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The perfect distributed SAFe® PI Planning

Raphael Sigg

February 22, 2018

3 min read

Imagine 150 people, spread over 3 sites, plan for 2 days with paper sticky notes. The Program Boards, which visualize dependencies between the teams, even have to be managed and kept in sync at three different locations. Definitely not the best conditions to carry out a distributed PI Planning successfully. To be honest it’s a horror scenario. But unfortunately there are too many people who have to deal with those challenges and for whom this is not a “scenario” but rather tough reality.

“Distributed collaboration” is a skill

Everywhere you hear that you should never work in distributed constellations. A sentence I still hear a lot: “You can never be productive in planning if you all don’t come together in the same room.” It’s true. It is very easy, pleasant and straight forward to meet and communicate in person. But why is it so simple? Because we’ve been training it since we were kids. Every day.

The main mistake made in distributed planning is that we think we could behave exactly the same as in face-to-face conversations. We must no longer compare distributed planning with collocated planning. Here’s what we can do to succeed in distributed SAFe® PI Plannings:

  • First of all, we need one or multiple moderators to guide us through the distributed PI Planning and keep order.
  • All participants must use the same tools. Only use one video conferencing service. In the best case, one that is intuitive and still works even when the internet connection is heavily loaded. eyeson offers good solutions.
  • The third point is that we need to establish structures and rules. Who speaks when; how do we make it clear that we want to say something and so on…
  • Last but not least, employees need to be trained in these practices, rules and be informed about the established structures.

It takes time to train, adopt and learn these practices. These measures will only bear fruit after one or two test runs or actual plannings.

Synchronized Boards

An important component of distributed agile PI Planning is that the boards are also kept in sync. If you choose analog boards, you have to be aware that everyone who changes something on your board has to inform the other locations. This is associated with a considerable additional effort and if the boards are not in sync, it can lead to misunderstandings. Since all boards of the PI Planning App are synchronized in real time, you are sure to be on the safe side (or is it “on the SAFe side”? Not sure how it’s spelled correctly). This means that you have one less worry and communication can revolve around purely planning relevant topics.

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