A strong guiding coalition is always needed. One with the right composition, level of trust, and shared objective.

—John Kotter

This article is part of the SAFe® Implementation Roadmap series which outlines and discusses the primary ‘critical moves’ that are common to successful SAFe transformations. To view the Roadmap and find links to the entire set of supporting articles, click here.

Train Lean-Agile Change Agents

As we described in Reaching the Tipping Point, the need to adopt new practices for solution development is often driven by a “burning platform,” a problem too severe to solve using the enterprise’s current way of working. It creates the level of urgency needed to inspire significant change.

However, even if that is not the case, as the pace of technological and market changes digital disruption reshapes the modern business model, this sense of urgency has become the new norm. Now, more than ever, the ability to substantially improve development practices is the key to success. Change is at hand. For those following the proven ‘critical moves’ identified in the SAFe Implementation Roadmap, this article describes the second step in that series: Train Lean-Agile Change Agents.


The Need for a Powerful Coalition

Once an organization reaches its tipping point, and the rationale for a significant change becomes obvious, the difficult journey begins. In Leading Change [1] Kotter discusses eight stages of guiding organizational transformation, and what it takes to make it stick.

  1. Establishing a sense of urgency
  2. Creating the guiding coalition
  3. Developing a vision and strategy
  4. Communicating the change vision
  5. Empowering employees for broad-based action
  6. Generating short-term wins
  7. Consolidating gains and producing more change
  8. Anchoring new approaches in the culture

For step #2, a ‘sufficiently powerful guiding coalition’ of stakeholders is needed. As Kotter notes: “In a rapidly moving world, individuals and weak committees rarely have all the information needed to make good non-routine decisions. Nor do they seem to have the credibility or the time required to convince others to make the personal sacrifices called for in implementing changes. Only teams with the right composition and sufficient trust among members can be highly effective under these circumstances.” [1]

To be effective, this coalition requires:

  • Leaders who can set the vision, show the way, and remove impediments to change
  • Practitioners, managers, and change agents who can implement specific process changes
  • Sufficient organizational credibility to be taken seriously
  • The expertise needed to make fast, intelligent decisions

To create a SAFe coalition that is sufficiently powerful to initiate change, our experience shows that the organization must take three critical steps:

  1. Train a number of Lean-Agile Change Agents as SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs). They provide the knowledge and horsepower needed to implement the change.
  2. Train Executives, Managers, and other Leaders. They sponsor the change and support the implementation. Leading SAFe is a two-day course designed for this purpose.
  3. Charter a Lean-Agile Center of Excellence (LACE). This working group becomes the focal point and continuous source of inspiration and energy for change management activities.

This article addresses the first step, which is to introduce a process that develops people who have the knowledge, skills and resources needed to successfully implement SAFe. (Elements #2 and #3 of the guiding coalition are addressed in the next two articles, Train Executives, Managers, and Leaders, and Lean-Agile Center of Excellence, respectively.)

Develop SPCs as Change Agents

In most enterprises, the primary SAFe change agents appear on the scene as certified SPCs. Sourced internally and externally, they come from many roles, including:

  • Trusted consulting partners
  • Internal business and technology leaders
  • Portfolio/program/project managers
  • Architects
  • Analysts
  • Process leads, and many others.

Their common path to success? The Implementing SAFe with SPC Certification class. This four-day course prepares SPCs to become the change agents who lead the transformation. Attendees will learn how to effectively apply the principles and practices of SAFe, and organize, train and coach Agile teams. They will also learn how to identify value streams and ARTs, launch ARTS, and help build and manage an Agile portfolio.

Scaling Lean-Agile across the enterprise—or any material change for that matter—requires training all the people who do the work. To make it practical and cost effective Scaled Agile, Inc. supports a “train the trainer” fan-out model. It licenses SPCs (either partner personnel or enterprise employees) to teach a number of SAFe courses inside the enterprise. This provides an affordable training strategy and provisions the trainers needed to initiate and implement the change.

Making the Next Moves

Once trained, SPCs have the knowledge, skills, and resources needed to educate and train managers, teams and the other stakeholders necessary to effectively drive the change. They become a critical part of the ‘sufficiently powerful coalition for change’ needed to drive the next critical moves, which include:

These are the subjects of the next articles in this series.

More on Implementing SAFe with SPC Certification

implementing-safe_cov_icon2The goal of this intensive four-day course is to prepare internal change agents and external consultants to:

  • Lead an enterprise Lean-Agile transformation
  • Implement Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe)
  • Train managers and executives in Leading SAFe

The first two days of this class is an intensive version of Leading SAFe. The goal is to prepare certified SAFe Program Consultants (SPCs) to teach Leading SAFe (and other courses in the SAFe role-based curriculum, see below). These change agents will gain the knowledge needed to lead an enterprise-wide Agile transformation by leveraging the Scaled Agile Framework and its underlying principles of Lean thinking and product development flow. They’ll leave with an understanding of how the principles and practices of the Framework support Agile teams, Agile programs, Program Portfolio Management (PPM), and Agile architecture.

The second two days demonstrate how to identify, plan, and implement SAFe. In addition, attendees will have the briefings, artifacts, and templates needed to identify value streams, prepare the organization, launch ARTs, plan and execute major events, and implement effective processes and measures to Sustain and Improve.

After passing an exam, attendees become certified SPCs, giving them access to a variety of helpful resources to be used in the transformation. They will also be licensed to teach Leading SAFe as well as other courses in the role-based curriculum. Currently, these include:

This curriculum is constantly evolving. For more, check out Implementing SAFe with SPC Certification and review the other courses at

Learn More

[1] Kotter, John P. Leading Change, Harvard Business Review Press. Kindle Edition

Additional Resources

Last update: 16 January,  2017