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Improve agility with Program Increment Planning

Most organisations we work with plan for an entire financial year, committing to their budgets three months before it starts. In other words, they’re forecasting what they’re going to do in 15 months’ time. Sadly, it’s almost impossible to forecast change initiatives at that range. And even if you could, you wouldn’t want to lock your change portfolio down so early.

So, organisations should reduce their forecasting horizons. Setting a limit on total change spend for the financial year might be necessary, but flexibility is critical to enabling teams to respond and prioritise their investment. Typically, this means reprioritising and re-planning budgets and portfolios every quarter.

We’ve been recommending companies do this for years, usually through the Scaled Agile Framework’s Program Increment (PI) Planning events. These bring teams together to plan their work for the next quarter holistically. Leadership presents the vision for the next few months and the teams plan what they can do to deliver it.

Changing the planning approach for an organisation has some challenges, though. It’s a high-profile change within the organisation, so business leaders must fully prepare for them to succeed. In our experience, there are two areas to focus preparations on – logistical readiness and organisational readiness.

Logistical readiness

Typically, PI Planning events bring together more than 100 people for two days. These are people from across teams who are responsible for delivering work as well as business leaders who will need to remove barriers raised by the teams.

Bringing together so many people is a huge cost to the business. But, of course, the value of a good event far outweighs this as the organisation will be more able to deliver its vision smoothly.

To ensure your event is a good one, don’t underestimate the amount of logistical planning needed.

From finding the right venue (a big open space with lots of wall area for teams to collaborate), to getting the right people in the room at the right time, there’s a huge amount of co-ordination involved. And if you’re running a PI Planning event with teams from multiple locations, then you need to work out how your teams can work together remotely on the day.

Giving yourself enough time for preparation is essential. Suitable venues are rare, so will need booking well in advance, and you’ll need to give people enough notice to take two days out of normal business operations. Typically, you’ll need at least a month of logistical planning to create a successful event.

All this means it’s usually helpful to have a dedicated team, particularly if your organisation is new to PI Planning. As you get used to running these events, however, you should embed the capability in the Portfolio Management function as they’re responsible for large-scale change.

Organisational readiness

Are people in the organisation ready to shift to more agile ways of working? If a PI Planning event is to succeed, people must be willing to work in this new way.

Leadership buy-in is key. If leaders aren’t on board, then detractors are likely to undermine any attempt at being agile. So, get ready by running sessions with leadership to get their support and increase their understanding of what organisational agility means.

You can also gauge how ready the whole organisation is by getting feedback on the current pace of change. If people want to move more quickly from idea to value, then you’ll have a case for moving to agile ways of working that will convince people to support the change.

You can also get more people on board by running agile training sessions and creating communities who start practicing agile ways of working – often called ‘change agent networks’.

Benefitting from PI Planning events

Organising the right people, finding a suitable venue and ensuring everyone is ready for change can be challenging, but you need to manage it all to have a successful PI Planning event. Only then will you get the full benefits of organisational agility.

Did you know the top 10% of financial performers are 30% more agile than the rest?

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Sam Bunting

Sam Bunting

Mark Griep

Mark Griep

Mitzi Geisler

Mitzi Geisler

Tina Hjort Ejlertsen

Tina Hjort Ejlertsen

Ali Rana

Ali Rana


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