Deep dive: Planning

In this post, we’ll discuss different ways of planning. When I talk about planning, I mean deciding what to do or what objective to achieve.

As such, estimation and other timeline-related activities will be out of scope here ;-).

When do we plan?

In Waterfall, we start with a planning phase: deciding all the work to be done, up front. It looks a little something like this:

waterfall
Waterfall Planning

In Scrum, we have iterations (sprints) which have a Sprint Planning meeting at the start of each. So our picture looks a little bit like this:

scrum
Scrum Planning

In kanban, teams can do as they wish. Often this results in doing planning when it is needed (eg once all the “in progress” work is done) so it is more sporadic:

kanban
Kanban Planning

Overall, the proportion of time spent on planning might be about the same: Agile evangelists would say that because of the pivoting this repeated planning allows, the value they deliver overall over the same time period will be much higher. (I agree with them!)

One of the things I find interesting as thought experiments is applying these concepts to life. As a child, many of us have some dream of what we would like to do. As time progresses, perhaps this dream changes: in some sense perhaps this is a bit like a failed waterfall project… I hope though that we can instead see it as more like kanban planning: if you wanted to be married by the time you were 25, but didn’t meet the right person, it doesn’t feel fair to call that a “failure”.

Who does Planning?

In Waterfall, it is often a Project Manager, with the help of a few trusted Business Analysts. Perhaps the rest of the team have not even been assembled at this point.

In Scrum, the Product Owner sets the direction (and if they are a “good” team the rest of the team will be very involved too). Often the developers are involved in estimation, and in a good team they will also be involved in creating some of the stories, with the Product Owner having an overall accountability for it.

In Kanban, it can be anyone, though it is common to have someone fulfilling a kind of Product Owner role, to engage with stakeholders and understand what work will add value and be the best return on investment. Importantly, it is often those doing the work who will trigger the planning sessions (eg when they have no more work to do).

Psychology of Planning

It seems clear from Self-determination theory that those doing the work being involved in planning will lead to more intrinsically motivated workers, who actually want to work. This is particularly true in creative work. If you are interested, I would really encourage you to read up on Self-determination theory and see how you can apply it to your team to help them be more fired-up about their work.

 

 

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