What’s the Key to Great Agile Event Planning? | NTT DATA

Tue, 09 April 2024

What’s the Key to Great Agile Event Planning?

How to Make Your Big Day Go Without a Hitch: Planning, Execution, and Post-Event Wrap-Up

The big day arrives bright and early, and you’ve got over a hundred people gathered in the same room for your Agile Quarterly Planning meeting. Does that idea fill you with dread, or is it just another day in the life? Either way, we’ve got some actionable advice to help you make your next event your most successful yet.

All big events require preparation, smooth execution, and wrapping up, large scale planning events in Agile are no different. However, in our experience, it can be easy to underestimate the amount of preparation and the rigour of execution required.

Even when everyone used to plan together face-to-face, there was an element of being able to ‘wing it’ on the day. But following COVID and the geographical distribution of many teams, methodical and detailed preparation is key, as are adaptations to the way planning sessions are run. Some clients have taken the plunge and flown team members over from all areas of the globe – which no doubt makes them feel valued and is great for team building. However, with the cost-of-living crisis. It’s inevitable that this won’t be possible for everybody (and certainly not every quarter).

In this blog, we’d like to share some of our learnings from the various remote and in-person sessions we’ve run, as well as some best practices for you to consider the next time the Big Day comes around, no matter which method(s) you choose to use.


Planning: The Build-Up

Make the best use of the time face-to-face

Are there any sections in your agenda that could be held online to maximise the collaborative time in person? We have found some clients like to move lengthy opening briefing sessions to be remote the day before the big day, with a short summary in person at the start of the face-to-face day. Teams where individuals have flown in sometimes extend their planning sessions to include additional team-building activities to make use of the face-to-face opportunity.


Balancing planning an the day job

One major concern from senior stakeholders with large planning events is ensuring the day job is still getting done. Whilst we would always ask that time be set aside specifically for planning and innovation, we know that sometimes teams may not be able to take two days out completely. With one of our clients, we needed to plan virtually with teams spread from the East Coast of the United States to Ukraine. To ensure respect to individuals we trialled a week’s planning session between 14:00-17:00 GMT, Monday to Friday. This meant that teams were able to timebox BAU and Planning activities, balancing both. As they were in the sessions for shorter periods of time (2-3 hours max), their energy didn’t start to flag as the sessions went on.


Communication is key; no one likes surprises 

Ensure that all prioritised work is socialised in advance, as well as how tooling will be used to support planning. Have a quick dry run of how the team planning sessions will work so everyone can hit the ground running on the day.  

With all the preparations out of the way, the big day finally arrives. Pulses start to race. Then, the event kicks off.


Execution: The Big Day

Don't seek perfection

It takes time to work out how much pre-planning and detail is required ahead of time. The same can be said for the level of detail in the conversations on the day.

Dealing with levels of ambiguity can be difficult for some individuals who are used to waterfall where all requirements are written upfront. Get to the level of detail required for you to make an estimation to aid planning, then move on. Additional spikes and exploration enablers can be slotted in if further detailed discussions are required.


"Does anyone here today know about...?" 

Everyone should have an equal voice in breakout sessions - but it doesn't mean everyone has to comment on everything. Ensure those joining remotely, more junior, and more introverted individuals are given the time to shine, through good facilitation and creating a safe environment for people to voice their opinions.


Senior Buy-in for more than 15 minutes

Whilst appreciating that senior sponsors have busy diaries their involvement should last more than the opening briefings. As the ultimate owners of the plans that teams produce their timely input can head off potential issues early on, or give the team confirmation that they have understood the priorities and they are on track.


Running like clockwork

No one likes to be late for meals and no one likes to feel that they haven't achieved what they set out to. Even though it may seem you have a lot of time for planning, timeboxing of breakouts, reviews and wrap ups are key. If teams want to have guest appearances from business teams for specific backlog items, setting specific timeslots in their diaries ensures discussions are kept to the point, and the team can then move onto the next item.


You are getting to the end of your event, but bear in mind these last few points before you grab the biscuits off the table and head for the door!


Post-Event: Tying Up Loose Ends

Risk management

These planning sessions are the best time to surface potential blockers and align with other teams on key dependencies. Be truthful about the impact, what you need, and when you need it to succeed. Share your ideas, needs, and concerns with other teams. Remember, awesome products are built on the collaboration and synergy of multiple teams. Make sure, as an organisation, there’s a proactive approach to unblocking/resolving dependencies.


There is a plan for a reason

You have collaboratively built your plan to aid transparency and alignment. You can be Agile, but if there are significant changes to the plan in the coming days, be sure to loop back around and communicate with the affected stakeholders and Product Management.


Learn and evolve

Take every opportunity along the journey to learn. Understand what could be improved for next time, be kind and have a growth mindset. Mistakes happen and things do not always go as expected. However, look for improvement in yourself, as well as your team and organisation.


Choosing the right partner

We hope the above best practices aid you in your next big planning event, but if you require extra assistance, why not invite NTT DATA to run it with you? We have experience of running large planning events and workshops across multiple industry sectors, with even more knowledge than we could share here. If you’d like to find out how we can help you with coaching or implementing Agile ways of working, get in touch with us today.


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