March 2020, the globalization gets into crises due to COVID-19. Travel is limited to strictly necessary, and business travel is no longer a necessity. Program Increment planning is an in-person event. It is based on post-its, one-room energy, face-to-face communication, meeting everyone together, networking. Converting the PI planning into a remote session would be like taking its purpose. But, so COVID-19 did — it changed our lives for good.
Since it was such a game-changer for everyone, I took the time to document my learnings and the ones from my peers while running our first Remote PI planning on short notice.
- Use a minimum of tools, easy to train, enable the teams as soon as possible. Explain how to use them briefly. Try to don’t introduce new tools. It is not about the most natural means to use in each situation, but about the tool which requires the minimum of training to use it.
- Use the same tools across teams.
- The Release Train Engineer (RTE) gives clear and straightforward directions.
- Microsoft OneNote is not a tool to use for the retrospective.
- Use video cameras for the team virtual rooms if bandwidth allows it
- Try to plan directly in your Project Management tool (Jira, Team Foundation Server) as much as possible.
- Have one place where everyone can access all the information. These places are shared with the participants on the list. It can be a website, an OneNote page, any tool your team is familiar with.
- Create working virtual rooms for each team. All the team rooms are
- Only one person should share the screen.
- For the free speeches, it is better to have a minimalist visual support
- Keep the information on the slides simple with not much text.
- Don’t use Skype over a VPN. It might be slow. I would even recommend you test the bandwidth and the parallel licenses use for all the tools you need.
- Mute microphones when not talking
- Make it easy to find any teams, have structured information in the invitation way, so people weren’t overwhelmed with requests.
- Be on time
- Be disciplined
- Have every team planning in one view. It will help the RTE to have a global look at the progress of the planning and will bring transparency for the other teams. The teams will get inspired and motivated by the other groups.
- Have a central location where all the assets are accessible by the team.
- Have a written communication tool — like a Slack or Team channel. It must be known and accessible by everyone outside the team
- Make sure everyone can join any system, without anyone to give access or to worry about
- Release Train Engineer, product owners, business owners, continue to check-in with each team just as if you’ll be in the same room
- Make sure people time can be optimized — group conversations
- Every 90 min come back together and touch base
- Don’t overcommit
- Have fun, be engaging, keep the energy level up. You can prepare energizers like paying songs. One of the teams I worked with was writing songs. Some played an instrument very well. Another very successful fun moment is to meet my pet, where everyone could share their pets or meet the children. You can also have a yoga class over lunch or anything else you can think of.
- Encourage people to fill in the retro board on going
- Keep the days short, no more than 6 hours a day, preferably do one more half a day.
- Create a separate virtual room for business owners
- You could organize more frequent scrum of scrums.
- Share the RTE load with other scrum masters or facilitators.
- The scrum masters are well prepared and well aware of the schedule to be on top of the things and guide people.
I have shared my experience as Release Train Engineer of how to organize a Remote PI planning in
- How to prepare a Remote PI Planning Meeting,
- 7 things you shouldn’t miss during your PI planning Meeting,
- Checklist for Scrum Masters for PI Planning Meeting
These learnings are teamwork — they are a mix of my experiences and for others around me. Please share your learnings in the comments section, and let’s grow the Agile community together.