Read the title as ‘… Increasing Predictability With Objectives… Without Specifying THE MEANS!’
I intentionally wrote the title as you see it now because SAFe have something like this written on their course materials … leaving students scratching their heads thinking ‘… I thought PI Objective should be SMART’ (S being Specific).
What SAFe is really advocating with that title is this: focus on achieving the end, the intent or the desired outcome! Not checking off ‘stories’ and ‘features’ as complete BUT miss achieving the intent of the Iteration (sprint) and PI (Program Increment) respectively! Not cool! The opposite is true and perfectly OK: sometimes, the PI Objective is achieved without completing all features in that PI! This applies to iteration goal … sometimes an iteration goal is achieved without completing all stories in that iteration!
It’s all about the PI Objective(s). We write the ‘end’ or ‘desired outcome’ not the ‘means’. Likewise for iteration (sprint) goal(s). We all travel various roads (means/approach) to reach a set destination (end). Pick your ‘means’… no need to specify that… to achieve the ‘end’.
If you want people (your teammates) to think … give them intent… not instructions.
Tip #1) write the ‘end’ or ‘desired outcome’ not the ‘means’ … for both PI Objectives and Iteration (Sprint) Goal. The ‘means’ must remain loose and extremely flexible to increase the probability of achieving the ‘end’. Do everything you can to achieve the ‘end’.
Tip #2) mark PI Objectives as ‘Uncommitted’ if you think that your team cannot achieve it… but will work on it… it is not off the table…it is in the plan… it is not ‘just in case we have time’. This ‘uncommitted’ only applies to PI Objectives… not applicable to iteration goals… read on…
Tip #3) when you plan for each iteration, apply the ‘eat all you can buffet’ rule. Eat everything you put on your plate — otherwise you will pay a penalty fee! So be thoughtful and not be wasteful. This means… that you load your iteration (sprint) with stories with aggregated points less than your team’s capacity for that iteration … and commit to achieving the iteration goals! There is no ‘uncommitted’ iteration goal! Iteration goals are all committed! All in! Again … iteration goals … can be achieved … without completing all stories in that iteration… and it is perfectly OK!
We measure objectives and goals to indicate predictability at the team level (called achievement ratio (AR)… which is calculated as: Actual Business Value (BV) divided by Planned BV) and at the train level … which is called the Program Predictability Measure (PPM)… which is the average AR of all the teams of the ART (Agile Release Train).
Why measure predictability? High PPM (between 80% and 100%) increases trust between your ART and the business. Example: an ART with 90% PPM means that when business asks something delivered by the ART, the probability of it being delivered is 90%!
Example at a personal level: FedEx has 100% predictability with me… hence my business use FedEx… I trust FedEx! They have had, to date, delivered my packages as timely as they had committed… yes, delivered as committed 100% all the time! They have a 100% ‘PPM’ with me.
That’s it! Now go measure the predictability of your teams and train!!! Measure and Grow!!!