFe Program Consultant Trainer® (SPCT), one of less than 100 people who hold this certification globally. He is an active collaborator within the Scaled Agile Community and is cited as a subject matter expert in a variety of topics including Lean Portfolio Management and Agile Product Management. In addition to his SAFe expertise, Phil is an agile coach with experience in a variety of other Lean-Agile methodologies and approaches.