A Better Way to do Two-Day Planning Events

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Why Business Agility. Short video on why we are going after business agility and not technology agility. An Introduction to Minimum Business Increments. The way to focus on building only the most important value is sorely lacking in the Agile community. This short video will introduce you to the concept of the MBI. Minimum Business Increments and MBI Thinking. A short article on MBIs and how to use them. Using MBIs in SAFe. SAFe’s effectiveness can be greatly enhanced by using MBIs instead of epics. This short article explains why.
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Net Objectives has been doing two day planning events since SAFe was first introduced. We not only use it when our clients are doing SAFe but also when a client wants to go to a flow model and uses the planning event to make all work in process visible as a first major step. We also help clients do planning events when they are not doing SAFe but like to do planning events.

Before looking at what is needed to do an effective planning event, let’s be clear about the purpose of a planning event.

  • Create clarity on what value will be realized over the planning period.
  • Create clarity on what will be worked on during the time-frame covered by the planning period.
  • Discover dependencies between teams and make agreements as to when they will be fulfilled.
  • Plan the work to be done in one or two week iterations to implicitly limit Work-in-Process.
  • Identify risks and work on them.
  • Create a sense of camaraderie among the participants.
  • Provide visibility to management of how the technology teams interact and create an opportunity for them to create a better environment for their teams.

Regardless of the approach you are taking, planning events should include the following:

  1. Using Minimum Business Increments (MBIs) and MBI-thinking as the method to focus what work is to be done.
  2. Creating visibility of MBIs and when they are to be released and what they are dependent on
  3. Making local decisions in the context of the bigger picture. In particular, when a team gets more requests than it can handle, determine priorities based on which MBI dependent upon them is more important
  4. Managing Work-in-Process by breaking work up into small iterations.
  5. Agreeing to realize business value quickly. Guide all decisions and risks based on achieving business agility.
  6. Identifying risks throughout the process.

A challenge with SAFe is that planning events are not guided by MBIs. There is more focus on when features are to be completed than on the possibility for the customer to realize value. It also results features with bigger scope than is needed; too often, considerations about the “minimum scope required” only surface when it looks like we may not complete the work in time.  By creating visibility of the MBIs and when they can be released, everyone can work together on getting value to customers or the business and not merely building functionality.

Using MBIs sets the stage for your planning events regardless of the approach you are using.