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Understanding Lean Portfolio Management in SAFe

Updated: May 15, 2023

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, organizations are under constant pressure to adapt and respond to changing market conditions. In order to remain competitive, it's essential to have a framework in place that can help manage the flow of work, maximize productivity, and ensure alignment with strategic goals. This is where Lean Portfolio Management (LPM) comes in.

In this blog post, we'll explore what LPM is, why it's important, and how it fits into the larger context of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

What is Lean Portfolio Management?

At its core, LPM is a set of principles and practices designed to help organizations manage the flow of work from ideation to delivery. It provides a structured approach to prioritizing initiatives, allocating resources, and managing risk, all with the goal of ensuring that the organization's strategy is aligned with its execution.

LPM operates on the principle of continuous improvement, using feedback loops to measure progress and adjust course as needed. By fostering a culture of experimentation and learning, LPM encourages teams to take risks, innovate, and iterate on their ideas.

Why is LPM important?

The benefits of LPM are numerous. By providing a clear view of the organization's strategic objectives, LPM helps teams stay focused on the most important initiatives, reducing waste and increasing efficiency.

It also helps to minimize risk by providing a structured approach to managing dependencies, mitigating issues, and tracking progress.

In addition, LPM fosters collaboration and alignment across teams, departments, and business units, breaking down silos and enabling a more holistic view of the organization's objectives. This can lead to better decision-making, improved quality, and faster time-to-market.

How does LPM fit into SAFe?

LPM is a critical component of SAFe, providing a framework for managing work at the portfolio level. SAFe is designed to help organizations scale agile practices across the enterprise, and LPM is one of the key elements that enables this.

In SAFe, LPM sits at the top of the framework, providing a strategic view of the organization's goals and initiatives. It works in concert with other components of the framework, such as Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Lean-Agile Budgeting, to ensure that work is aligned with strategic objectives and that resources are allocated effectively.

Key concepts of LPM in SAFe

Lean Portfolio Management in SAFe involves three key concepts: Portfolio Strategy and Investment Funding, Agile Portfolio Operations, and Lean Governance. By adopting these practices, organizations can align their portfolios with enterprise strategy, prioritize initiatives, and effectively allocate resources to achieve business objectives.

1. Portfolio Strategy and Investment Funding

Portfolio Strategy and Investment Funding is the foundation of LPM in SAFe. It involves analyzing the organization's strengths and weaknesses, market trends, and customer needs to develop a clear and actionable portfolio strategy. Initiatives are then prioritized based on their potential return on investment, strategic importance, and alignment with the portfolio strategy.

For example, a financial services company that wanted to improve its online banking experience developed a portfolio strategy focused on enhancing its platform, developing a mobile app, and increasing security measures. By prioritizing initiatives in this way, organizations can invest their resources effectively, deliver the most value to customers, and achieve business objectives.

2. Agile Portfolio Operations

Agile Portfolio Operations is the process of managing the portfolio backlog, prioritizing initiatives based on their value, and ensuring that resources are allocated to the highest priority items. Collaboration and alignment across teams are essential, with a focus on continuous improvement and adaptability.

Best practices for Agile Portfolio Operations include using visual management tools like Kanban boards to track the status of each initiative in the portfolio backlog. This helps teams to prioritize work and identify areas where resources may be over-allocated or under-utilized. Additionally, a consistent prioritization framework like WSJF can be used to evaluate initiatives based on their relative value and effort required, while also considering factors like risk, dependencies, and strategic alignment.

For instance, a software development company can prioritize initiatives using a Kanban board and WSJF, with a focus on delivering the most valuable features to customers first. As part of continuous improvement efforts, the company regularly reviews and adjusts its portfolio priorities based on feedback from stakeholders and team members.

3. Lean Governance

Lean Governance is the process of ensuring that initiatives are aligned with the portfolio strategy and compliant with regulatory requirements. This involves establishing a governance framework that enables effective decision-making and ensures that the organization is meeting its obligations to stakeholders.

Best practices for Lean Governance include establishing a governance board that oversees the portfolio and ensuring clear policies and procedures for compliance with regulatory requirements. Regular compliance audits should also be conducted to identify and address any issues in a timely manner.

For example, a healthcare organization implementing a new electronic health record system established a governance board that included representatives from finance, IT, legal, and clinical operations. The organization developed clear policies and procedures for compliance with regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA, and regularly reviewed the project's progress to ensure alignment with its overall strategy and compliance requirements.


In today's fast-paced business environment, organizations need a framework that can help them manage the flow of work, maximize productivity, and ensure alignment with strategic goals. LPM provides a structured approach to portfolio management, helping organizations prioritize initiatives, allocate resources, and manage risk. By fostering a culture of continuous improvement and collaboration, LPM can help organizations stay agile and responsive, enabling them to adapt to changing market conditions and stay ahead of the competition. And as a critical component of SAFe, LPM plays a key role in enabling organizations to scale agile practices across the enterprise.

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