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Guest post by Easy Agile

Originally posted by Sean Blake on July 22, 2021

When it comes to SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), PI planning is a critical first step in preparing a team. The gathering, often held quarterly, brings together a team, including software developers, team leaders, stakeholders, and everyone in between. Together, they complete essential planning.

While most PI planning used to occur in one big room, today’s remote and distributed teams have paved the way for online and hybrid PI planning events. It doesn’t matter so much where the session takes place, so long as it continually occurs with advance planning, team buy-in, and event execution.

We created an ultimate guide to PI Planning, which we continue to update with the latest trends, planning questions, resources, and tools. But in the post, we’ll focus on one specific aspect of PI planning — the mistakes you should avoid. ❌

What is PI Planning, and why is it so important?

PI Planning is Program Increment Planning, which is a recurring session for teams within the same Agile Release Train (ART) to meet, align, and plan what comes next.

The planning session provides time for teams and stakeholders to align on a shared vision, discuss features, identify cross-team dependencies, and plan the roadmap that will move everything forward. Adopting SAFe begins with PI Planning, and that solid starting point is critical to the success of SAFe.

PI Planning events form the foundation of how your team works together and how a product/project develops. It’s a real-time event that typically brings a team together under one roof, which is why it’s also called big room planning. However, it doesn’t matter if your team plans together in person or if you use online tools to run remote PI Planning. The important part is making sure teams can plan in real-time and that the PI Planning session results in critical PI objectives that will set the team up for success.

If your team is successful at the PI Planning process, you will:

✅ Build trust, rapport, and collaboration between team members, product managers, different business teams, and stakeholders

✅ Align on key business values, objectives, and goals

✅ Spot dependencies and other issues before they disrupt workflow

✅ Enhance problem solving and decision making

✅ Understand what’s expected of each team member going into the next sprint

✅ Gain valuable insight from key stakeholders and business owners

✅ Ground the team in reality with expectations, timelines, and clear goals

PI Planning mistakes to avoid

If you can identify the potential pitfalls of PI planning, you have a better chance of avoiding them. Don’t fall prey to these common mistakes:

1. Skipping or not prioritizing PI Planning

2. Failing to thoroughly plan in advance

3. Running long or boring sessions

4. Allowing remote restraints to stand in your way

5. Missing out on retrospective insights

1. Skipping or not prioritizing PI Planning

Scaled Agile, Inc. says that “PI Planning is essential to SAFe: If you are not doing it, you are not doing SAFe.” This couldn’t be more true!

PI Planning is an absolutely essential aspect of SAFe, and there’s no scenario in which it should be skipped or undervalued. Failing to effectively run a PI Planning meeting can have dire consequences for product development.

Work inevitably gets busy, and when product development falls behind or roadblocks come up, something has to give. However, no matter how tempting it may be, never allow your PI Planning to get pushed, delayed, scaled back, or skipped altogether.

Set your PI Planning date well in advance and stick to that date to ensure everyone can be available and prepared.

2. Failing to thoroughly plan in advance

Pre-PI planning is essential to the success of your event. You’ll have limited time as a group, so it’s essential that you use it wisely once the time comes.

Plan the date well in advance to ensure everyone can attend and access planning materials. Before your upcoming PI, make sure your backlog items are refined and ready so precious time isn’t wasted during the PI event.

3. Running long or boring sessions

PI Planning often includes long and heavy sessions, which can kill the vibe and stifle creativity and problem solving. 😴

Do all that you can to engage the team and keep sessions short. This can help a team participate more, invest in the session, and problem solve more effectively. Look for creative ways of running sessions that engage more than just the energetic few. Carefully consider timelines, and ensure no session runs too long to prevent boredom or wasted time.

4. Allowing remote restraints to stand in your way

There may be different challenges with running PI Planning remotely. But with advanced planning and the right tools, you can run a successful planning session no matter where your team is located.

Don’t neglect your PI Planning because your team is remote or temporarily working remotely. There are plenty of tools that can help remote teams engage online with team breakouts, video conferencing, online sticky notes, and PI Planning plugins.

Virtual breakout sessions are essential to ensuring the right people can engage at any given time and that no time is wasted. Carefully plan your remote PI Planning to ensure everyone is prepared and knows where and when they need to participate online.

5. Missing out on retrospective insights

Not to sound like a broken record, but retrospective 👏🏿 insights 👏🏻 are 👏🏾 important 👏🏽.

We know there’s only so much time allocated for PI Planning and so much to get done, but you need to make time for a short retrospective. Otherwise, you’ll never truly learn how to improve. A post-PI Planning session will allow your team to discuss the planning event, including what went well, what didn’t go well, and what could be improved for next time.

Make sure you record retrospective insights and implement important ideas into the next PI planning meeting. After all, it wouldn’t be agile if you didn’t continually try to improve your systems.

Level up your PI Planning with Easy Agile Programs

Effective planning begins with using the right tools, which is all the more important as teams do PI Planning remotely or with distributed teams.

Easy Agile builds products designed to help agile teams plan efficiently and effectively. Easy Agile Programs for Jira is ideal for helping teams effectively manage programs with streamlined visibility. It’s a complete PI Planning solution for all types of Jira users — including distributed, remote, or face-to-face.

What are the benefits of Easy Agile Programs?

With Easy Agile Programs, you can:

  • Build a program board in Jira
  • Effectively manage programs with streamlined visibility
  • Understand the health of your program backlog/program increments
  • Make real-time iterations
  • Rework and adapt your PI Planning to the needs of your team.
  • Spot feature level dependencies
  • Deliver alignment at a large scale
  • Create milestones and team swimlanes
  • Align development teams or multiple different teams on goals and timelines

Learn more about the benefits of Easy Agile Programs and try it free for 30 days. We believe in being transparent about our product vision, which means you can follow our product journey, including new features, what we’re working on, and what we hope to accomplish in the future.

Read Easy Agile’s original article here

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