Most of us have participated in an “all-hands” meeting. They happen quarterly in most companies. You probably know the routine:
There’s no doubt the all-hands meeting has value; people want to feel connected to the mission of their company. But if employee engagement and alignment are the goals, then the all-hands meeting isn’t working. Most employees are only passively interested, and many ignore it completely.
Imagine if everyone in the company was actively involved in quarterly planning. Imagine if there was a clear link between the work of every team and individual to the high-level objectives of the CEO? How might that change things?
Big Room Planning, or “Program Increment (PI) Planning” as it’s called in the Scaled Agile Framework, is a technique used to scale agile software development across many teams that are interdependent.
Suppose a product requires work from multiple teams and multiple divisions in order to create customer value. Ideally, we would restructure the organization and create a single cross-functional team for this product, but that’s not always practical. In these cases, we need a way for the teams that depend on each other to periodically plan their work together. Big Room Planning is one way to address this.
In the case above, teams A, C, F and G would get together in a big room (or a ‘virtual’ big room) once a quarter to plan the next 12 weeks of work. Dependencies between teams are mapped and a roadmap is drafted for the upcoming quarter.
Although there are advantages to everyone being in the same “big room,” there are many tools available to collaborate online, such as Mural.
Imagine if once a quarter, instead of the typical all-hands meeting, we set aside a day for planning across the entire organization. Here’s how that day might look:
8:00 AM: CEO address – description of high-level company mission and next quarter’s objectives.
8:30 AM: Divisional VP remarks (10 minutes each) – Each direct report of the CEO explains how her/his division will be implementing or supporting the CEO’s quarterly objectives and discusses any major dependencies on other divisions.
9:30 AM: Wrap-Up / Questions – time for questions from staff.
10:00 AM: Big Room Planning Breakout Sessions – Each Divisional VP is responsible for the BRP breakout sessions in her/his division or coordinates any necessary planning across divisions. The rest of the day can be set aside for planning as needed.
Here are a few examples of breakout sessions that could happen on planning day:
Big room planning is a big investment in staff time, but usually worth the cost.
Here are just a few of the potential advantages of company-wide Big Room Planning:
It may be bumpy at first, but corporate Big Room Planning just might pay huge dividends!