Addressing Portfolio WIP – new guidance

Advanced Topic SAFe Updates

Special note: This blog post is a guest contribution from Eric Willeke, Principal Contributor and SAFe Fellow, and Principal at




The portfolio level of SAFe has evolved quite a bit in the last few years. In 4.5 we began introducing new constructs for strategic flow in the portfolio level, and made those connections visually in the 4.6 big picture alongside introducing the Lean Portfolio Management competency. In 5.0 the portfolio management competency was expanded and paired with an increased focus on the importance of Organizational Agility to delivering value from a lean portfolio. All this makes the guidance in “A lean perspective on SAFe Portfolio WIP limits” feel quite dated. 

Meanwhile, navigating the challenge of excessive volumes of work in process (WIP) in the development organization continues to be of utmost importance to enterprises. In the words of Cheryl Crupi, iSPCT and AVP at MetLife: “Bottom line – limiting WIP is imperative to business agility.  Control the work throughout the system, and create the conditions for innovation, speed and efficiency.  Ignore WIP to the detriment of your business and your teams – resulting in fatigue, lack of focus and gridlock.” 

Applying effective WIP management tools is a real struggle for every company. “Creating WIP limits that are thoughtfully created, iteratively reconsidered, and actually honored seems to be one of the hardest things for an organization, a team, a product, or a train to really make happen.” says Rebecca Davis, iSPCT from CVS Health. Overcoming these difficulties requires SPC and lean-agile leaders to actively deploy the right tools for managing WIP, integrate those tools into the behaviors of the organization, and constantly encourage their leaders and peers to respect the tools in order to achieve the productivity and quality the organization is capable of demonstrating.

Supporting these needs, I’m happy to share the extensively revised advanced topic article “Improving Strategic Investment Impact by Limiting Portfolio WIP” is available, completely updated for SAFe 5.0 and expanded to include additional coverage of the tools SAFe provides to generate strategic focus and limit the work driven into the ARTs by the Portfolio.


– Eric Willeke

SPCT, SAFe Fellow, SAFe Principal Contributor


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Eric Willeke

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