Apply cadence, synchronize with cross-domain planning.

—SAFe Lean-Agile Principle #7


Pre- and Post-PI Planning

Pre- and Post-PI (Program Increment) 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, there are two additional solution train planning activities, Pre- and Post-PI Planning, which support and coordinate the various ARTs involved in the Solution Train. Planning at this higher level helps align the building of the Solution as a whole, and provides direction and visibility into where it’s going in the next Program Increment (PI).

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 afterwards, 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.


The Pre- and Post-PI Planning meetings allow Solution Train ARTs and Suppliers to build an aligned and integrated plan for the next Program Increment (PI). The pre- and post-PI planning meetings serve as a wrapper for the individual ART  PI Planning meetings, which is where the actual, detailed planning takes place, as can be seen in 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 ART 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 Solution Train  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 high-bandwidth, face-to-face communication
  • Align ARTs to 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 guidance (see 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 and shedding excess WIP when 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 Customers; solution stakeholders such as the Solution Train EngineerSolution Management, Solution Architect-Engineering; and solution System Team; representatives from all the ARTs and Suppliers, usually Product Management, System Architect/Engineering, Release Train Engineers, and engineering managers. Outputs include three primary artifacts:

  • A set of aggregated “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 a regular opportunity to evaluate the fully integrated solution. Usually hosted by Solution Engineering, solution stakeholders (who include Solution Management and the Solution Train Engineer) will typically attend. The learnings from that meeting 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 content readiness preparation, coordination, and communication. The actual agendas and timelines listed below are a suggested way to run these meetings, but various Solution Trains adapt these to their own capabilities and locations.

Regardless of how the actual timing and physical logistics are arranged, the various parts of these meetings must happen for alignment to be achieved across the ARTs and Suppliers. It is important to ensure that there is clear vision and context and that the right stakeholders can participate, 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
  • Clear definitions of the upcoming milestones

Set Planning Context in Pre-PI Planning

The pre-PI planning meeting is used to build the context that allows the ARTs and Suppliers to 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 accomplishments of the previous PI. This does not 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 PIs, as well as milestones that fall during that period.
  • 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 will be a limiting factor in participation by the solution stakeholders. However, it is important that key ART stakeholders, particularly including Solution Management, Solution Train Engineer (STE), and Solution Arch/Eng, participate in as many and as much of the ART PI planning sessions as is feasible. In many cases, ART planning sessions are largely concurrent, and these solution stakeholders participate by circulating among the ART PI planning sessions during that time. 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 it 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; discussion follows.

Figure 2. Example Post-PI Planning meeting agenda
Figure 2. Example post-PI planning meeting agenda
  • PI Planning Report – Each ART’s Product Management present the plans devised by their individual PI planning meetings, explaining the PI objectives and when each is anticipated to be available. RTEs fill out their ART’s row of the solution planning board and discuss dependencies with other ARTs or with 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 one of 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 votes on its confidence in meeting the solution 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 planning adjustments are made and plans are reworked. Any person voting two fingers or fewer should be given time to voice his or her concern, which might add to the list of risks.

  • Plan Rework if Necessary – If necessary, the group reworks its plans as long as it takes for 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 Solution Train Engineer leads a brief meeting retrospective to capture what went well, what didn’t, and what could be done better next time. Following this, next steps are discussed, including capturing objectives, and finalizing the schedule of upcoming activities and events.

Create the Right Outcomes

A successful event delivers three primary artifacts:

  1. 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.
Figure 3. Example solution planning board
  1. A solution planning board, which highlights the objectives, anticipated delivery dates, and any other relevant milestones, aggregated from the program boards, as illustrated by Figure 3.
  2. A vote of confidence/commitment from the entire group to these objectives.

Thereafter, the solution roadmap is updated based on the objectives for the planned PI.

Coordinating Solution Train and ART planning events in the IP iteration

Completing all the requisite refinement, pre- and post-planning, PI Planning, and 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 meeting 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 in each of the planning events. Figure 4 below provides one example schedule of a two-week IP iteration with all the solution and ART events sequenced for optimum flow of inputs and outputs for each meeting.


Figure 4. Example integrated calendar for solution train and ART events in an IP iteration

Note two possible choices for the ART level I&A workshops in this example. For geographically distributed trains, the scheduling of the I&A the day before PI Planning is the most common pattern observed in the field, given that many train members may be traveling to a central location to participate. This requires a contiguous time block to conduct I&A and PI Planning due to cost effectiveness in scheduling travel and venues. When logistics are not the overriding consideration, the alternative is to conduct ART level I&A events prior to the solution train I&A, as seen by 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 of this option is that solution stakeholders will have the most current picture of the state of the solution going into their solution planning events.


Last update: 17 June, 2017