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How To Prepare for PI Planning?

Organizations these days are always looking for ways to streamline their operations, improve time to market etc. When a business grows, it can turn out to be harder to coordinate work among various teams. Thanks to Program Increment or PI Planning! It will make work coordination easy among teams in an organization. We are here to discuss how to prepare PI Planning. However, before that we will understand what PI Planning is all about:

What is PI Planning?

A Program Increment will be an integral part of the Agile Release Train or Solution Train and it is followed as an iteration to the Agile Team. It is a standard timebox not only for planning but also for developing and evaluating the performance of a full system increment. It also involves the demonstration of value and getting quick feedback. Each Program Increment applies sync and cadence for planning the Agile Release Train's forthcoming increment of work limit work in process. Also, it summarizes newsworthy value for feedback besides ensuring consistent, ART-wide retrospectives. PI Planning has a wide scope. Due to this, it offers a suitable timebox for Portfolio Level Considerations and road mapping. A PI may last for 8-12 weeks while the PI planning event generally lasts for 2 days. The commonly followed pattern for a Program Increment is four development iterations. These four will be followed by one innovation and planning iteration.

How to Prepare for PI Planning?

Here are the steps you should follow when you prepare for a Program Increment Planning Event:

Understanding the Purpose of PI Planning:

When you are moving a team towards SAFe, it is highly important to ensure that the purpose of PI planning is understood by all participants clearly. Particularly, the members of the executive and management team should understand the purpose. Early management of expectations is important to ensure the success of the entire PI Planning event. The goal of PI Planning will be the creation of an emergent roadmap for delivering a prioritized and accepted set of results and also the identification of both potential and known hindrances to moving forward. Particularly, the outputs from a Program Increment Planning Event that you can expect are:

  • Results of that PI
  • Emergent Roadmaps
  • Discovering cross-team dependencies and risks/impediments for resolving them.

In this stage, the crucial challenge faced by teams is that the executives expect the plan to be a commitment of delivery for the entire Program Increment. When it is not done rightly, it will look similar to an 8-12 week waterfall committed phase. During this phase, the cost, quality, time and scope are all locked down. This is something bad for Agile. 

SAFe Criticism:

One of the reasons for the criticism faced by SAFe is the perception of a long upfront planning horizon. This is something that can reduce the overall speed. This is acceptable when detailed planning takes place in advance. Nevertheless, when it is done rightly, the output you get from PI planning is undoubtedly a high-level emergent roadmap for the forthcoming PI and it is not an assurance of delivery.

Apart from understanding the purpose of PI planning, should communicate the same to all people involved.

Preparing for PI Planning:

Once the purpose of the PI Planning is understood and communicated, the next step in the PI planning preparation is to prepare. When you prepare, here are the three areas to focus on:

Readiness of your Organization:

You will have to make arrangements such that all leaders and stakeholders involved in the program are available for the PI Planning event. To ensure the availability of all key people in your organization, it is better to schedule the PI planning meetings well in advance. Most large organizations have the practice of conducting meetings every quarter and ensuring that all people are present in the meeting. When you plan the meeting to be held in the forthcoming quarter, it is better to plan at the end of the present quarter itself. When you do this, you can make sure that everything is in place for the meeting that will be conducted in the next quarter. In turn, you can ensure the readiness of your entire organization for the Planning Session.

Readiness of Content:

To instigate the PI Planning, you should have the program vision and purpose in hand in advance. Program leaders and stakeholders of the business are the best people to convey this information to the teams on the first day of the PI Planning event.

Readiness of Facility:

You might have a rough idea of the number of people taking part in the PI planning event. So, to accommodate all of them involved, a large room might be essential so that all involved can move around and can ask questions to other teams. A good idea to start is to have a room size that is double the number of people you have called for the meeting. In other words, if your estimate is to have 75 people, it is better to plan a facility that can accommodate 150 people. When there are walls, they will prevent people from talking and moving around. In case, the team members will be participating from remote locations, it is better to have at least one computer for video conferencing per table. Here, it is better to ensure that remote team members are aware of which computer/speaker is with which team. Also, ensure the presence of a good communication channel like a Zoom meeting or Google Meeting or anything that your organization uses regularly.

Agenda to Follow:

When you find the answer to the question of how to prepare PI Planning, here is a standard agenda to follow for a two-day planning session.

As you are planning for a Program Increment planning event, you can find useful resource online to frame your agenda for the event. Based on the nature of your business, you can call upon motivational speakers. Even, you can plan to have dedicated time for identifying the achievements of the previous PI. Otherwise, just give some time for the teams to get to know each other. These activities can be of great help in the addition of a social aspect and team-building to the event. To help you frame the agenda for PI Planning, here are some steps to follow:

Agenda for the First Day:

PI Planning agenda for the first day can encompass the following:

  • Team Breakouts:

To underwrite the features stated in the vision statement, teams will meet in this stage for evaluating their speed for every single iteration. At this stage, they also spot their pending works and their effect to be brought to the notice. Even, it involves submission of their draft plans for reviewing and giving feedback to all the teams. At this juncture, they will have to identify dependability and risks. Even, they identify the places at which iterations will require connecting with other teams and other Agile Release Trains. 

  • Review of Draft Plan:

At this meeting, teams submit their rough plans such that stakeholders, Product Owners, and Business Owners can provide their valuable feedback. The feedback can be used by teams for refining their rough plans prior to the review by the management or to throw some light on the probable issues to solve.

  • Problem-Solving and Management Review:

In most instances, the rough plans will show up problems with resources, constraints, people, scope and architecture. These problems can, at times be solved by possible features and management bargaining scope again. This is where organizing a meeting will help. This meeting should be arranged by the Business Owner and Release Train Engineer with a fresh set of features and priorities for the teams to follow the following day.

The other things to include in the agenda for the first day include planning context, architectural vision and development practices, solutions/product vision and business context.

Agenda for Day Two:
  • Program Adjustments:

This day will start with any decisions or adjustments that the stakeholders and management made at the time of the meeting held for resolving issues. During the program adjustment meeting, these decisions will be submitted to the team and can result in the identification of new priorities. The new priorities will be updated on the program board such that teams can notice and prepare themselves for the new priorities.

  • Team Breakouts:

At this time, the teams take the changes again to their planning. They get to their Program Increment objectives again for the program board. At this juncture, the entrepreneurs will give value to every objective such that they are ranked for proper implementation. With this move, teams will have an improved understanding of where their goals will go in line with the forthcoming iterations.

The second-day agenda should also encompass a review of the final plan and identifying program risks.

  1. https://www.lucidchart.com/blog/introduction-to-safe-pi-planning
  2. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/program-increment/
  3. https://sprint0.com/five-tips-for-an-effective-pi-planning-event/
  4. https://www.scaledagileframework.com/pre-and-post-pi-planning/



Is a passionate learner and blogger on Agile, Scrum and Scaling areas. She has been following and practicing these areas for several years and now converting those experiences into useful articles for your continuous learning.