Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning.

—SAFe Lean-Agile Principle #7


Pre- and Post-PI Planning

Pre– and Post–Program Increment (PI) Planning events are used to prepare for, and follow up after, PI Planning for Agile Release Trains (ARTs) and Suppliers in a Solution Train.

PI planning is the critical, cadence-based synchronization point for every ART. For large multi-ART Solutions, however, there are two additional activities: pre- and post-PI planning. They support and coordinate the various ARTs involved in the solution train. Planning at this higher level helps align solution building as a whole and provides direction and visibility into where the train is going in the next Program Increment.

While the timing and agenda for these meetings may vary based on Solution Context, they typically occur just prior to and just after the ART planning sessions. The pre-PI planning meeting is used to set context for the upcoming ART PI planning sessions. Immediately afterward, solution stakeholders participate in the ART planning sessions as well. The final meeting of the set is the post-PI planning session. Here, the results of ART planning are integrated into solution objectives for the upcoming PI, as well as the solution Roadmap.


Pre- and post-PI planning meetings allow Agile release trains and suppliers in large Value Streams to build a unified plan for the next program increment. The pre- and post-PI planning meetings serve as the umbrella for the PI planning meetings at the Program Level, where the actual detailed planning takes place and is incorporated into the Innovation and Planning (IP) Iteration calendar. The pre-PI planning event is used to coordinate input objectives, key Milestones, and solution context and business context for the Agile release train planning sessions. The post-PI planning event is used to integrate the results of planning into the Vision and roadmap for the value stream. At the end of the post-PI planning meeting, there should be an agreement on a set of value stream PI Objectives to be implemented by the end of the PI and demoed at the next Solution Demo. As with PI planning, the pre- and post-PI planning meetings deliver many business benefits:

  • Provide open and productive communication through face-to-face alignment
  • Synchronize ARTs with solution train vision via the ART and solution PI objectives
  • Identify dependencies and foster cross-ART coordination
  • Provide the opportunity for just the right amount of solution-level architectural—and where applicable—User Experience (UX) guidance (see the article, Lean UX)
  • Match solution demand to ART capacities

Another benefit is team building across the solution train, which helps create the social fabric necessary to achieve high performance. In addition, as planning is based on known velocities, the post-PI planning meeting is a critical step in continuously assessing Work in Process (WIP) and in shedding excess WIP whenever necessary.

Inputs and Outputs

Inputs to pre- and post-PI planning include the solution roadmap, vision, Solution Intent, and the top Capabilities from the Solution Backlog. Attendees include:

Outputs include three primary artifacts:

  • A set of aggregated specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound (SMART) PI objectives for the solution
  • A solution planning board, which highlights the objectives, anticipated delivery dates, and any other relevant milestones for the solution
  • A vote of confidence/commitment to these objectives

This repetitive, rolling-wave planning process guides the solution through the inevitable technical obstacles and twists and turns of the business and technology environment.

Gain Context in the Solution Demo

The solution demo is to the solution train what the System Demo is to the ART. In this case, it’s a regular opportunity to evaluate the fully integrated solution. Usually hosted by Solution Engineering, solution stakeholders typically attend. (This includes Solution Management and the Solution Train Engineer.) The insights from that meeting will inform these stakeholders of the current objective assessment of solution progress, performance, and potential fitness for use. While the timing of the solution demo will vary based on solution context, it provides critical objective inputs for the pre- and post-PI planning meetings.

Prepare for Pre- and Post-PI Planning

The pre- and post-PI planning meetings bring together stakeholders from all parts of the solution train. They require advance content preparation, coordination, and communication. The actual agendas and timelines listed below are a suggested way to run these meetings, but various value streams may adapt these to their own capabilities and locations.

Regardless of how the timing and physical logistics are actually arranged, all the elements of these meetings must happen to achieve true alignment across the trains and suppliers. It’s critical that there is clear vision and context, that the right stakeholders participate, and that essential activities take place, including:

  • The executive briefing – Defines current business, solution, and customer context
  • Solution vision briefing(s) – Briefings prepared by Solution Management, including the top capabilities in the solution backlog
  • Milestones definitions – Clearly explain upcoming key events and Metrics

Set Planning Context in Pre-PI Planning

The pre-PI planning meeting is used to develop the context in which the ARTs and suppliers can create their plans. Individual sessions are described below, and a suggested overall agenda is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Example Pre-PI Planning meeting agenda
  • PI summary reports – Each ART and supplier presents a brief report of the accomplishments of the previous PI. This doesn’t replace the solution demo, but it does provide the context of what has been achieved for the planning process.
  • Business context and solution vision – A senior executive presents a briefing about the current state of the solution and portfolio. Solution Management presents the current solution vision and highlights changes from the previous PI. They may also present the roadmap for the upcoming three PIs, as well as milestones that fall during that period to ensure that they are known and addressed.
  • Solution backlog – Solution Management will review the top capabilities for the upcoming PI. Solution Architect/Engineering will discuss upcoming enabler capabilities and epics.
  • Next PI features – Each ART’s Product Management will present the Program Backlog that they prepared for the upcoming PI and discuss dependencies with other trains.

Solution Stakeholders Participate in ART PI Planning

The practical logistics of large solution planning may limit all solution stakeholders from participating. However, it’s important that key ART stakeholders—particularly Solution Management, the Solution Train Engineer, and Solution Architect/Engineering—participate in as many of the ART PI planning sessions as possible. In many cases, ART planning sessions are largely concurrent, and these solution stakeholders participate by circulating among the ART PI planning sessions. Suppliers and customers play a critical role as well, and they should be represented in ART PI planning.

Summarize Results in Post-PI Planning

The post-PI planning meeting occurs after the ARTs have run their respective planning sessions and is used to synchronize the ARTs and create the overall solution plan and roadmap. Participants include solution and key ART stakeholders. A sample agenda is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Example Post-PI Planning meeting agenda
  • PI planning report – Each ART’s Product Management presents the plans devised at their PI planning meetings, explaining the PI objectives and when each is anticipated to be available. Release Train Engineers fill out their ART’s row of the solution planning board and discuss dependencies with other ARTs or suppliers.
  • Plan review, risk analysis, and confidence vote – All the participants review the complete plan. During PI planning, ARTs have identified critical risks and impediments that could affect their ability to meet their objectives. Relevant risks are addressed in a broader solution context in front of the full group. One by one, risks are categorized into the following groups and addressed in a clear, honest, and visible manner:
    • Resolved – The group agrees that the issue is no longer a concern.
    • Owned – The item cannot be resolved in the meeting, so someone takes ownership.
    • Accepted – Some risks are facts or potential occurrences that simply must be understood and accepted.
    • Mitigated – The group can identify a plan to mitigate the impact of an item.

Once all risks have been addressed, the group rates its confidence in meeting the solution’s PI objectives. The team conducts a fist-of-five vote. If the average is three or four fingers, then management should accept the commitment. If the average is fewer than three fingers, then adjustments are made and plans are reworked. Any person voting two fingers or fewer should be given time to voice their concern, which might add to the list of risks.

  • Plan rework if necessary – If necessary, the group reworks its plans for as long as it takes for a commitment to be reached. This could cascade into follow-up meetings in the ARTs, as teams will need to be involved in any change to the plans.
  • Planning retrospective and moving forward – Finally, the STE leads a brief meeting retrospective to capture what went well, what didn’t, and what could be done better next time. Then, next steps are discussed, including capturing objectives, use of project management tooling, and finalizing the schedule of upcoming key activities and events.

Create the Right Outcomes

A successful event delivers three primary artifacts:

  • A set of SMART objectives for the solution train, with business value set by Solution Management, Solution Architect/Engineering, and customers. This may include stretch objectives, which are goals built into the plan but not committed to by the solution. Stretch objectives provide the flexible capacity and scope management options needed to increase reliability and quality of PI execution.
  • A solution planning board, which highlights the objectives, anticipated delivery dates, and any other relevant milestones, aggregated from the program boards, as Figure 3 illustrates.
  • A vote of confidence/commitment from the entire group regarding these objectives.
Figure 3. Example solution planning board

The solution roadmap is then updated based on the objectives for the planned PI.

Coordinating Solution Train and ART Planning Events in the IP Iteration

Completing all the necessary refinement, pre- and post-planning, PI planning, and Inspect and Adapt (I&A) meetings in a solution train for the solution and all the member ARTs can represent a logistical challenge. Sequencing the meetings so that each has the right inputs and outputs in the optimal order requires precise planning by the STE and all RTEs to ensure the right stakeholders are present in the planning events. Figure 4 shows one sample schedule of a two-week IP iteration with all the solution and ART events sequenced for the ideal flow of inputs and outputs for each meeting.

Figure 4. Example integrated calendar for Solution Train and ART events in an IP Iteration

Note the two possible choices for the ART-level I&A workshops above. For geographically distributed trains, scheduling I&A the day before PI planning is the most common pattern we’ve observed, as many train members may be traveling to a central location to participate. For cost-effective travel and venue scheduling, this requires a contiguous time block to conduct I&A and PI planning. When logistics are not the overriding consideration, the alternative is to conduct ART-level I&A events before the solution train I&A, as seen in the light shaded box with the dotted outline in week 1. This allows the outputs of the ART I&As—including demos, performance measures, and problem-solving workshops—to flow into the solution train’s I&A process as inputs. The benefit is that solution stakeholders will have the most current picture of the state of the solution going into their planning events.

Last update: 19 October, 2017