Reference Guide for Customizable Plays

PLAY: Program Kickoff & Alignment

Objective - Initiate communication with all project team members. Ensure that focus is on project goals, priorities, key milestones, processes & tools, and success criteria.

Technique - During the early stages of an M&A initiative, the Program Manager facilitates the Program Kickoff with the entire project team, including all contributors, consultants, sponsors, and team leads. The meeting establishes clear guidelines on how the team will operate to achieve a successful outcome.

  • Define goals/objectives for program/initiative
  • Assemble team with members from key functions and/or departments
  • Define key program milestones
  • Clarify team roles (i.e. sponsors, stakeholders, leaders, etc.)

PLAY: Tool & Workflow Configuration

Objective - Design a custom workflow and toolset that will support the specific needs of the M&A initiative.

Technique - Once the team is aligned on the overall goals and objectives and ready to collaborate, tools such as DealRoom ( will be configured and customized to ensure optimal fit to the specific needs of this particular M&A project. Role-based training events are held as needed to augment the initial foundational training to enable adequate level of support for the tools throughout the project. For example, application administrators may require additional knowledge regarding tool management. The project manager may require hands-on coaching to understand how to apply Agile techniques to different team-level events.

  • Identify program requirements and constraints
  • Consult Agile M&A advisor to customize process flow (e.g. value stream process mapping)
  • Establish and configure work management tools (if applicable)
  • Establish team communication model

PLAY: Backlog Planning & Prioritization

Objective - Build the initial program plan and ensure work is sequenced in the proper rank order by priority.

Technique - Once the necessary tools are configured and all required team members have completed initial training sessions, project tasks are collected, aggregated, and organized for all project teams. Representatives from each team collaborate to ensure the Program Backlog is an aggregate of all work items from all teams, and that appropriate priority is assigned to each item. As work is executed and completed, additional work is expected to originate from a number of different sources such as the buyer, consultants, managers, lawyers, etc.

  • Identify program deliverables
  • Clarify requirements (e.g. contractual obligations)
  • Compile consolidated work item list of activities, tasks, and deliverables
  • Prioritize work items according to most important attributes (e.g. risk, business value, dependencies with other work items, etc.)

PLAY: Daily Standup

Objective - Ensure clarity of team plan for the day. Identify and eliminate obstacles as soon as possible to maximize progress.

Technique - All team members from each team meet daily to gain agreement on plan for the day. Issues, requests, concerns are discussed and tracked by the Project Lead.

  • Identify team goal and deliverables for the day
  • Clarify support needs from team members
  • Escalate issues as needed

PLAY: Team Retrospective

Objective - Enable teams to inspect current processes and tools, and to identify opportunities for improvement.

Technique - All team members from a single team meet at the end of an iteration (or a predefined project milestone/checkpoint) to review both effective and dysfunctional processes.

  • Identify opportunities for improving the processes/tools
  • Select one or two improvement ideas to focus on
  • Commit to making the improvement by adding corresponding tasks into the backlog

PLAY: Multi-team Planning

Objective - Enable all teams to collaborate and identify risks & dependencies across teams, so that a program-level plan can be finalized.

Technique - Team members from all teams meet to review key interaction points for work items requiring support from multiple teams. Teams identify critical dependencies and establish approximate timing of predecessors and successors to minimize risk of delays. Key risks are documented and categorized by response strategy, i.e. avoid, accept, mitigate, or transfer.

  • Assemble teams and team leads
  • Review consolidated list of work items
  • Allocate work items to individual teams based on expertise & skill set
  • Identify cross-team dependencies
  • Identify risks and define response plan for high probability/high impact risks

PLAY: Multi-team Standup

Objective - Enable all teams to communicate progress and obstacles to encourage efficient resolution of intra-team issues.

Technique - During program execution, one member from each project team meets with other team representatives to discuss successes and challenges. The Program Lead documents and updates the issue log and prioritizes major impediments to Executive Management Team for assistance as needed.

  • Establish schedule and location for standup meeting (2 to 3 times per week)
  • Identify representatives from each team
  • Clarify meeting goal and process flow
  • Establish protocol for escalation of critical issues

PLAY: Multi-team Backlog Refinement

Objective - Evaluate new requests and/or unplanned work to redefine overall priority of work items.

Technique - During program execution, typically once every 2 weeks, representatives from each project team hold a meeting to review requests and unplanned work introduced to the initiative. The level of complexity, effort, and uncertainty for each request is discussed in detail. A priority level is assigned for each new request; if the request is urgent, current work in progress may be deprioritized to allow team members to dedicate time to the new request.

  • Identify new requests and/or requirements received since the previous planning session
  • Clarify priority and urgency of new requests
  • Evaluate impact to current project teams; communicate any changes to current planned work

PLAY: Multi-team Retrospective

Objective - Review effectiveness of the processes and tools to determine a plan for future improvement.

Technique - At the end of each iteration, representatives from each team hold a meeting to discuss the level of effectiveness of existing processes and toolset. The team explores opportunities to improve quality and/or efficiency of current processes in order to reduce overall project effectiveness or cost.

  • Identify representatives from each team to participate in process discussion related to people, processes, or tools
  • Evaluate successes, challenges, and opportunities for improvement
  • Assess challenges that impact multiple teams
  • Develop an action plan to address challenges and/or areas of improvement

PLAY: Program Dashboard

Objective - Provide a holistic view of progress, risks, and issues associated with the overall initiative.

Technique - On a regular basis (either weekly, bi-weekly, or each iteration), Project Leads provide a progress update on the status of each team to the Program Lead. Data reported may include the following elements: planned work vs. completed work, requirements volatility, team cycle time, etc.

  • Establish key metrics that provide actionable intelligence to executive leadership team
  • Determine process for collection and dissemination of program metrics
  • Define format and periodicity for distribution of program metrics
  • Determine owner for aggregating and delivery of program metrics to key stakeholders

PLAY: Scaling Across Multiple Teams

Objective - Maximize overall efficiency of program team members by doing work in parallel.

Technique - For large initiatives that require multiple workstreams to be managed simultaneously, the organization will benefit from following an integrated approach where Diligence activities and Integration Planning efforts are carried out in parallel. This process enables the project team to share knowledge effectively across workstreams, which shortens the duration of Integration Execution, resulting in shorter overall project duration. By leveraging other plays such as “Multi-team Planning” and “Multi-team Standup,” knowledge is disseminated consistently so communication across teams is managed efficiently.

  • Consult Agile M&A advisor to define workstreams for program initiative
  • Map key processes to each workstream
  • Explore efficiency improvement opportunities through the use of work management tool
  • Assemble a team for each workstream by identifying required expertise & skillset

PLAY: Clarify Roles & Responsibilities

Objective - Optimize team productivity and effectiveness by ensuring every member of the project understands how to contribute to the overall effort.

Technique - Program Kickoff and consistent reinforcement of team responsibilities will enable collaboration, with focus and maximum performance in mind.

  • Define specific project and program-level team roles and areas of responsibility
  • Communicate key processes and interaction models for team members
  • Explore potential impact to work management tool

PLAY: Project Premortem

Objective - Identify potential existential threats to the M&A project by roleplaying project failure.

Technique - Unlike other forms of preliminary risk analysis that attempt to foresee various challenges that could emerge over the project lifecycle, a premortem assumes that the project has already failed and attempts to explain why. By placing the “mortem” examination before, rather than after, the deal, this play allows the deal team to take meaningful steps against project failure, rather than simply reacting after the fact.

  • Roleplay failure scenarios to anticipate areas of weakness before the project commences
  • Hold Program Retrospectives at a regular cadence
  • Work collaboratively to solve problems that have been identified
  • Consider how the scenarios (risks and opportunities) you have roleplayed affect your existing plan

PLAY: Fast Learning Cycles

Objective - Enable project team to adapt to changing conditions, unexpected requests, and to continue working towards a common objective without delays.

Technique - Implementation of short, iterative cycles enable teams to optimize feedback loops, which contribute to continuous improvement. Consistent application of this play will lead to high-performing teams that are inherently self-learning and achieve consistent results.

  • Apply Retrospective collaboration events consistently
  • Identify and share key learnings across project teams
  • Refine Retrospective process iteratively

PLAY: Decentralize Decision-Making

Objective - Maximize completion of work by empowering the team members closest to the problem to make decisions without the need to engage higher levels of the organizational hierarchy.

Technique - Enabling team members who have the deepest understanding of the situational context to make decisions minimizes the unnecessary handoffs that typically result in delays. In order to apply this play, the management team must provide formal authority and autonomy to the teams.

  • Define areas of accountability and authority for various team roles (i.e. contributor role, lead role)
  • Encourage efficient decision-making with optimal communication paths for risk management
  • Clarify process for escalating high-impact decisions and issues

PLAY: Lightweight Communication Model

Objective - Minimize the need for recurring status meetings to convey information. Maximize the time spent on performing meaningful, valuable work.

Technique - Hold structured and focused collaboration events for teams on a consistent basis. Escalate critical information on an as-needed basis to executive leadership team.

  • Hold Daily Standup for each team
  • Hold Program Daily Standups with representatives from each team
  • Hold Program Retrospectives on a regular cadence
  • Conduct artifact review meeting on a regular cadence
  • Re-prioritize new work on a regular cadence
  • Manage/distribute project status information automatically via use of tools
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