We're getting used to working remotely and running meetings remotely - but what about big meetings like PI Planning? How can we run them remotely, and have them work well?

This is the result of a meetup on this topic - bringing together Agile Coaches wanting to develop their skills at running these meetings remotely, with Judy Rees who has extensive experience of running very large events for multinationals, charities and other organisations around the world.

After some introductions, we had a mini open-space, where we were able to visit 5 breakout rooms in Zoom, each with their own topic and their own section in a Google Doc. The task was to fill in "Challenges" and "What Works" in each topic, and then present back. After that, Judy answered some outstanding questions.

So here's the output:

  • "Challenges" and "What Works" for each topic
  • Video of Judy answering outstanding questions
  • Highlights of the session for people

This will probably make more sense if you were there, but hopefully you'll find it useful even if you weren't.

Good luck with your own endeavours!

More...

Topic 1 - Interactions Between Teams

Challenges

What Works

100+ people across 15 teams, across 2 continents (8 hrs time difference)

Running for some time - teams are experienced and know what to expect
Doing it often - even monthly
Miro
Different channels
Channels with a few teams working on a similar work stream sharing a “room”
Question: Solicit multiple parallel conversations?

How to ensure that teams are talking to each other (and not just in their virtual ‘silo’s)

Short “Board intros” to get the topic started

Short “Board intros” to get the topic started

Large, tabbed spreadsheet that links out to JIRA
Miro boards

Enabling spontaneous “around the whiteboard” interactions to happen

← Outstanding Question

Topic 2 - Platforms and Tools

Challenges

What Works

Which video-conferencing platforms do you find work well for remote PI Planning?

Zoom + Miro + Jamboards, Google slides
Liberating Structures
https://www.videofacilitator.com/
Discord - It’s free and can setup to fit your needs. You can create groups that enable self organisation but also see who is where etc.
MS Teams with multiple channels open at the same time allows superquick moving between rooms by attendees. Breakout rooms not yet there: on the roadmap

Topic 3 - Remote Facilitation Generally

Challenges

What Works

It is more challenging to ‘read the room’ and flex my facilitation style accordingly.

Having rules on when to have the video on esp. for new team members.
Speaking in rounds

I find it extra hard to bring in people who are quiet and need encouragement to contribute.

Call their names to get their input

Ensure everyone says something at the beginning to make it easier for introverts to speak later during the meeting

If you have the right environment - we tried getting the current speak to nominate the next speaker - this allowed the team to control the conversation and explore each others perspective/ideas

Including the right amount of breaks

10 min breaks after every 50 min of meeting for events > 2 hrs (+1 vote)

How to stop people who like to talk a lot?

Mute people who talk to much
Agree in advance on the rules
Question about if this works or not - maybe not all the time?
Invite artful participation
Use a timer and give everyone equal time
Use timbals as a reminder

Latency issues

Don’t take it bad if someone speaks at the same time because it might be because of a network latency issue

Topic 4 - First Time Tips

Challenges

What Works

Recommendations for first virtual PI Planning.

Having enough breaks (and for enough time) - Like for food

Regular energisers

Have different ‘channels’ for discussions (SM’s/Teams/TLs etc) (tool recommendations; Discord)

First ever PI Planning (for a switch to scaled agile) and we’ll need to do it virtually

Try smaller first

Do a trial run

Run a training session on using the tools and check the tech

Selling the need for a PI Planning approach versus lots of separate meetings - especially a remote one

Sharing same time space (more time effective)

It was very challenging to do PI planning remotely across timezones. Planning for breaks and lunch is very difficult. This made it take much longer.

← Outstanding Question

Challenges

What Works

Recommendations for first virtual PI Planning.

Having enough breaks (and for enough time) - Like for food

Regular energisers

Have different ‘channels’ for discussions (SM’s/Teams/TLs etc) (tool recommendations; Discord)

First ever PI Planning (for a switch to scaled agile) and we’ll need to do it virtually

Try smaller first

Do a trial run

Run a training session on using the tools and check the tech

Selling the need for a PI Planning approach versus lots of separate meetings - especially a remote one

Sharing same time space (more time effective)

It was very challenging to do PI planning remotely across timezones. Planning for breaks and lunch is very difficult. This made it take much longer.

← Outstanding Question

Topic 5 - Preparation

Challenges

What Works

Content readiness

ART sync every day last two weeks, also increased frequency of Refinement

Facility readiness

Test tools and keep backup tools

Organization readiness

Outstanding Question: Preparing stakeholders to spend for 3-4 days instead of just 2

Answers to "Outstanding Questions"

What did you get from the session?

Here are some highlights of what people got from the session:

  • "Idea of random pairing before starting (or in other places) - will definitely do"


  • "Loved the document where all the info was shared"
  • "I thought the multi room format worked well - with people self organising,"
  • "Combining synchronous and asynchronous tools and using 4 Zoom Calls"
  • "How to link through to many zoom room and come back to the main room"


  • "The importance of frequent breaks"


  • "Prep time  >= delivery time"
  • "I learned it's hard and there is no magic bullet. Surprised that there still aren’t even half-way decent solutions to the serendipitous encounters problem"
  • "Good to know that the challenges I face are also happening to others"


  • "Thank you so much Judy and Roy for a very well organised session, that alone was educational!"

More Resources

More Free Meetups!

For more Free Meetups for Agile Coaches and Scrum Masters, see the Events page