Figure 1. Responsibilities in the dual operating model.

Balancing the Dual Operating System

Advanced Topics News SAFe Framework Updates

SAFe 5 introduced the ‘dual operating system’ as an operating model to help enterprises compete and thrive in the digital age. This model has passed the test of time. It has now become a meaningful way to separate the concerns of developing and launching innovative new solutions (the responsibility of the Network) and efficiently running and growing a business that leverages those solutions (the responsibility of the Hierarchy).

Responsibilities in the dual operating model.
Figure. Responsibilities in the dual operating model.

But at that time, that is where the discussion ended. We didn’t elaborate further on how to separate—and, where appropriate, share —the complete set of responsibilities needed to run the enterprise. Nor did we describe any other aspects of the model, such as optimizations, enhancing agility in both aspects, funding, and more.

Fortunately, SAFe Fellow Ian Spence took this on as a personal initiative and provided some new thinking, some of which he presented at last year’s SAFe Summit. This prompted a more extensive collaboration, the result of which is the new SAFe Guidance Article entitled ‘Balancing the Dual Operating System.’ This article advances our thinking on this important aspect of business agility and is sure to prompt additional guidance in the future.

If you want to know more, read the article, but also be aware that Ian is giving a talk by the same name at the upcoming 2021 Global SAFe Summit.

Thanks Ian!

Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

comment (4)

  1. Sai

    28 Aug 2021 - 3:06 am

    I am a SPC 5.0 and ever since I read about this dual operating model, I have been very excited and also inquisitive to know how this works in reality . Do we have case studies of companies who have implemented this ?

    • steve

      07 Sep 2021 - 8:57 am

      Hi Sai! The reality is that you will find the dual operating system at work in most successful SAFe transformations. Until we incorporated the description of the dual operating system from Dr. Kotter in SAFe 5, we didn’t have a great way to describe it. When we read his description in his book Accelerate, we felt it was a great fit for what happens in a SAFe enterprise. If you go to the Resources option at you will find many great customers stories where the dual operating system is working effectively, even if it is not explicitly described as such in the articles and videos. We hope this helps!

  2. Shashi

    21 Aug 2021 - 10:49 am

    Interesting article …

    • harry

      25 Aug 2021 - 6:07 pm

      Thanks, Sashi! We are glad you find these articles helpful.

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