Cover all the Angles

What gave planning such a bad name?
“In ‘Agile’ we don’t do estimates!”
“We do not plan ahead – we just do what is necessary at that Moment in Time”
“We don’t know what we will find out, so let’s not try to plan the un-plan-able”
Guys seriously… Of course the kind of planning that emerged in the 70s, 80s and 90s of the last century, where people try to plan what other people do a year in advance down to a very detailed level does not make sense – but does that really mean that we shouldn’t plan anymore?
After all, the ability to plan ahead is what made it possible to evolve from hunter-gatherers to settlers. And this planning did not include assigning “Caveman A” to sharpen the sickle on February the 20th and “Caveman B” to have a delivery relationship on his task to “fetch some sharpening stones, suitable for stone age sickles” with an end-date “not later than February 19th”. But the planning still included all those things that could be addressed – plus contingencies. In a reasonable manner. With all members of the relevant community being responsible for their respective contribution.

But somehow planning really got a bad name, when responsibilities got piled up on the shoulders of “the planner” and instead of covering all the sensible angles for the problem at hand, “the planners” started to cover all the angles of attack to their backs.

And instead of planning for things that can be planned, it became more important to produce plans that seem airtight so that the poor guy who wrote it can avoid being attacked.

But don’t misunderstand planning in ‘Agile’ or lean – it’s not “no planning” it is way more planning – it is just not done by someone from outside in advance, but occurs more often and is done by the people who are best suited to make the decisions.

On a sailing boat you don’t necessarily plan for the exact wind that you find on the day of the regatta, but if the race is well planned you do have the right sails on board to enable the highly trained and specialized (!) crew-members to make the best of the situation. Each and everyone responsible all by himself!

Fortunately, the lean approach brings us some of the planning back. So now the topic of planning no longer is as much of a taboo as it used to be for a while.

One place to experience some of the methods and approaches for lean planning is the hands-on workshop on agile and lean practices Tom Breur and I plan to run in the autumn of 2013

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