Facilitating Multi team Agile planning events

In this blog, a short description of one workshop for facilitating multi-team planning events. Based on Chapter 7 of the book: Creating Agile Organizations by Cesario Ramos & Ilia Pavlichenko.

In a large-scale scenario where multiple teams are involved in developing the same product, it is beneficial to have a multi-team planning event. To facilitate this process, you can follow the steps outlined below:

Step 1 : Setup Overaching Direction

  1. Find the overall goal. Ask the question: “What will our product have done?” The Product Owner likely answered this question in combination with the teams prior to the planning event during for example refinement. Write the overall goal at the top of the wall.

  2. Find the team goals. Ask the question: “How did the product do it?” Thinking of a future state as already completed reduces the possible outcomes that must be considered before suitable subgoals are selected. The team/representatives work on identifying team goals in parallel and select the Product Backlog Items required to achieve their team goals. We recommend using the 1-2-4-ALL liberating structure to help the teams come up with the goals and PBIs combination..

  3. Close. Ask team representatives to come to the wall and post the goals and selected PBIs they came up with on the whiteboard; connect them to both the team goals and the overall goal. Agree on the setup and keep everything nicely visible.



Step 2. The Teams Select Goal and PBIs


One way to have the teams select their goals is as follows:

As the team representatives to select their Goal and PBIs in centralized collaboration. Each team has representatives approach the Product Backlog and divide the Goal PBIs while working collaboratively. Then they bring the selection back yo their teams for further detailed planning if required.

Beware of the Efficiency Trap

Especially in the early Sprint Planning sessions, you can expect to see the teams select PBIs they can do most efficiently, even if that means choosing lower-value PBIs over higher-value ones. When this happens, you can remind the teams that a goal when scaling Agile is to increase agility at the product level, not local team efficiency. Working outside their area of primary expertise helps them learn new areas of the product and increases agility.


Step 3. Discover Opportunities for Coordination in LeSS format

To create ownership and self-coordination, the teams use the planning event to discover the following:

  • With whom they need to coordinate

  • About what they need to coordinate

  • When they need to coordinate

But how do you create the conditions for emergent coordination?

You can facilitate diverge–merge cycles to identify work duplication, dependencies, and other shared work opportunities across the teams. Consider the steps illustrated in the figure below:


  1. Ask the teams to create their individual plan for a period of time (usually 20 minutes).

  2. Ask the teams to diverge:

    1. All teams at the same time send out a person to all other teams to inspect their Sprint Backlog. The teams explain their plan to the visitors to discover opportunities for coordination.

    2. Ask to look for: Duplication of tasks, dependencies between tasks and conflicting tasks. ( 5 min )

  1. The group merges the information: The people return to their teams and share what they learned.

  2. The teams continue planning for another round and resolve any identified issues on the spot.

Consider at least three diverge–merge cycles in total.

Step 4. Closing Summary

We recommend closing by asking the teams to share the items they will work on with the whole group. Each team gets a few minutes to do this and visually place their PBIs where all can see.