Get the PIP

New Thinking 17 January 2017 Ceedee Doyle

When there are lots of teams working in a similar area or who need to coordinate often, we get the PIP (Programme Increment Planning) with them. Generally, each area has a number of squads/teams working in it – more than about 10 teams and you’ll have to split, but as many as needed get together in one place. When there are many teams working in one area, on one set of technology, we need to coordinate what we’re doing!

What normally happens:

  • It looks like chaos
  • It’s noisy
  • Some people are confused, others are deep in conversation, others are floating between groups
  • There are stickies everywhere
  • There is energy in the room

So why get all these people in a room? The key reasons are to get face-to-face contact (people trust each other more and communicate better face-to-face), give everyone the big picture (we’re so busy working sprint-to-sprint, we can lose sight of the aim) and find and solve dependencies (much faster if we’re all in the same place and on the same page). Everyone who is needed to make decisions will be there – business reps, business management and support teams.

It’s a chance for us to get clear on what the business priorities are for the next few months and for the business to get clear on what they can expect from us. It has a heartbeat just like our sprints and reviews – frequent updates on where we’re at and where we’re going.

There could be an argument for not having a PIP if you only have a couple of teams but, in my experience, the communication, alignment and all-round good feeling you get is WELL worth it.

Every group will be different, but the general agenda is:

  • Welcome
  • Organisational direction
  • Vision for your product area(s) – product owner(s)
  • Architectural vision for your area(s) – technical owner(s)
  • Team breakouts interspersed with teaching/team-building spots
  • Check alignment/dependencies/confidence
  • Update and change the picture based on confidence

…and a retro in there somewhere. To make it go smoothly, we want people to ask questions and nut out the cross-team issues. What questions do you need to ask to feel like you’re ready? What can you do today to help get the squad or tribe ready?

More info: The PIP idea comes from the SAFe website, although each group will tailor it to suit them. Here’s a blog post written by a friend and colleague about his experience scaling teams and keeping people aligned this way. You can always ask someone who’s been to one or a coach and get their specific experience.