It’s that PI planning time of year again. We race to wrap up our releases - deploy…deploy…fix the dependency…does it work? We try to wrap up our planning before we start planning despite the fact that we will never be 100% planned. We reflect on what we’ve accomplished and celebrate as if just to set up the question, “how could it have been better?” As many of us in Tech just underwent this quarterly exercise, it is a great opportunity to refresh why we do it and how we can lean in.
First off, let me start with the value of having semi-regular events on the calendar. I’m not a Catholic, but I’ve always been jealous of their liturgical calendar. Events sprinkled throughout the weeks and months of the year provide the lattices that provide the framework in which normal, daily activities can occur. They take out the variability and mental overhead that would otherwise be required to think of how the activities would occur and how often. Similarly, there is solid rationale for the practices we’ve adopted from Agile and SAFe. Let me start with common sense, you can’t do all the important things all the time. There isn’t enough time and there are too many important things. Practically, it’s productive to provide mental breaks and optimize memory by working in batches. Beyond that, cyclical ritual decreases anxiety and improves performance. Historically, holidays and ceremonies have been a universal in human experience likely because our natural reaction to stress is the increase in ritualized behavior.
Each PI, the last sprint is reserved for ‘Innovation and Planning.” What this consists of varies from quarter to quarter, and some quarters it can be shortchanged by being a bit ambitious with our commitments. But the fact that every quarter we label a sprint with the word #innovation isn’t an accident, and we don’t intend for carryover to dominate our thinking. Rather, the IP sprint is a reinforcement of our cultural values at SPS. We take time to learn and expose ourselves to new technology (#KnowMoreToBeMore). We strive for innovation, efficiency and a new way of doing things that will fuel growth (#ThirstForGrowth). We do things that we haven’t or our peers haven’t done before (#LeadTheWay). For PI1, the IP sprint is over, but it’s important you factor innovation into your plans as you frame up the IP sprint for PI2 in the next few days. And as you approach the IP sprint, remember - “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves.” - Carl Jung
Make plans to do something that fuels your curiosity, drive and initiative!
This is the first time the SPS Tech org came into our ART PI Planning with review season upon us. Everyone loves to hate writing their own review. Spending time thinking about our own performance feels selfish or superficial maybe. But it is ESSENTIAL for us to grow our careers. Creative, non-deterministic work requires reflection to improve. In SAFe, we also set time aside to “Inspect & Adapt.” A basis for the conversation is how we measure ourselves. How are we doing at driving, operating and shipping value? Did we deliver our commitments? (#ResultsMatter) It is important that we use this time to celebrate our accomplishments, and also think of how things could have been better (#WinTodayWinTomorrow). To understand where our opportunities are, we need to reflect on past pain. But pain is a reminder that we’re alive and that we have room to grow. Our business and our customers need us to dig to find where our true constraints to flow have been. And once we’ve done that - we need to make a plan to solve the constraint, enable growth and make a plan that matters (#ObsessedWithCustomers). “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards” - Soren Kierkegaard
Make your retrospectives (sprint and program) the most vital & alive thing you do!
Finally, the namesake for our quarterly cadence. All of SPS Technology’s activities hang on the fact that we make these plans. Our scrum teams are architecting together and have had the opportunity to work together in ways we never had in the past (#EmployeesComeFirst). The business has loved (and coordinated with) the fact that we now have four large feature shipping machines (#SucceedTogether). The outcome has been great…but it is quite an intense week. 3 days where we virtually hang out and talk. Then we tell other people what we talk about. Then we write down what we talk about in a few different summaries. It makes you wonder…could we somehow spend less time doing this? Maybe we could constantly plan, innovate and reflect. In a sense, that could be true, but practically, it’s impossible. We need to take out the mental overhead and variability that necessarily come as we try to ship together. Our Quarterly PI Planning does just that, and if for nothing else I need my SPS-iturgical calendar. Quarterly is starting to feel just right for our culture and our SPS values are starting to feel right at home in PI planning.
As we exit this quarter’s festivities, having collectively thrown all the prepped features into sprints so that we have something to chase for the next quarter let’s all lean in, bleed a little SPS blue and…#GetAfterIt -
I’m looking forward to the next PI Planning, it only comes around once a quarter!
Nathaniel Andersen, Director Technology Operations