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Revitalizing Your Planning Increment (PI) Execution Meetings for Increased Productivity

Futuristic PI Execution Meeting | Credited: Daniel Walsh via Midjourney

How you conduct Planning Increment (PI) Execution meetings can drastically affect your organization's productivity and employee satisfaction. It's the pulse of your group's collective effort, keeping stakeholders informed and decisions on track. However, for many organizations, these meetings have become a rote recitation of status updates, leaving participants feeling disengaged and the actual value of the conversation untapped. Let's explore how you can revitalize your PI Execution Meetings, transforming them from monotone information caterers to vibrant, problem-solving hubs that boost transparency, active involvement, and continuous improvement.

The purpose of a PI Execution meeting is to share progress on the current increment with stakeholders, understand the current reality, and respond to changes. It covers updates toward shared goals, work status, team velocity, and potential changes in scope, and forecasts completion timelines. It also provides a forum for decision-making, sharing lessons learned, and recognizing team contributions, all to promote transparency and continuous improvement.

There are several key topics to consider as part of structuring a PI Execution Meeting:

1) Progress Against PI Goals or Objectives: What progress have teams made towards each goal or objective for this PI? What have the teams achieved so far in terms of results and outcomes? Highlight the work that teams have completed, is still in progress, or has yet to start. Progress may include the completed Epics, Features, Stories (e.g., burndown or burnup chart, %), and other things like quality and technical debt work.

2) Velocity and Capacity: How much work is the team completing in each Sprint or iteration within the PI? Is the team’s velocity in line with the capacity planned at the beginning of the PI? (e.g., perhaps there was an unexpected change to team velocity)

3) Capacity Allocation Balancing: Are the teams maintaining a balanced distribution of effort across various work categories such as new features, bug fixes, technical debt, and innovation initiatives? Discuss how the teams manage their workload and the potential adjustments necessary to ensure optimal balance.

4) Changes or Scope Churn: Highlight any changes made to the plan since the last update due to changes in priorities, additional work discovered, scope creep, or other reasons.

5) Blockers and Risks: Identify any obstacles that are currently hindering progress, potential risks that might cause problems, and plans to address or mitigate them

6) Quality and Health Metrics: Share any relevant metrics about the quality of the work being done, such as the number of bugs reported, escapes, test coverage, KPIs, team morale, or customer satisfaction scores.

7) Forecast for PI Completion: Based on the progress and velocity so far, what is the forecast for completing the remaining work in the PI? Analyze the team throughput and make a forecast for what may not be delivered by the end of the PI.

8) Decisions Needed to Respond to Change: Highlight any areas where decisions are needed that could affect the priorities or scope of the PI. Consider including decisions related to strategic shifts, resource allocation, or scope changes due to unexpected complexities or dependencies.

9) Lessons Learned and Improvements: Briefly touch upon any key learnings the team has had during the PI or any improvements they have made or plan to make in their processes

10) Recognitions and Success Stories: Celebrate success stories and individuals to boost morale and motivation. Think about recognizing individuals who have made significant contributions, teams who have collaborated effectively, or any other noteworthy efforts or successes

In addition to these options, I’d like to provide a little caution and perhaps plant some ideas for future improvements. Early attempts with a PI Execution Meeting structure have stakeholders and team members walking through a litany of status updates. Some updates are essential, while others are less so, which consumes valuable time and energy that people could better spend to address critical issues and formulate countermeasures.

One of the foundational principles of Lean is to create value and minimize waste. In the context of meetings, what do stakeholders consider as value-added? Stakeholders spend large parts of these meetings getting updated on progress. But most workflow management tools can provide stakeholders with an intuitive, real-time view of progress at their convenience. Everyone should already have the status they need before starting a meeting. This behavior opens the opportunity to use the meeting time for value-added topics.

As organizations reflect and improve their meetings and workflow management, PI Execution Meetings should evolve toward becoming a forum where participants collectively understand what’s happening, make sense of the opportunities and challenges, brainstorm potential countermeasures, and agree on a shared path forward. Instead of a one-way update monologue, the meeting becomes more engaging and interactive, promoting active involvement from all attendees. Here’s a description of how organizations transition toward a better PI Execution Meeting over time as they learn and improve their meeting structure, collective behaviors, and workflow management systems.

Phase 1: Information Caterer

In the first phase, one or more people gather updates from the team and compile them into a presentation for the stakeholders. The meeting is primarily a one-way conversation, with the presenter walking through the updates and stakeholders passively receiving information. While organized and straightforward, catering status updates on a silver platter often need more real-time engagement and can be time-consuming for the presenter(s). As organizations realize the limitations of this method, they begin to look for ways to automate the update collection process and improve stakeholder engagement.

Phase 2: Dashboard Dancer

With automation and data discipline, real-time dashboards and reports in workflow management tools replace manual presentations. An expert user guides stakeholders through these visuals during the meeting. This approach saves time in compiling updates, provides real-time data, and starts to facilitate more discussion around the status. This phase still has its challenges, as not all stakeholders may find the visuals intuitive or easy to understand, and the meeting can still be one-sided if the expert user does most of the talking.

Phase 3: Conversation Catalyst

Like the flipped classroom model in education, stakeholders review status updates offline before the meeting. The meeting purpose shifts to collaborative discussion and decision-making, which is a valuable use of time. In this phase, meetings become interactive and engaging, and stakeholders feel more ownership and involvement. More ownership and responsibility improve the speed and quality of decision-making, autonomy, and morale.

This phase requires stakeholders to change their habits and expectations, which can be challenging. Organizations must ensure that dashboards and reports are easily accessible and intuitively understandable for stakeholders. A culture of preparation and active meeting participation also needs to be cultivated.

Call to Action

The evolution of the PI Execution Meeting structure is a journey that requires iterative learning, improvements, and adjustments to an organization’s collective behaviors and workflow management systems. The journey is about curating a collection of heuristics for improvement, not a one-size-fits-all approach. The key lies in understanding that the journey isn’t just about better status updates. It’s about shifting from passive status consumption to active engagement and decision-making.

Your call to action is to start reflecting on the purpose of your PI Execution Meetings and how they are structured and facilitated. Begin by asking the fundamental questions: How are these meetings adding value? How can you eliminate waste and make them more efficient? How can you facilitate more engagement and problem-solving?

Start with the “Information Caterer” if needed, but don’t get stuck there. Strive to become a “Dashboard Dancer,” then work towards the “Conversation Catalyst.” Improving a PI Execution Meeting is challenging and requires all team members’ time, patience, and concerted effort. However, the rewards – improved collaboration, quicker decision-making, better use of time, and ultimately, increased productivity and product quality – are well worth the effort. Every step you take is a step towards creating a culture of transparency, continuous improvement, and collective problem-solving, which are the hallmarks of a learning organization.

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