Pre and Post PI Planning

Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning.

—SAFe Lean-Agile Principle #7

Pre- and Post-PI Planning Abstract

PI Planning (see article by that name) is the critical, cadence-based synchronization point for every Agile Release Train (ART). For multi-ART Value Streams, there are two additional activities, Pre- and Post-PI Planning, which are the subject of this article. These additional activities support and coordinate the various ARTs involved in the value stream. Planning at this higher level helps bring alignment to the building of the Solution as a whole and provides direction and visibility into where the solution is going in the next Program Increment (PI).

While the timing and agenda for these meetings may vary based on Solution Context, they typically occur just prior to, and just after, the ART planning sessions. The pre-PI planning meeting is used to set context for the upcoming ART PI planning sessions. Immediately thereafter, value stream stakeholders participate in the ART planning sessions as well. The final meeting of the set is the post-PI planning session, wherein the results of ART planning are integrated into value stream objectives for the upcoming PI, as well as the solution Roadmap.


Understand the Pre- and Post-PI Planning Meetings

The Pre- and Post-PI Planning meetings allow Agile Release Trains and Suppliers in large Value Streams to build an aligned plan for the next Program Increment (PI). The pre- and post-PI planning meetings serve as a wrapper for the PI Planning meetings at the Program Level, which is where the actual, detailed planning takes place, as can be seen in the Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration calendar. The pre-PI planning event is used to coordinate input objectives, key Milestones, and Solution Context and business context for the ART planning sessions. The Post-PI Planning event is used to integrate the results of planning into the Vision and Roadmap for the value stream. At the end of the post-PI planning meeting, there should be an agreement on a set of value stream PI Objectives to be implemented by the end of the PI and demoed at the next Solution Demo. As with PI planning, the pre- and post-PI planning meetings deliver innumerable business benefits:

  • Provide for high-bandwidth communication through face-to-face alignment
  • Align ARTs to value streams via the ART and value stream PI objectives
  • Identify dependencies and foster cross-ART coordination
  • Provide the opportunity for “just the right amount” of Solution-level architectural (and, where applicable, User Experience) guidance
  • Match solution demand to ART capacities

Another benefit of the process is value stream-wide team building, which helps create the social fabric necessary to achieve high performance. In addition, as planning is based on known velocities, the post-PI planning meeting is a critical step in continuously assessing WIP and in shedding excess WIP whenever necessary.

Inputs to pre- and post-PI planning include the value stream roadmap, vision, Solution Intent, and the top Capabilities from the Value Stream Backlog. Attendees include Customers; value stream stakeholders such as the Value Stream EngineerSolution Management, Solution Architect-Engineering, solution System Team, and Release Management; and representatives from all the ARTs and Suppliers, usually Product Management, System Architect/Engineering, Release Train Engineers, and engineering managers. Outputs include three primary artifacts:

  1. A set of aggregated “SMART” objectives for the value stream
  2. A value stream planning board, which highlights the objectives, anticipated delivery dates, and any other relevant milestones for the solution
  3. A vote of confidence/commitment to these objectives

This repetitive, “rolling-wave planning” process guides the solution through the inevitable technical obstacles and twists and turns of the business and technology environment.

Gain Context in the Solution Demo

The solution demo is to the value stream what the System Demo is to the ART, in this case a regular opportunity to evaluate the fully integrated solution. Usually hosted by Solution Engineering, value stream stakeholders (who include Solution Management and the Value Stream Engineer) will typically attend. The learnings from that meeting inform these stakeholders of the current objective assessment of solution progress, performance, and potential fitness for use. While the timing of the solution demo will vary based on value stream and solution context, it provides critical context for the pre- and post-PI planning meetings.

Prepare for Pre- and Post-PI Planning

The pre- and post-PI planning meetings bring together stakeholders from all parts of the value stream. They require content readiness preparation, coordination, and communication. The actual agendas and timelines listed below are a suggested way to run these meetings, but various value streams adapt these to their own capabilities and locations.

Regardless of how the actual timing and physical logistics are arranged, the various parts of these meetings must happen for a real alignment to be achieved across the trains and Suppliers. It is important to ensure that there is clear vision and context and that the right stakeholders can participate, including:

  • The executive briefing – Defines current business, solution, and Customer context
  • Value stream vision briefing(s) – Briefings prepared by Solution Management, including the top capabilities in the value stream backlog
  • Clear definitions of the upcoming milestones

Set Planning Context in Pre-PI Planning

The pre-PI planning meeting is used to build the context that allows the ARTs and Suppliers to create their plans. Individual sessions are described below, and a suggested overall agenda is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Example Pre-PI Planning meeting agenda
Figure 1. Example pre-PI planning meeting agenda

PI Summary Reports. Each ART and Supplier presents a brief report of accomplishments of the previous PI. This does not replace the solution demo, but it does provide the context of what has been achieved for the planning process.

Business and Solution Context. A senior executive presents a briefing about the current state of the value stream and program portfolio. Solution Management presents the current value stream vision and highlights changes from the previous PI. They will also present the roadmap for the upcoming three PIs, as well as milestones that fall during that period to ensure that they are known and addressed.

Value Stream Backlog. Solution Management will review the top capabilities for the upcoming PI. Solution Architect-Engineering will discuss upcoming Enabler Capabilities and Epics.

Next PI Features. Each ART’s Product Management will present the Program Backlog that they prepared for the upcoming PI and discuss dependencies with other trains.

Value Stream Stakeholders Participate in ART PI Planning

The practical logistics of large value stream planning will be a limiting factor in participation by the value stream stakeholders. However, it is important that key ART stakeholders, particularly including Solution Management, Value Stream Engineer (VSE), and Solution Arch/Eng, participate in as many and as much of the ART PI planning sessions as is feasible. In many cases, ART planning sessions are largely concurrent, and these value stream stakeholders participate by circulating among the ART PI planning sessions during that time. Suppliers and Customers play a critical role as well, and they should be represented in ART PI planning.

Summarize Results in Post-PI Planning

The post-PI planning meeting occurs after the ARTs have run their respective planning sessions, and it is used to synchronize the ARTs and create the overall solution plan and roadmap. Participants include value stream and key ART stakeholders. A sample agenda is shown in Figure 2; discussion follows.

Figure 2. Example Post-PI Planning meeting agenda
Figure 2. Example post-PI planning meeting agenda

PI Planning Report. Each ART’s Product Management present the plans devised by their individual PI planning meetings, explaining the PI objectives and when each is anticipated to be available. RTEs fill out their ART’s row of the value stream board and discuss dependencies with other ARTs or with Suppliers.

Plan Review, Risk Analysis, and Confidence Vote. All the participants review the complete plan. During PI planning, ARTs have identified critical risks and impediments that could affect their ability to meet their objectives. Relevant risks are addressed in a broader, value stream context in front of the full group. One by one, risks are categorized into one of the following groups and addressed in a clear, honest, and visible manner:

  • Resolved – The group agrees that the issue is no longer a concern
  • Owned – The item cannot be resolved in the meeting, so someone takes ownership
  • Accepted – Some risks are facts or potential occurrences that simply must be understood and accepted
  • Mitigated – The group can identify a plan to mitigate the impact of an item

Once all risks have been addressed, the group votes on its confidence in meeting the value stream PI objectives. The team conducts a “fist-of-five vote.” If the average is three or four fingers, then management should accept the commitment. If the average is fewer than three fingers, then planning adjustments are made and plans are reworked. Any person voting two fingers or fewer should be given time to voice his or her concern, which might add to the list of risks.

Plan Rework if Necessary. If necessary, the group reworks its plans as long as it takes for commitment to be reached. This could cascade into follow-up meetings in the ARTs, as teams will need to be involved in any change to the plans.

Planning Retrospective and Moving Forward. Finally, the Value Stream Engineer leads a brief meeting retrospective to capture what went well, what didn’t, and what could be done better next time. Following this, next steps are discussed, including capturing objectives, use of project management tooling, and finalizing the schedule of upcoming key activities and events.

Create the Right Outcomes

A successful event delivers three primary artifacts:

  1. A set of “SMART” objectives for the value stream, with business value set by Solution Management, Solution Architect-Engineering, and Customers. This may include stretch objectives, which are goals built into the plan but not committed to by the solution. Stretch objectives provide the flexible capacity and scope management options needed to increase reliability and quality of PI execution.
Figure 3. Example Value Stream board
Figure 3. Example value stream board
  1. A value stream planning board, which highlights the objectives, anticipated delivery dates, and any other relevant milestones, aggregated from the program boards, as illustrated by Figure 3.
  2. A vote of confidence/commitment from the entire group to these objectives.

Thereafter, the value stream roadmap is updated based on the objectives for the planned PI.


Last update: 31 March 2016