Welcome to PremierAgile! Chat with our learning advisor to avail Upto 15% discount across all Scrum Alliance courses Recognised as “Best Agile Consulting and Transformation companies - 2022” by BusinessConnect Magazine Avail Zero Interest EMI Please hurry!!! Take Advantage of a Flat 20% Discount & Stand Out as an Advanced Certified Scrum Master Mega offer! Save upto INR 22,000 when you buy our Advanced course combo packages


With an objective to enable continuous learning and progression for our learners, PremierAgile curated several learning articles. Out of a wide range of topics, you can choose to learn from the real-world experiences by practitioners in the areas of Agile, Scrum, Product Ownership, Scaling, Agile Leadership, Tools & Frameworks, latest market trends, new innovations etc.

What is Design Thinking in SAFe? Everything You Should Know

If not SAFe Design Thinking, many businesses these days are aware of Design Thinking. Design Thinking is a popular approach that many businesses interested in Customer Centricity follow. But, if you are wondering what is Design Thinking in SAFe, it is better to gain some basic details about it and to know what is SAFe?

What is SAFe?

SAFe is the short-form for Scaled Agile Framework. It is nothing but a set of workflow and organizational patterns. These patterns work together for the implementation of Agile practices at an enterprise scale. You can consider SAFe as a body of knowledge that encompasses structured guidance on responsibilities and roles. Even, it will guide on values to uphold and manage the work.

The good thing about this framework is that it promotes delivery, collaboration and alignment. All these things are possible across a large number of Agile teams. The founders formed SAFe around three basic bodies of knowledge. They are systems thinking, lean product development and Agile software development. When a business begins to experience growth, this framework offers a structured approach to Scale Agile. 

Purpose of SAFe:

Drew Jemilo and Dean Leffingwell released SAFe in 2011. The purpose of its release is to aid organizations design better software and systems. The systems and software developed using SAFe will help meet the changing needs of customers. Before SAFe, teams were using traditional project management processes for delivering software. However, when using traditional processes, businesses faced issues. The main issue they faced was that they were not able to quickly respond to the changing market conditions. This motivated the creation of new frameworks. SAFe was created to help businesses quickly respond to the changing market conditions. They can do this during their software and product development phases. Today, it will not be an overstatement to say that SAFe is one of the most familiar Scaled Agile Delivery Frameworks across the world. Its practitioners are growing in numbers.

What is Design Thinking?

It is a Customer Centric development process and creates products that customers desire to use. 

This process helps with developing products with sustainability and profitability over their lifecycle. Traditional businesses were focusing more on the functions and features of a proposed product. But, with Design Thinking, modern businesses are able to focus on better things when developing products. 

Let us consider that a business follows the Design Thinking process. If this is the case, the teams will pay attention to understanding the issues faced by customers. They do not stop with understanding the issues. But will engage in creating solutions to these problems. It is a concept, where the solution will be used for improving the solutions to the next level.

Purpose of Design Thinking:

In traditional waterfall approaches to product development, the process is sequential. Yes, the first thing in the waterfall approach is defining requirements. Second comes the designing of solutions, thirdly building the product. Finally, product delivery takes place. In this approach, the focus will be on the issues that are visible alone. So, a business achieves success by implementing a solution that meets the requirements against the needs of the users. In turn, they can create products without any ignored or unusable features. 

When it comes to solution and product development, Design Thinking is a different approach. The reason is that it uses convergent and divergent techniques for understanding an issue. Even, techniques are applied for designing a solution until the product or solution is delivered to the market.

How Can Design Thinking Strengthen Agile Product Delivery in SAFe?

However, the new version comes with some transformative changes. In turn, the framework is now even more friendly with how Agile requires to work in the real world.

One of these changes is the inclusion of the concept of Design Thinking into all aspects of workflow. One more important inclusion is the attention of Agile Product Delivery. It has been added as one of the seven core specialties of this version. It can provide the base for the new SAFe. 

What Can Design Thinking Do with Agile Product Delivery?

Agile product delivery is a Customer Centric approach like Design Thinking. This approach is followed for defining, developing and releasing an ongoing flow of valuable services and products to users and customers. So, as against a simple quantifiable process, Agile Product Delivery is more of an approach or a mindset to the work. It keeps customers as the center of attraction for the entire product lifecycle.

Further, it involves developing cadence. This is a concept that most Agile Development organizations follow. Agile product delivery follows ongoing delivery at whatever cadence, release or timeline schedule. It is the best for meeting the unique desires and needs of customers. The ongoing delivery pipeline and DevOps make the Agile Product Delivery pipeline wholesome. This happens by having the logistical and technological foundation in place. The purpose is to support on-demand and ongoing delivery.

Design Thinking is an integral part of Agile product delivery. The reason is that it is a repeatable and dependable method that keeps the product centered around the customer. Even, it ensures a solution is sustainable, economically viable and feasible all through its lifecycle. It transforms particular disciplines or teams. In turn, it serves as the steel thread that goes through the overall Agile Product Delivery process.

Tips To Use Design Thinking With SAFe:

In recent times, companies started to use SAFe when they got into big projects. They did it to drive a consistent approach across all teams. At this time, SAFe had nothing to do with Design Thinking. But, the change has been made in version 5.0 of the framework. If you plan to use Design Thinking along with SAFe for the first time, here are some tips to help you:

Start with outlining your vision and results:

The good thing about Design Thinking is that it pays attention to the entire team when it comes to results. When a team engages in Design Thinking, it is better to collaborate. This will help with solving meaningful issues for users. Even, this move will help with providing value to the business. At this stage, it would be better to create value statements. It is better to make sure that each statement encompasses finding answers to the questions who and what. It means that the teams should understand who they are helping and what solutions will help them. These statements will be of great help at aligning stakeholders. Particularly, they will help align them around statements that pay attention to user outcomes.  When the statements are more in number, it would be a good idea to use Agile Techniques for delivering them. Now, you might question how this approach will get along with SAFe?

  • Discovery Phase in SAFe: 

This is the phase, where you will engage in user and market research. At this phase, it would be better to make sure of one thing. You gain the right understanding of the intended users. Also, know how they are using your product in the present situation. Further, this is the time to decide whether you are planning to appeal to an audience in a new location. Once the users are identified, it is time to build personas. These personas will represent them all through the project’s lifetime.

  • Define Phase in SAFe:

In this phase, you will start exploring the experiences of your intended users. During this phase, you can run a Design Thinking workshop. The purpose of the workshop will be to establish the business, technical and user context. This move will allow you to align everyone around the thing they wish to achieve. In turn, they can be involved in creating the experience together.  What if the teams operate from different countries with different time zones. In this case, you can find a suitable time, where everyone involved can attend. During this time together, motivate the participants to ask questions.


So, SAFe Design Thinking is undoubtedly a good move. It will help with the development of solutions and products with the user/customer as the focal point. In turn, businesses can improve customer base and satisfaction.

  1. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/design-thinking/
  2. https://scaledagile.com/what-is-safe/
  3. https://www.atlassian.com/agile/agile-at-scale/what-is-safe
  4. https://medium.com/design-ibm/3-easy-tips-for-using-design-thinking-with-safe-7eedf5a1ba28



Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.