SAFe PI Planning, Distributed Teams, Conteneo Weave

This is all content that a) comes from, b) is great for distributed teams, and c) I highly recommend and use myself.

A challenge faced by many SAFe organizations is creating an efficient PI planning process: one in which the in-person meeting advocated by SAFe generates high-impact, actionable results.

One of the reasons why this is hard is that the PI planning meeting is the first time the team is exposed to PI goals and requirements is when the team attends the in-person meeting. That’s too late. Members of the Agile Release Train are vastly more effective if you engage them before the release.

The key word? Engage. We don’t mean asking them to read a document. That quickly leads us down the slippery slope to document-centric, Waterfall processes.

Instead we mean: using collaborative frameworks in Weave so that teams can have the dialogs and discussions that increase understanding and lead to collective action.

This post presents a comprehensive toolkit for using Weave to improve your PI Planning and related project Kickoff or Liftoff events. You’re encouraged to mix and match the frameworks captured in this toolkit to meet your needs.

Phase 1: Pre-Meeting Engagement

Use these frameworks before the PI planning meeting to get the team engaged without asking or expecting them to make binding commitments. That’s key: the team is not yet ready to make “final” choices or thoughtful plans (that’s the purpose of the in-person meeting).

If multiple teams are involved then have each team engage in one or more forums. This gives you a comprehensive dataset (one forum result for each team), giving you the opportunity to analyze the data for insights and patterns both within and across teams.
The frameworks presented below are ready to go – just click on any image and you’ll start a Weave forum ready to go!

agreeing on priorities

Agreeing on Priorities

SAFe advocates ensuring that your teams are aligned on business priorities but doesn’t provide a framework for this purpose.
Fortunately, the 20/20 Vision framework is specifically designed to help you build alignment on priorities. Capture your priorities and have your teams prioritize them.

visionEstablishing a Vision

One of the most engaging ways to establish a compelling vision is to use the Product Box framework. Unfortunately, Product Box doesn’t work well with distributed teams, so use On the Cover instead.
This framework asks teams to imagine their release was featured as the cover story in a famous magazine. Capturing the big headlines and crafting a compelling story helps build excitement for your planning session.


Roadmapping / Strategic Planning

 Traditional approaches to roadmapping promote overly rigid, linear thinking. We prefer to encourage the growth of your products and services through the Prune the Product Tree framework, in which roots represent infrastructure that provides the nourishment for features and capabilities that are represented as apples. And if you have tech debt? No worries – capture that as rotten apples!

Understanding Business Valuebusiness value

 Agile teams produce better results when they understand which Product Backlog Items (PBIs) are associated with new customer revenue, up selling existing customers, retaining customers or improving operations.
Our friends at Agile42 have created the Business Value framework to help Product Managers and business leaders clarify desired outcomes in these dimensions. Learn more here.

Identifying Risks and Enablers

 Sailboat is a fantastic framework to help the team identify risks and enablers. While there are a lot of versions of this framework on the web, we like this version as it clearly articulates multiple dimensions of project insight.
Understanding Degrees of Controlcontrol
 Teams work better when they have a clear understanding of their scope of control. Accordingly, Certified CollaborationInstructor Joel Bancroft-Connors from Applied Frameworks recommends using Diana Larsen’s Circles and Soup to help determine the degree of control a team has over a given release.

Negotiating Initial Scopescope

We love the Impact-Effort Matrix! Business leaders manage the dimension of value while the dev teams manage the dimension of effort. Working together, they can identify and shape the highest value, lowest effort Product Backlog Items.

Phase 2: Analyzing Data

Once you’ve engaged your teams, you will want to leverage the data from Weave to further prepare for your in-person PI planning meeting. Weave makes this easy – just download the forum data, identify key patterns and adjust your in-person PI agenda to leverage the data.
We find it helpful to download the completed images from the forums in SVG format and print posters of key artifacts to help the team leverage their own insights. More importantly, you can use the same frameworks both online in Weave and in-person during your PI meeting to create.

Now You’re Ready for Your PI Planning Meeting!

With a small amount of up front, online collaboration in Weave you’ll find that your PIPlanning meeting is vastly more effective.
Weave on!

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