It recently occurred to me that I have yet to share the history and context of Unity Day, our often referenced iteration kick off event. Given the creation of Unity Day is actually one of the pivotal moments in the history of the EDW Release Train, it is time to close this gap.
For me our first Unity Day marked the beginning of our cultural transformation. The idea was the result of a retrospective with my extended leadership team. It was only weeks after we had decided to establish an Agile Release Train and we had been preparing for our first PI / Release Planning workshop. In SAFe a PI is a fixed duration "super-sprint" in the range of 60-120 days. Each PI commences with a two day "all hands" release planning event, with full participation from both the Agile Release Train and its business stakeholders. During this session a high level delivery plan is produced for the PI. In our case, we did not have a funded backlog large enough to support a even a cut down one day PI planning event. At the time there was minimal demand for development on the EDW and we were barely keeping the full train occupied from one ten day sprint to the next.
After a series of rather amusing side conversations with my direct reports, where they each pulled me aside to explain we did not have enough demand in the pipeline, it was clear we were going to have to find another way. At our next leadership team stand up, I shared what I had learnt via the side conversations and acknowledged that a full day PI / Release Planning workshop was not in our immediate future. We agreed to retrospect on our journey to date before defining the way forward.
While reflecting on the demise of our first PI planning day, the team felt strongly that the biggest missed opportunity was team Unity. Sadly, despite most of the 100 people on EDW Release Train team having worked together on various aspects of EDW over the past couple of years, we didn't all know each others names! The PI planning day was going to be the first time we would bring the whole team together and it was something we had been excited about. And so Unity Day was born!