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Strategic Roadmap Planning workshop

I recently helped facilitate a 2-day adaptation of a Big Room Planning (BRP) event for my client CES. We named this inaugural event the 'Strategic Tech Roadmap Alignment Planning' (STRAP) workshop. Afterall, it wouldn't be agile if it didn't have a good acronym!

I covered BRP in a previous post.

At a BRP agile teams share prior quarter achievements and learnings, align on business goals and plan their work for the next period.

This is typically done quarterly, to allow timely pivoting and adapting of the plan.

However leadership wanted to create a 12 month view instead of quarterly.

My initial gut feeling told me that this wasn't very agile. Quarterly planning should be preferred. However, after better understanding the strategic environment of the business and the large projects coming their way, I realised the clarity and focus this would help bring to the agile teams.

The images show the enormous planning board we created, which was subsequently filled by the squads.

As mentioned, this was the first time such an event was run at CES. I think it is safe to say that it was a big success!

The teams collaborated towards a shared understanding of the work ahead.

They identified Risks, Assumptions, Impacts and Dependencies (RAID, covered in this post).

Each epic had its own card on the board, with a summary of key information. Each team had their own horizontal swimlane, split in sprint columns. This enabled the Epics to be placed in the appropriate sprint.

Slowly a view emerged, which in turn highlighted bottlenecks, which could then collaboratively be addressed. Cards could be moved forward, or delayed to smoothen the workload and help achieve key dates which were listed at the top of the board.

Besides the obvious planning benefits this brought, it also worked as a team-building activity for the recently formed agile teams.

What next?

The teams will now start breaking down these high-level epics through Discovery workshops into User Stories. Frequent check-ins will be run to ensure that the emerging clarity from these Discoveries is reflected in what will become an adaptive roadmap.

Learnings for me as an agile coach?

Always try to understand your client's needs and unique circumstances. Listen to them. Avoid being a 'purist' instead be flexible in your approach.

Was this a 'by-the-book' Product Increment (PI) planning session? Far from it! Does this matter? I don't think so. The recently formed agile teams, made a giant leap towards a shared understanding of the work to be done. It brought the teams closer together by building mutual understanding. They now have the foundations in place for future planning sessions, which they can adapt towards a perhaps more agile version.

One other learning: going for a collective walk around the block using the fire stairs is a great and simple energiser!

A walk around the block is as good an energiser as anything else!


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