On the Coronavirus and Travel Restrictions: Strategies for PI Planning with Distributed Teams and Individuals

On the Coronavirus and Travel Restrictions: Strategies for PI Planning with Distributed Teams and Individuals

SAFe Updates

Hi Folks,

As we are all aware, the recent outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) is affecting many people around the world. In order to contain the spread of the virus, many governments and some enterprises have started putting policies in place to restrict travel in order to limit exposure. These restrictions can be challenging for Agile teams and ARTs who, as stated in the Agile principles, greatly value face-to-face communication. In SAFe we embrace and extend this with PI Planning—a (mostly) face-to-face event for everyone on the ART. An important discussion is how can we maintain the benefits of this event when not all members can be present in person.

As we reflected on this newest challenge, we are reminded that almost all the Agile teams and ARTs that we have coached or been part of, are distributed to some degree. Either an entire team working from a different location, or at least a few individuals. And they certainly haven’t always been able to plan together in person. Indeed, the framework team itself works across five different locations.

Based on these experiences, strategies for working with distributed teams have emerged. As one example, the teams at Travelport recently shared their success story of how they coordinated PI Planning across three different time zones, and the benefits that this event provided them.

In addition to the existing toolkits available to SPCs, we will be integrating more of these learnings into SAFe and other supporting materials over the next few weeks. A great starting point is the new advanced topic article Distributed PI Planning with SAFe which brings together guidance from our customers, partners, and the SPCT community.

Additionally, we have published a coronavirus response page which includes information on the options available for delivering remote training whilst travel restrictions are in place. Please check back as we continue to keep that page updated.

Stay SAFe!

Author Info

Dean Leffingwell

Recognized as the one of the world’s foremost authorities on Lean-Agile best practices, Dean Leffingwell is an author, entrepreneur, and software development methodologist.

comment (18)

  1. meddco

    02 May 2020 - 12:40 am

    Thank you so much for your feedback. We take great pride in ensuring our EMTs and Paramedics .Thank you so much again for your kind words.


    31 Mar 2020 - 11:28 pm

    Have you guys thought more about PI Planning in a complete lockdown, ie everyone is now working from home across all our sites both in Australia and in India so keen on any guidance as to how to accommodate this. We already do PI Planning is a distributed fashion but the lockdown is a completely different beast.

    • Andrew Sales

      04 Apr 2020 - 2:59 am

      Thanks for your comment Fran. Indeed in two weeks time we will be executing our own PI Planning event in a fully distributed fashion, with all employees working from home. We plan to share our experiences from this event with the SAFe community. In the meantime we have just published a Facilitators Guide to Distributed PI Planning which discusses some strategies for managing the scenario you describe. This can be found in the Remote ART Toolkit, downloadable from the toolkits & templates page of the SAFe Community Platform.

      Many thanks, Andy

  3. Parag Bakre

    27 Mar 2020 - 10:46 am

    Appreciate the flexibility and resources offered by Scaled Agile to help partners and community make our way through this difficult situation. We have implemented the tools and technologies to continue to deliver SAFe courses online.

    • Harry Koehnemann

      30 Mar 2020 - 8:13 am

      Thank you for the comments Parag. Flexibility is certainly an Agile trait and we are all making adjustments during these times. We are glad to hear you are able to continue delivering courses with these resources.

      Stay SAFe!

  4. Robert

    17 Mar 2020 - 7:44 am

    Hi, I have a ART of 80 persons, 7 teams and a PI Planning in 2 weeks. Because of the situation, 100% of the people are working from home. Do you have recommandations to hold a PI Planning with this situation ?

    • Harry Koehnemann

      17 Mar 2020 - 5:28 pm

      Thank you for this question Robert. We have a Remote PI Planning & I&A Facilitation Webinar this Friday. You can register for it here. Enjoy!!


      • Adam Duffy

        20 Mar 2020 - 5:13 am

        Hi Harry

        The time of this Webinar is 12.30 am Saturday Morning. Are you planning on recording the session so we can listen to it at a reasonable time? 🙂

        • Harry Koehnemann

          20 Mar 2020 - 2:21 pm

          Thanks for asking Andy. Yes, links to the webinar recording will be on the Community Platform’s remote guidance page (on your right when you login) and also on the COVID-19 response page, Adapting the SAFe® Way page. It’s the banner you see now on scaledagile.com. The webinar is only a few hours old now, so look for it posted in a day or so. We hope this information help during these interesting times!

  5. Roderick Dunne

    12 Mar 2020 - 3:51 am

    Really enjoyed the new post Dean on distributed PI planning. Here is one observation I had with a tri-location ART (US-UK-India) back in 2017 that formed part of the ART’s Working Agreement:

    The time of the the PI days should be on a rota.

    In my case, PI_6 was in US Central business hours, PI_7 in UK GMT business hours, PI_8 in Bangalore business hours, etc.

    It fosters the appreciation that we are all in this ART together as one team of teams, with no one team location above the others and reduces the burden of being in the office outside regular hours on every PI Planning event.

  6. Edwin Rozie

    12 Mar 2020 - 3:34 am

    Hi Lori, Harry, adding to your list; the tools and best practices I’ve used for the different levels in SAFe organizations can be found in following blog post:
    Key lessons is to keep communication as visual as possible.

    • Harry Koehnemann

      17 Mar 2020 - 5:17 pm

      Thanks for the tips Edwin. Be SAFe!


  7. Lori Priller

    10 Mar 2020 - 3:50 pm

    Hi Dean, In response to the global travel restrictions I am being asked to virtually plan an ART launch, conduct a virtual PI planning, and provide virtual training. In doing so I am following all SAFe recommendations on distribution, as well as using SAFe tools made available for an SPC. Thank you. This preparation is resulting in a pretty comprehensive step by step guide for how to plan, launch, train in a “virtual” ART. However, we have tooling concerns. My question: Are you aware if the agile tools that support SAFe will also provide guidance or added support? Thanks, Lori

    • Harry Koehnemann

      11 Mar 2020 - 12:14 pm

      Hi Lori. Thank you for the feedback. We are glad to hear you are finding the guidance valuable. WThe Distributed PI Planning article referenced in this blog post describes several kinds of tools to consider. And many of our platform partners provide tools that implement some of those planning and collaboration tools for SAFe artifacts. It would be best for you to ask each vendor on their particular guidance and support for distributed planning. Good luck with your virtual planning!!

      • Lori Priller

        12 Mar 2020 - 11:28 am

        Thank you Harry! I will let you know how it goes.

  8. Paul Brownell

    10 Mar 2020 - 2:06 pm

    Hi Dean,
    In our regular course of business we have developed a lot of best practices around effective distributed collaboration in agile. The advantage of the response to Covid-19 is that EVERYONE is coming in remote. Two benefits: 1) everyone earns an appreciation of what it is like to be “the remote guy” and 2) sound quality and communication protocol is equal for everyone (no advantage to those “in the room”).
    For teams that are partially distributed in their normal course of business, this temporary situations could actually improve collaboration and teamwork.

    • Harry Koehnemann

      11 Mar 2020 - 12:04 pm

      Thank you for your insights Paul.

    • Lori Priller

      12 Mar 2020 - 11:24 am

      Paul, thank you for sharing. That was confirmation for me that it is so important for us to step back and rethink our delivery strategies. Everything has been impacted.

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