Sunday, December 15, 2019

What to Prepare and How to Run SAFe Program Increment (PI) Planning?

Early this week, our team dedicated 2 days outside of office to conduct SAFe PI (Program Increment) Planning session for first quarter of 2020. It's extremely an important ceremony in SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) before start any PI with all team members within program level. We experienced real team bonding and collaboration because it's face-to-face meeting, so everyone can align on prioritized features need to be delivered, identify risk & dependency between team, and build social network.

It's really interesting chance for me because it's my first time experience real PI Planning as newly appointed RTE (Release Train Engineer). I joined the client project in 4th quarter of 2019, early September as Scrum Master. To be honest, I'm quite new with Scaled Agile Framework. I heard it before, but never really implement it in any project. So when I know this project is adopting SAFe, I know that I really need catch-up and upgrade my skill to make sure I'm able facilitating all ceremonies and coach the team. Lucky enough for me, client is in the transition period and had some training available, so I enroll myself for "Leading SAFe" on October and took the exam and pass on November.

To help on preparation and guidance, my client's head of department (James Stratford) hired SAFe consultant: John Okoro to coach me on how to run PI Planning. He gave me some documentation and brief process on how to facilitate the session. Even though I've experienced the meeting simulation on my last training, this refresher and more detail information is really useful for me. We identified all key person and role (e.g. Business Owners, Product Manager, Product Owners, RTE, Scrum Masters, and System Architects), group team members, catch-up with business owners to come out with vision and prioritized features, and have checklist of supplies and facilities to make sure it's ready and available. Quite a lot of preparation and pre-meeting needed, and we managed to do it in our busy schedules.

Here's the recap summary:

  • Meeting agenda:

  • Day 1:
Morning time, business owners opened the session by sharing on high level update of management board meeting, team value & strategy, and vision. Continued by architect team to share on architecture and technical topic. Then all product owners shared the prioritized features in each team. And that's conclude the morning session before team goes to lunch.

After lunch, we break the team based on identified group and start to identify all user stories based on prioritized features, calculate team capacity, put story point estimation, and identify dependency between team. This session is really interesting, because I can see where the team collaboration start to emerge. They start to discuss and do brain-storming, jump to other team corner to raise any dependency to make sure it's captured there, and start to stick the sticky notes in their paper on the wall. Between the session, we had PO sync and scrum of scrum, to make sure product owners and scrum masters are align and timebox all the activities.

Three hours gone really fast, then team started to present the draft plan to business owner and other team. This session is really important, to make sure the business owner's vision is translated correctly in each team draft plan. Negotiation happened between team and business owner, based on team challenge and identified risk & dependency.

Last session of the day is management review, we have key persons stay to discuss any required adjustment based on feedback from team. We managed to make some adjustment required, to make sure we unblock team impediment. And that's concluded day 1 session.

  • Day 2:
I started day 2 by sharing adjustment based on previous day management meeting. And enable Q&A between team and business owners. After all clarified, then we had second team breakout by refine the plan. Each of team generate team objectives and stretch objectives. Business owners circulate to discuss with all team, and assign business value on each objective. 

After lunch, each of team present team objectives to get approval from business owners to become PI objectives. We continued by compile all risks and map it in ROAM (Resolved, Owned, Accepted, Mitigated) board. It's really important session, because we want to make sure all risks are managed and addressed. We spent more time than allocated, but it's well spent. And another following session is confidence vote with fist of five. Everyone needs to raise their hand with 1 finger for not confidence and 5 fingers for very high confidence. And most of team vote with 4 fingers, we're so glad that we had high confidence on the plan, and we go ahead with what we plan. :)

We closed the day by having PI retrospective with me facilitating the session. Top 3 feedback captured from what went well: excellent team collaboration, great energy, alignment on risk & dependency. And identified some action items for next PI Planning, mostly is related to preparation and logistics, and I own the action items. Then we end the day by taking another group pictures. 

It's really tiring two planning days, but the outcome from the session is really important to drive the team on what we need to achieve in next 6 sprints within 20.Q1 Program Increment. I'm so excited on what comes next, the journey as Release Train Engineer continues.

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