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PI Planning Therapy

What you'll learn

  • PI Planning is for planning 
  • Try to dissuade your team to do excessive story level planning before they go into actual PI Planning 
  • Too much preparation upfront will prevent very important dialogue between teams, stakeholders


Hi! Welcome back to PI Planning Therapy! It's been a while, but you know, Corona does what Corona wants, so we have to live with that.


(musical intro) PI Planning Therapy, where you come for all your help with PI planning! It's the best therapy you'll ever get. Better than drugs.


Today, what we're going to talk about is the classical problem: I think my teams are over-preparing for PI planning. They have this habit of walking in and they've got all their stories done! And, like, they’re full fidelity stories with all their acceptance criteria, and all of those sorts of things. And I'm not sure if that's really the right thing for them to be doing.


Well, I can tell you this: this is really the wrong thing for them to be doing. What is PI planning for? Planning. So if they're planning before they're coming to planning, are they doing PI planning before they come into planning? So what's the point of doing the planning twice? They do the planning before planning, and then they do the planning in planning. From a time and effort perspective, it really makes no sense.


So what should they be doing? Well, you're in your IP iteration. Yes, innovation and planning. And, if you're not doing your Inspect & Adapt and your demo and things like that, what you’re supposed to be doing is basically innovation and relentless improvement. So, every minute that your team spends in the IP that is not about innovation, relentless improvement, whether it's innovation and relentless improvement around their ways of working, around their processes, whether it's innovation and relentless improvement around the product to make the product bigger and better and brighter and make the customers just delightfully happy; any time that you're not spending doing that, or your I&A, is basically time doing the wrong thing. You're not focusing on the right outcomes.


PI planning is for planning. If the teams have planned beforehand, they're got a pre-prepared plan. This is what they want to do. This is all the assumptions they've made. Everything is the iteration that they want to do. Does that mean it's the right iteration for the product, for the ART, for the other teams? Oh, no, we'll sort that out in PI planning. Well, will you? Because now you've got five teams with a very strong cognitive bias to a pre-prepared plan that they like, that they believe in, and you know what's going to happen? They are going to spend more time and effort defending their plan is the right approach, that their assumptions are right, that their timing, no, it should be iteration three, not iteration two — even if you need it in iteration three —, and I have to finish it. Then iteration two. My plan says I finished it in three, so three is the right place.


What happens? They start defending their plans. So you're losing your innovation time, you're losing your relentless improvement. You're having teams with a high degree of predisposition towards their way of seeing things, with a strong cognitive bias. 

This is not good for your product, this is not good for your teams. So try to dissuade your teams from doing excessive story-level planning before they go in.


That doesn't mean none, okay. The world is in the gray zone and the truth is always in the gray zone. So, do I do none, or do I do some? High risk features: features that the teams may have never seen before, or the features that may contain technical elements that they don't understand. Those things you may want to go deeper in. But you go deeper into things that you don't understand, you don't go deeper into everything. 


Because the whole idea of PI planning, the reason it works so well, is that we are all together in the room at the same level of plan. So, as we walk together to create our ART plan, we are having conversations with all the stakeholders in the room relating to that plan. We're aligning dependencies, we're discussing assumptions, we're all doing that together at the same time. Too much pre-preparation will prevent that very, very vitally important dialogue from taking place.


So yes, the chances are that, if you feel your teams are over-planning, the chances are they actually are, because if they're going in with much of a plan at all — especially if it's not risk based! — then they're definitely over-planning. 


I know it's really popular because everyone wants PI planning to be smooth. PI planning is like kite surfing. You need a bit of a storm going on for it to really work, to really fly high in the sky. You need some power, some energy, some disturbance. This is a healthy PI planning. If I go into a PI planning and it’s smooth and quiet, there’s lots of whispering going on, but really no noise, no disagreements, no arguments, then it's a complete — oops, almost swore. Complete, uh, I think, as they would say on Battlestar Galactica, a fracking waste of time, because the art and the magic of planning comes from that dialogue and that disagreement. So if you're not talking to each other, if there’s no disagreement, if you're not finding the third way that is different from my way and your way, the new way to find the answer, your PI planning is not going to get the best result.


So, see you next week on the PI Planning Therapy show, where we only give you the best advice and the best prescriptions. Bye for now.

About the course

Shane Harrison has been working with Rentouch to create a new format "PI Planning Therapy". Shane is the therapist and he will give tips on various problems that have been sent to us by the SAFe community.






1h 22min

Last Updated


Meet your Expert

Peter Pedross

CEO & Founder PEDCO AG, Chief Methodologist Applied SAFe

Creator of the product Applied SAFe. Started to program for money at the age of 14. Ex-professional sportsman with a passion for software and a knack in engineering. 30+ years working experience with 50+ publications. SAFe SPC since 2011, Agile (XP) since 1999. Happy father and married to a wonderful woman.

Meet your Expert

Silvio Wandfluh

Head of Product, SPC5

Silvio is a certified SAFe® Program Consultant and as Head of Product at Rentouch responsible for the innovation of

Meet your Expert

Shane Harrison

Business and Agile Leadership Coach

Shane is a business focused change agent, specialising in enterprise level digital Lean/Agile transformations. More than 17 years consulting experience across a variety of industries from pharma to banking Shane is a specialist when it comes to context and culture-specific transformations.

Meet your Expert

Ian J Franks

SAFe® 5 Program Consultant & RTE

Ian has a deep knowledge of Scrum, Kanban and Scaled Agile, and 30 years’ experience in international IT Transformation Programs. He is a successful PO, SM & RTE and as a Consultant/Trainer he coaches his clients develop a strong Agile Mindset that delivers real change and measurable improvements.


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