PI Planning Can Be Fun!

Last week SolutionsIQ was at SAFe Summit 2017 and I thought this would be a great time to let people in on how to have some SAFe fun during Program Increment (PI) Planning. PI Planning can be a great and effective tool for a team of teams to put together a solid plan for what they can get done. But it doesn’t have to be boring! Spice up your PI event with fun ideas and team building both during the day and after hours since you have everyone in town.

Some ideas to kick it into high gear during the event:

  1. Create a theme (e.g. superheroes, sports, holiday, funny holiday like Talk-Like-A-Pirate Day, etc.) for the duration of the event. Announce it in advance so the teams can think about how they can incorporate that theme (costumes, decorations, etc). Could you even match the food to the theme? Pirate food, yum.
  2. Invite teams or groups of teams to wear fun vests or hats to easily distinguish themselves from other teams/groups. This is especially useful for new trains or trains who have new teams/people joining. It can also be great for identifying Product Owners or Agile coaches.
  3. Create a raffle with fun giveaways (gift cards, lunch with an executive, a good parking spot for a month…)
  4. Find a way to recognize people throughout the event. Especially when people show certain behavior (asking for help, collaboration, finding dependencies, etc). Give them raffle tickets, have a recognition or gratitude board visible for people to add to throughout the event – you name it! With a little up front planning and help from people on the train, you can create Wordles for people or teams which could be a great take-back-to-work gift when framed as well.
  5. Get some team competition going during lunches and breaks. Bring in nerf games, table tennis, Wheel of Fortune, cornhole or run a game of telephone pictionary. Friendly competition helps teams build rapport.
  6. Incorporate a few rounds of trivia into the day’s events – and be sure to include trivia from other cultures so everyone can be included! I mean, who doesn’t need some Bollywood trivia in their life?
  7. Run contests for the previous PI, vote for winners, and give away prizes (like most predictable team, happiest customer, etc). A fun idea for this is to have people physically dot vote on other people – it can get amusing! Nix the ink pens and Sharpies, though: you can use stickers or some other visual cue.
  8. Give teams flags to raise when they need help – and then literally, “raise the flag”. (ugh, bad pun, sorry)

And don’t forget about team building after day 1 or day 2. Take advantage of having the entire train in town and get people talking, socializing and getting to know each other. This helps speed up the journey for teams to become high performing. Want some ideas for team building? Yeah, I have a few:

  • Have a Meet, Greet and Eat the day before so you aren’t breaking the ice the morning of the first day
  • Whirlyball (where available – but by far my most favorite team building event)
  • Happy hour (of course)
  • Sporting event
  • Laser tag
  • Go-kart racing
  • Escape Room
  • A large-group game like Werewolf
  • Karaoke

If you asked me which PI Planning was my favorite, it was when an RTE performed a song he wrote about the entire train – which my colleague Troy Plant wrote about in this post.

Go forth and have some fun!!