Southwest Airlines

Lean-Agile Transformation with SAFe®

Southwest Airlines is famous for its employee-first culture, dedication to customer service, and sense of warmth, friendliness, and fun. And when it comes to meeting the urgent demands of technology development in a highly complex logistical environment, a thriving culture is just the start to meeting the challenge.

To live up to Southwest’s purpose of connecting people to what’s important in their lives through reliable, low-cost air travel, Southwest began its Agile transformation in 2018 in operations. The fantastic results led to SAFe® adoption throughout Southwest.

Now four-plus years into their Agile transformation, more than 2,000 Southwest employees collaborate cross-functionally across the organization.

Quick Facts:

  • Operates at more than 120 airports across 11 countries worldwide
  • Carried 126 million customers in 2022
  • Operates more than 4,000 flights per day during peak season
  • Started SAFe transformation in 2018
  • More than 2,000 employees involved in SAFe across reservations, customer experience, crews, scheduling, training, aircrafts, ground operations, maintenance, and more

Key Outcomes:

  • Streamlined the number of steps and handoffs between business and technology and made them more predictable, saving time and money.
  • By adopting SAFe at the portfolio level, Southwest went from 7–9 months of planning in 2017, plus variable building, testing, and deploying timeframes (see timeline below) to releasing every iteration in 2020 
  • From 2018–2020, they saw increased deployment success and 5x faster time to market  (28 releases with 45% deployment success in 2018, to 349 releases and 93% deployment success in 2020)
  • Experienced better alignment around business value while measuring greater than 80% of business value delivered

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