Visualizing the Correlation of Unplanned Work with Feature and PI Objective Delivery

Visualizing the Correlation of Unplanned Work with Feature and PI Objective Delivery

Visualizing the Correlation of Unplanned Work with Feature and PI Objective Delivery
via Agile Alliance by Dennis Jones

This article is specifically targeted toward RTE’s, Product Management, and coaches that are currently engaged in establishing a program level workflow (Kanban) that prioritizes the highest valued features as candidates for the Program Increment (PI) Planning event.

The promise of a team of teams achieving a consistent 80% predictability in delivery of PI objectives and tangible business value is one of the most attractive program level metrics for leadership and management. It’s what Agility can provide that traditional project delivery cannot.

It is common and consistent with my experience that PI Planning is often seeded with features that are new (or minimally exposed) to the teams that will be delivering them. The emphasis is on “emerging design” because the PI Planning event is a forum where emergent design is launched by teams collaborating face-to-face, then continues throughout the execution of the PI. If that is the case, AND if at the end of the PI the teams are missing their PI objectives by a significant factor, AND/OR the IP sprint is used as a buffer for continuation of work – there may be a fundamental imbalance between intentional and emergent design for which a resolution could provide improve PI completion predictability.

Within the standard SAFe recommended approach, the popular camp of thought is:

For those teams that do not meet their PI objectives, simply commit to fewer features during PI Planning, thereby widening the buffer for unplanned work. For example, if a team only met half of their commitments, the team should consider reducing their feature commitments during PI planning by about one half.  As simple as it sounds, reducing planned throughput by 50% can be a difficult sell to the business, even though the team’s metrics support that and doing so is counter-intuitive to the spirit of the PI Planning event.

Missing the PI objective delivery goal is likely addressed as part of the Inspect & Adapt workshop. If missing PI Objectives continues to persist from PI to PI, the Road Map will also reflect the continued delay of value to the customer, and the promise of predictable delivery will fail to materialize. This is a legitimate leadership concern.

However, there is an alternative approach that aligns with intentional/emerging design within the SAFe framework. First, let’s baseline the issue.

I would like to share a simple metric that has proven valuable when working with ARTs. That being Unplanned Work.  Since it’s impossible to know everything at the beginning of PI Planning, coaches recommend only filling the team’s capacity to 80% to allow for the expansion of emerging design. It could be argued that the team is planning for the additional work that will be added.

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