The Role of the Scrum Master in PI Planning

The Scrum Master, a key player in Agile methodologies, is instrumental in the success of Program Increment (PI) Planning which is a vital component of the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

This article delves into the Scrum Master role in PI Planning, elucidating their responsibilities, challenges, and offering practical tips to excel in this high-stakes event.

A well-executed PI Planning session can make or break a project, aligning teams on a shared vision, fostering collaboration, and mitigating risks.

Uncover the significance of the Scrum Master role in PI Planning as we explore their expertise in orchestrating the intricate dance of Agile teams and stakeholders.

Time is precious, and your next PI Planning event could be fast approaching so don’t miss these valuable insights.

Basics of PI Planning

Program Increment (PI) Planning is an essential event in the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe). Its primary objectives are to align teams on a shared vision, plan and commit to a set of objectives, and identify dependencies and risks.

The event typically lasts two days, involving multiple Agile teams working together to create a roadmap for the upcoming Program Increment.

The agenda for PI Planning consists of two main parts:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Understanding the basics of PI Planning is crucial to appreciate the Scrum Master role in PI Planning and its impact on the overall success of the event.

Scrum Master’s Key Responsibilities in PI Planning

1. Preparing for PI Planning

  • Collaborate with Product Owner and Release Train Engineer (RTE): The Scrum Master works closely with the Product Owner and RTE to ensure alignment on goals and objectives for the upcoming PI.
  • Ensure team readiness for PI Planning: The Scrum Master prepares the team for PI Planning by reviewing the team’s capacity and ensuring they have a refined and prioritized backlog.
  • Facilitate backlog refinement and estimation: The Scrum Master leads backlog refinement sessions, helping the team estimate and prioritize work items.
  • Assist in identifying dependencies and risks: The Scrum Master works with the team to identify dependencies and risks that might affect their PI objectives.
  • Prepare necessary logistics and materials: The Scrum Master organizes the logistics and materials needed for the PI Planning event, such as meeting rooms, technology, and supplies.

2. During PI Planning

  • Facilitate team breakouts and planning sessions: The Scrum Master role in PI Planning includes leading team breakout sessions to create draft plans and final plans for the upcoming PI.
  • Help in identifying and resolving dependencies and risks: The Scrum Master assists the team during PI Planning to identify and resolve dependencies and risks that may impact their objectives.
  • Ensure clear communication and collaboration within the team: The Scrum Master fosters open communication and collaboration among team members during PI Planning.
  • Work with other Scrum Masters to coordinate cross-team planning: The Scrum Master collaborates with other Scrum Masters to ensure alignment and coordination among different teams.
  • Assist in drafting and finalizing team PI objectives: The Scrum Master helps the team define and finalize their PI objectives, ensuring they align with the overall program goals.

3. After PI Planning

  • Facilitate retrospective and continuous improvement: The Scrum Master leads the team in a retrospective session to identify areas for improvement after PI Planning.
  • Collaborate with RTE and Product Owner to track progress: The Scrum Master works closely with the RTE and Product Owner to monitor the team’s progress toward achieving their PI objectives.
  • Support the team in executing the committed PI objectives: The Scrum Master provides ongoing support to the team throughout the PI, helping them meet their objectives.
  • Monitor dependencies and risks, and help in mitigation: The Scrum Master continually tracks dependencies and risks, assisting the team in addressing and mitigating them.
  • Communicate relevant updates to stakeholders: The Scrum Master ensures that stakeholders are kept informed of the team’s progress and any relevant changes to the plan.

The Importance of the Scrum Master’s Role in PI Planning

The Scrum Master plays a vital role in ensuring a successful PI Planning event.

They facilitate effective communication and collaboration among team members and stakeholders, maintain alignment between teams and overall program objectives, and help the team navigate dependencies and risks.

The Scrum Master role in PI Planning is essential to the success of Agile and SAFe organizations.

Challenges Faced by Scrum Masters in PI Planning

  • Managing time effectively: Scrum Masters must balance the demands of their role in PI Planning with their other responsibilities.
  • Balancing team autonomy and program alignment: Striking the right balance between team autonomy and alignment with the overall program can be challenging.
  • Addressing and resolving dependencies and risks: Scrum Masters must be proactive in identifying and addressing dependencies and risks.
  • Adapting to remote PI Planning (if applicable): In a remote setting, Scrum Masters must adapt their approach to facilitating effective PI Planning.

Tips for Scrum Masters to Excel in PI Planning

  • Master the basics of PI Planning and Agile principles: A strong foundation in PI Planning and Agile principles is essential for Scrum Masters to excel in their role.
  • Build strong relationships with team members and other stakeholders: Developing trust and rapport with team members and stakeholders will enable Scrum Masters to better support their teams.
  • Be proactive in identifying and addressing issues: Scrum Masters should take a proactive approach to identifying and resolving potential issues before they become significant roadblocks.
  • Encourage team collaboration and open communication: Fostering a culture of collaboration and open communication within the team is crucial for effective PI Planning.
  • Continuously improve and adapt to changing needs: Scrum Masters should always seek opportunities for improvement and be ready to adapt their approach as needed.


In conclusion, the Scrum Master role in PI Planning is crucial for driving the success of Agile and SAFe organizations.

By understanding the responsibilities, challenges, and best practices for Scrum Masters in PI Planning, you can better appreciate the value they bring to the table.

As the landscape of project management evolves, the Scrum Master’s expertise in orchestrating complex, collaborative events like PI Planning will continue to be a vital asset for high-performing teams and organizations.

David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)
David Usifo (PSM, MBCS, PMP®)

David Usifo is a certified project manager professional, professional Scrum Master, and a BCS certified Business Analyst with a background in product development and database management.

He enjoys using his knowledge and skills to share with aspiring and experienced project managers and product developers the core concept of value-creation through adaptive solutions.

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