July 29, 2022

7 best SAFe® books for large-scale implementation

Jerzy Żurawiecki Content Specialist @BigPicture

Before your organization starts applying the Scaled Agile Framework® in managing an entire portfolio of projects, there is plenty to do and even more to know. It’s not a flip of a switch – preparation is key. Fortunately, the list of the seven best SAFe® books is here to help you get ready for this monumental change the right way.

Learn how to implement SAFe® and master the topics such as Agile Release Train, Program Increment Planning, process improvement, and more with these must-read entries.

SAFe® Background

SAFe® 5.0 Distilled: Achieving Business Agility with the Scaled Agile Framework by Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell

Best Safe® Books – SAFe® 5.0 Distilled

It’s the most important book for anyone who wants their business to “be SAFe®.” Co-written by the framework’s creator, SAFe® 5.0 Distilled is an all-encompassing resource of knowledge about the Scaled Agile Framework®. The 320-page publication contains in-depth answers to the most coveted questions:

SAFeⓇ 5.0 Distilled – the main points

SAFe® 5.0 Distilled should be compulsory reading if you’re starting your journey with the Scaled Agile Framework®. From SAFe® values to actionable application tips – it’s all there and then some. The framework is updated every few years, and the fifth edition contains the latest additions, such as new competencies, themes, and principles. Thus, it’s an educational staple of the framework and a must-have on the list of the best SAFe® books.

Agile Release Train

The ART of Avoiding a Train Wreck: Practical Tips and Tricks for Launching and Operating SAFe® Agile Release Trains by Em Campbell-Pretty and Adrienne L.Wilson

The ART of Avoiding a Train Wreck

Aligning an Agile Release Train comprised of multiple teams is often a challenge. That’s why when it comes to the best SAFe® books, this one is definitely a part of the conversation.

Credibility-wise, both authors are renowned and experienced SAFe® practitioners. The ART of Avoiding a Train Wreck focuses on the real-life implementation of the Agile Release Train.

It’s a treasure chest of knowledge, full of instructions, tips, and anecdotes. Best of all, the book is written in an entertaining way, which makes absorbing the information easy and fun. The scope goes beyond the standard of the SAFe® framework, making it valuable for anyone involved in the Agile Release Train.

Organizational Structure

Accelerate: Building Strategic Agility for a Faster-Moving World by John K.Potter


The bigger the business, the harder it is to manage projects in an Agile fashion. But it doesn’t have to be that way. John Kotter’s Accelerate is a different take on organizational structures that facilitate Agile in scale instead of hindering it. The author calls it a Dual Operating System – a way to reshape the company structure to increase growth.

Kotter lays out the difference between the Dual Operating System and a traditional hierarchy in the video below:

Accelerate explains how conventional business hierarchies limit growth and how to prevent that from happening. Furthermore, the readers will learn about specific areas of improvement, including five principles and eight accelerators. On top of that, Kotter provides tips on how to start implementing extensive structural changes in the form of a Q&A.

Software Requirements

Agile Software Requirements: Lean Requirements Practices for Teams, Programs, and the Enterprise by Dean Leffingwell

Best SAFe® books – Agile Software Requirements


Creating effective software requirements can be tricky in an iterative methodology like Agile. It’s even more challenging in a large-scale environment. However, Dean Leffingwell comes to the rescue with a book chock-full of knowledge and invaluable advice.

Agile Software Requirements provides a comprehensive look at the subject. Leffingwell has devised a unique method of managing requirements based on Classic, Agile, and Lean approaches. He delves into the topic on multiple levels: team, project, and portfolio.

Undoubtedly, it’s one of the best SAFe® books for any business dealing with software development. Whether you’re a developer, an executive, or anyone in between, Agile Software Requirements will be your guide to implementing robust software requirements in an enterprise.

Product Development

Lean Product and Process Development by Allen C.Ward and Durward K.Sobek II


Lean Product and Process Development

Companies attempting to adopt the Lean approach face various challenges and hurdles. Fortunately, Allen C.Ward has created a thorough resource on how to develop Lean products and processes.

In Lean Product and Process Development, Ward delves into multiple areas of this topic. From the explanation of lean principles, through tools and management systems, as well as how to think about lean products, just to name a few. The book is the result of Ward’s extensive experience in numerous industries. If your current product development strategies are inefficient, read this book. Here are some of the key aspects covered in Lean Product and Process Development:

Lean Product and Process Development: key points

Process Improvement

Unlocking Lean Six Sigma: A Competency-Based Approach to Applying Continuous Process Improvement Principles and Best Practices by Dr. Wesley E. Donahue

Unlocking Lean Six Sigma

The philosophy of Lean Six Sigma is invaluable for teams aiming to streamline their internal processes and improve efficiency. Donahue’s award-winning Unlocking Lean Six Sigma explains the approach step-by-step. Furthermore, the concepts conveyed in the book are accompanied by additional materials such as:

  • Worksheets,
  • Illustrations,
  • Charts,
  • Case scenarios,
  • Advice on further training.

As a bonus, the book contains a test with 120 questions, allowing you to verify your understanding of the material. Unlocking Lean Six Sigma is a comprehensive source of knowledge with plenty of learning aids to make it easier to digest. It certainly deserves a spot on the list of the best SAFe® books.

Project Increment Planning

SAFe PI Planning: A Step-By-Step Guide by Liam Kane

Best SAFeⓇ books – SAFe PI Planning

Program Increment Planning is a critically important event in SAFe®. Whether you need a refresher or an in-depth introduction, this book will prove immensely useful.

SAFe PI Planning is a step-by-step guide on the subject. Firstly, it lays out the entire process in an easy-to-understand form. Secondly, it places PI Planning in a broader context. As such, it also illustrates how to prepare for this SAFe® event. To top it off, Kane shares a list of valuable practices to implement in your organization.