After taking a lead role in several previous PI Plannings I thought it would be worth sharing my learnings.
Prep, prep and more prep
PI Planning is all about alignment. Alignment to the vision, alignment within the teams, across the teams and ensuring all alignment points and dependencies are identified, discussed and managed.
To this end, the more preparatory work leading up to this the better as you will be able to focus on these alignment and dependency points rather than starting from a standstill working out what your teams capacity is and what stories to work on first.
Speaking from experience being in an ART (a business transformation ART mind you - rather than a software delivery ART) that did not do sufficient backlog prep or have wide enough training coverage, it can be done but it will be incredibly frustrating and difficult but it can be done with motivated people.
provide EVERYONE with sufficient training on the event and its purpose (having 2/3 is not enough and will slow the process down or end up with un-engaged and demotivated team members.
conduct full team backlog workshops (story mapping, backlog refinement, whichever method works). Ensure the WHOLE TEAM is actively engaged in creating and challenging the backlog. A backlog prepared by someone else and presented for the first time at PI Planning will be very difficult for the team to engage with and majority of day 1 will be spent discussing/arguing over the meaning of each item wasting valuable planning time. All of this should be done ahead of time as much as possible.
Running through scaling and scrum simulations ahead of the inaugural PI planning
Point out key behaviors / objectives
Lead of explaining the key behaviors during each section and demonstrate with a short example of what your looking for.
- Ensure PI objectives are visual (seen by audience)
- Each PI objective is read out / discussed
- Capacity vs load % is mentioned
- Don't read out sprint by sprint plans or each dependency / risk individually - if mentioned, draw out key items.
Backlog prep workshops
This is critical not just for preparing what features / stories to plan during the PI Planning but also a critical juncture for team building. As a coach, we typically see agile teams dominated by a lead dev or manager and running a collaborative workshop like a story mapping session devolves/democratises a lot of this planning activity
Story mapping workshop
Use case context modelling
- Backlog definition / prioritisation (story by story) - least favourite
Build team relationships early
As a coach, regardless of within a scaled environment or not, building trust with the team and showing value is critical and takes time. Any prepatory work before PI planning gives the coach an opportunity to subtly influence and build trust before the big event.
Make the agenda your own
Tailor the agenda to suit your context.
- Be prepared for visions to run short or long, expect the first plan review to over run
- Choose an appropriate time for Scrum of Scrums (SoS), 45 mins to go on breakout #1 and halfway through breakout 2.
- Make the SoS questions relevant. I typically "Add have you re-prioritised features with your Product Manager / Business Owner", or "Have you spoken to the System and/or Business Architect"
Keep it interactive / engaging
Its a long two days and each slot within the agenda has its place so in order to get people engaged.
- Visions - mix up the formats, some 'postcards', others image heavy, change locations, dont always present from front of the room, get the audience up on their feet.
- Plan reviews - move people around the room to read / discuss each team's PI objectives
- Confidence vote - try different methods/formats. Low-fi Fist of five or try interactive like Kahoot
Use a big, always-visible timer
To keep the agenda tight, I have a timer up on the timeboxed sessions such as the plan reviews. On the larger ARTs we had 11 feature teams to get through so each team only had 5 mins (3 mins to present + 2 mins questions)
Also vital for the running the exercises in Leading SAFe and the other SAFe courses.
Make sure you get enough sleep after Day 1. The end of day drinks/tema building event is a great place to unwind and digest the day but do ensure you have enough energy to repeat it all again the next day!
1/2 of the main planning area during breakout #1
one of the planning areas during PI planning (after everyone left on Day 1)