leanpizza.net - tasty Agile… one slice at a time – by Olivier Lafontan

Coaching,Large Organisations

December 7, 2011

The plan is nothing, planning is everything

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Strategies, Product Road maps, Release Plans, Sprint or Iteration plans, daily plans… none of these plans really live up to most “old guard” managers and CXOs expectations. We are always confronted with the reality that we cannot predict the future and that adjusting the future to our plan might not always be wise nor possible…

This is a real problem in most companies, where the culture is based on synchronising activities well in advance, most of the time in an objective to obtimise people productivity, and where functional and managerial sillos have been built through years of in-house personal competition.

Plans have no value as such, they are a way to communicate an intention, rather than a way to seal a contract with our stakeholders and the rest of the organisation.

Planning hurts: it takes time, consumes valuable “resources” time, forces us to recognise when we don’t know or can’t control something. Planning is also a great mechanism to review what has already been achieved, what is not relevant anymore, what priorities have changed, takes into account the things we didn’t know yesterday, people wise, technology wise, competition wise… it hurts and yet, let’s do more of it because the plan is nothing, planning is everything.

The process of forming and agreeing a plan is much more interesting than the plan it produces. The ability of a team or company to repeat and refine that process of planning between execution cycles is essentially what will give them some form of agility.

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  1. Hi Olivier, great to read some stuff again.

    I agree on the part of “the plan is nothing”. Planning is also good, but you need to keep it to a certain level. It might be agile but very inefficient if you replan everyday, change priorities every day – or sometimes even change twice during the day.

    Furthermore I see in your part “planning hurts” actually the some sort of old-school thinking. If you truly see the benefits of a good planning exercise with your team, then you will start to embrace planning meetings and yearn for the next to happen. Planning hurts if it sucks out the energy you and the team has, if it goes slow, dreadful, “stinks” and at the end you actually have some tasks on the board, but no red thread.

    I completely agree with the part “know what you can control and accept that you can’t control everything part” – if you see some people buying into that, then you have truly achieved agility. You have to learn to live with (some) uncertainty.

    Comment by Dennis — December 13, 2011 @ 10:43 pm
  2. Hey Dennis,

    I hope you are having a great Christmas by the way 🙂

    Yes, planning needs to be done at different levels. It is not the intention of daily replanning opportunities to redefine the sprint objectives, and it is not the sprint planning session’s objective to define exactly every future days unfolding. But this is replanning nonetheless. When a team finds out that a sprint objective is void and needs to be rediscussed as soon as possible, we would exit and terminate the said sprint and replan another one: that is the is the simplest possible thing to do within context in this case. A team with no clear sprint objective will probably end up trying to define this objective during the sprint…potentially at scrum time when they feel in the dark.

    What I mean by planning hurts is that it is not natural for a lot of teams to stop and plan at such regular intervals: they struggle, find it hard, fight against the coach (as do management) for the right to go back to their desk and just code or just test, or just write test acceptance criteria, or whatever they feel comfortable doing in isolation. “Planning hurts, do more of it” is based on the fact that by running more of the same ceremonies time and time again, with clearer and clearer goals as well better focus, the team usually starts feeling more positive towards replanning, usually helped by facilitation during both the planning meetings, and during retrospectives where the coach will highlight certain improvements, sprint after sprint.

    Right, back to my Christmas festivities! see you in the new year 🙂

    Comment by Oli — December 25, 2011 @ 8:32 pm

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