Applying Cadence and Synchronization in SAFe

In the fast-changing digital economy, organizations are increasingly relying on Agile practices to enhance their business agility and value delivery.

The Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) has emerged as a leading framework for achieving enterprise agility at scale.

One of the most critical aspects of successful SAFe implementations is establishing a reliable cadence and effective synchronization across multiple teams.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concepts of cadence and synchronization in SAFe in depth.

We will discuss their importance in SAFe, the various roles and events involved, key strategies to implement them successfully and common challenges teams face.

With a good understanding of these fundamentals, organizations can coordinate their efforts effectively, align teams on priorities, and continuously improve to reap the benefits of SAFe.

What is Cadence in SAFe?

Cadence in SAFe refers to the predictable rhythm of events and processes within an Agile organization.

It establishes a steady pace for teams to follow, ensuring proper alignment and enabling effective collaboration.

By adhering to a consistent cadence, teams can better plan, execute, and deliver value to customers while mitigating risks associated with uncertainty and complexity in software development.

The Importance of Cadence in SAFe

Cadence refers to the pattern of recurring events that provide rhythm and predictability to Agile development.

Establishing a consistent cadence is essential in SAFe for several reasons:

  • It helps manage work in frequent iterations. Iterations typically last 2 to 4 weeks, allowing teams to develop and deliver value incrementally. At the end of each iteration, teams can inspect and adapt to improve their processes.
  • It enables synchronization across teams. Teams follow the same Program Increment (PI) cadence, meeting at PI boundaries to plan, review progress, and make course corrections. This common rhythm allows for coordination across teams and alignment on priorities.
  • It reduces variability and improves quality. Establishing a predictable cadence and work-life balance helps sustain a productive pace of work. Teams can focus on continuous improvement to optimize their processes and minimize variability.
  • It provides opportunities for feedback and adaptation. Regular cadence offers recurring events for teams to solicit feedback, review performance, and adapt their practices. Teams can evaluate what is working well and identify areas for improvement.

Examples of Cadence in SAFe

Some examples of cadence in SAFe include:

  • PI cadence: PIs typically last 8 to 12 weeks where teams execute and deliver on their objectives. At PI boundaries, teams plan their work for the next PI.
  • Iteration cadence: Shorter 2 to 4-week iterations within a PI where teams develop and deliver incremental value. Teams inspect and adapt at the end of each iteration.
  • Retrospective and demo cadence: Periodic events where teams reflect on their work, solicit feedback and showcase their progress. Teams adapt their processes based on lessons learned.

The Program Increment (PI) cadence is central to SAFe. It determines the rhythm of work for teams and provides the structure for synchronization activities across an Agile Release Train (ART).

Achieving a consistent PI cadence is most critical for successful coordination at scale.

Achieving Synchronization with SAFe

Synchronization refers to aligning the efforts of multiple teams towards a shared goal or objective. In SAFe, synchronization occurs at two levels:

Within an ART – Teams synchronize their work through various mechanisms such as:

  • PI Planning: A two-day event where teams plan their objectives and high-level deliverables for the upcoming PI. Teams identify dependencies and risks, enabling coordination of efforts.
  • Scrum of Scrums: Regular meetings where representatives from each team share progress, discuss challenges, and identify corrective actions. These help orchestrate the work of multiple teams.
  • System Demo: A demo at the end of each iteration where teams showcase the features and capabilities developed. Teams provide and receive feedback from stakeholders and end-users.
  • Inspect and Adapt: Workshops where teams review performance, share lessons learned, and determine improvement actions. Teams adapt their processes to optimize coordination and flow of work.

Across ARTs – Synchronization across ARTs and with other organizational levels occurs through:

  • WSJF Sync: Product Managers and Product Owners from different ARTs meet to align on customer priorities and make investment decisions based on the Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) model.
  • Value Stream Sync: Leaders from ARTs within a Value Stream collaborate to optimize the flow of value and resolve strategic or systemic issues.
  • Solution Context Sync: Coordinating mechanisms where Program Leadership representatives from multiple ARTs synchronize regarding Solution talent, technology, standards, and compliance.

Effective synchronization requires open communication, transparency, continuous alignment, and shared responsibility across teams.

When teams actively work together towards a common mission, it leads to improved coordination, faster problem-solving, and increased value delivery.

Key Roles and Responsibilities in SAFe Cadence and Synchronization

Several roles play an instrumental part in establishing cadence and enabling synchronization in SAFe:

1. Release Train Engineer (RTE)

The Release Train Engineer (RTE) is a key role responsible for facilitating key SAFe events such as PI Planning, Scrum of Scrums, and the Inspect and Adapt workshop.

The RTE also ensures teams adhere to SAFe practices and coordinates across the ART.

2. Product Owners and Product Managers

Product Owners and Product Managers collaborate to define a roadmap for the solution, align teams on priorities, and ensure a well-refined Product Backlog.

They make investment decisions based on the WSJF model.

3. Scrum Masters

The role of Scrum Masters is to help their teams follow the SAFe methodology, maintain their cadence, and coordinate with other teams.

They address challenges and coach teams to increase efficiency and effectiveness.

4. System Team

The system team integrates the work of multiple teams and builds a cohesive solution. They enable the flow of value through the ART by managing dependencies and DevOps responsibilities.

5. Solution Architect

The solution architect provides technical leadership and guidance on solution design and standards compliance, and enables synchronization from an architecture and technology perspective.

Strategies for Effective Implementation of Cadence and Synchronization

With practice and continuous improvement, organizations can achieve a high level of cadence and synchronization maturity.

But it requires diligent effort to make collaboration and alignment across teams second nature. The key is to start with the fundamentals, build from there, and embrace the journey.

Here are some key strategies to achieve cadence and synchronization in SAFe:

1. Provide training to enable understanding

Teams must understand SAFe methodologies and the importance of cadence and synchronization. Provide focused and ongoing training for different roles.

2. Start with PI Planning

Adopt a PI cadence and start by conducting collaborative PI Planning events. This helps teams gain experience working together and aligning their efforts. Build from there.

3. Use visual tools

Utilize information radiators and SAFe tools like the Program Board, Risk Management log, and Release Plan to enhance visibility into work items, progress, and dependencies across teams.

4. Facilitate open communication

Promote a culture of openness, trust, and collaboration across teams. Mechanisms like Scrum of Scrums help share information and resolve issues together.

5. Review and adapt regularly:

Follow a cadence of retrospective and continuous improvement events where teams solicit feedback, discuss challenges, share best practices, and identify course corrections. Adapt practices accordingly.

6. Continuously align on priorities

Product Owners and Product Managers should frequently coordinate to verify priorities in the solution context, minimize dependencies, and optimize the flow of value.

7. Measure and optimize:

Use metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to analyze the effectiveness of cadence and synchronization events. Teams can then determine where to improve their coordination and processes.

8. Address challenges iteratively

Expect and address challenges like breaking down silos, establishing effective communications, and transitioning mindsets iteratively.

Employ the Inspect and Adapt method to make incremental progress.

Common Challenges to Cadence and Synchronization in SAFe and Solutions

Some common challenges with cadence and synchronization in SAFe include:

1. Lack of visibility

Without transparency into work items, dependencies, and progress, teams cannot coordinate well. The solution is to use visual tools and radiators to enhance visibility.

2. Misaligned priorities

When teams operate based on different priorities, their efforts are misaligned. Frequent WSJF and backlog sync between Product Owners and Product Managers will help with aligning these priorities.

3. Resistance to change

Teams may resist new ways of working together or perceive a loss of control.

To fix this, you need to provide education on the benefits of SAFe along with coaching and mentoring. Start with pilots to build confidence.

4. Inefficient communications

Lack of openness or ineffective forums prevents transparent discussions across teams.

A solution to this is to supplement meetings with collaborative tools and foster an open culture of information sharing.

5. Suboptimal processes

Teams may not have a consistent cadence or well-defined synchronization touchpoints resulting in coordination issues.

By following SAFe practices, establishing a PI cadence, and reviewing processes regularly, there’s bound to be an improvement over time.

6. Unresolved impediments

Issues that span teams may persist without a mechanism to identify and resolve them.

A solution is to utilize the Scrum of Scrums and Risk Management process to address cross-team impediments iteratively.

With incremental progress, teams can overcome these challenges through practice, continuous improvement, and by employing various strategies to enhance their cadence and synchronization maturity over time.

But success requires relentless review of what is working, what is not and the willingness to adapt practices based on lessons learned.

Developing business agility through SAFe is a transformative journey that calls for dedication and perseverance.


Achieving consistent cadence and effective synchronization is crucial to the success of SAFe implementations.

By understanding the key concepts, roles, and responsibilities involved, and employing the right strategies, organizations can better coordinate their efforts, align on priorities, and continuously improve their processes and practices.

Embrace the journey toward enterprise agility and enjoy the benefits that SAFe has to offer.


What is an Example of Applying Cadence and Synchronization in SAFe?

An example of applying Cadence and Synchronization in SAFe is through the use of Program Increment (PI) Planning events, which align teams on shared objectives, timelines, and dependencies to ensure coordinated execution throughout the organization.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified project manager professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced project managers and product developers the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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