AUTHOR: Greg Banach, Agile Coach
I have used this quote before when selling the concept of PI planning to clients, “We bring everyone together so that people can have quality, face-to-face conversations”.
I have stressed that it is was vital to bring everyone together – that the cost of flights and travel were worth it as quality conversations were vital in ensuring that all members of the team were clear with their deliverables, tough conversations were had, and that risks and dependencies were mapped out.
All of that remains true. Apart from the fact that everyone needs to physically be together.
Over the past month, we have held 3 successful PI planning sessions for teams ranging from 30 odd people to over 120. And the impact has been outstanding.
Here are my top takeaways from moving PI planning to a fully remote environment:
1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
When you think you have communicated enough… Communicate some more.
Doing something new with over 100 people means that no matter how clear your think you are being. You will miss a lot of people with your messages around PI planning, logistics, and facilitation.
Developed bite-size bits of information of info to constantly remind and inform the team of what was happening and what they needed to do. Details are important for the things happening soon – direction and confidence that we will share more information is important about things that are happening later. Let the teams focus on their jobs, let them believe that we will guide them through the process smoothly.
2. Embrace technology – but don’t go overboard.
We have used Zoom, MS Teams, and Skype – each with positives and each with challenges. These are all the shiny new work tools that we are all playing with, but they are not the only arrows in our quiver.
We have had Whatsapp broadcast groups for logistics and changes, breakout rooms & chat functionality for Q&As for private vs public feedback as well as embracing the old favorites like PowerPoint and Excel to create worksheets for people to collaborate in.
Sometimes is not about the tool – but how you use it and being clear what you want to achieve. Use as few tools as possible to make the most impact.
3. Face to face is vital – for some
Camera’s on vs cameras off…I imagine that this is a debate that will rage for while…
You will not succeed in getting everyone to turn their cameras, but make sure that you can see the right people.
Too often we forget that teams are now isolated at home isolated and the psychological safety build by genuine engagement with key stakeholders is not to be underestimated.
Leadership needs to communicate verbally and non-verbally to motivate and inspire teams and the impact of these key people being “visible” in the group calls was immense. The comments section lit up with team members seeing the non-verbal cues of leadership – the smiles, the nods (and the headshakes too).
The idea of digital PI planning terrified me on day 1 of lockdown – now, I feel its business as usual. Obviously, there are things to refine and improve but that will always be the case. What a difference 5 weeks makes…