My opinion is that SAFe has a cunning multi-sided business model.
On the one side, managers who don’t understand agility, relish the feeling (illusion) of control, and, not knowing any better, look for something that looks structured. That SAFe also looks complex is a bonus, as it flatters them. Their business, after all, is too complex to be handled by less complex approaches than SAFe.
On the other side, individual contributors who don’t understand agility, relish the opportunistic prospect of “making 900 quid a day” (someone’s word choice on LinkedIn), and want to be part of the feast upon these managers’ folly. The complexity of SAFe is also flattering to them; after all, capital-A Agile is serious business.
These managers have the same mindset as those who years ago brought Six Sigma into their organizations.
These individual contributors have the same mindset as those who years ago collected belts and certifications like kids collect Pokemon.
In some years, SAFe too will have become an unfashionable fad, and something else will have replaced it.
Not because SAFe fails, but because eventually the ruse is up. At some point the well runs dry, and SAFe’s total cost (incl. opportunity cost) outweighs the meager benefits it brings to the organization. It takes a while though, because in the meantime SAFe delivers intangible benefits to the managers and very tangible benefits to those peddling SAFe.
In the short run, SAFe succeeds; after all it is a tasty miracle cure for managers/execs who feel the pressure to “do Agile” and need something officious to help them pretend.
SAFe is a veritable instance of “Deft” .