The Real Value of a Non-Agile Plan

A couple of comments on my last post (the sad truth about agile planning) made me think: Maybe I was slamming agile planning too much.

Then I thought (after an elaborate discussion with myself) – I wasn’t doing that at all!

So let’s put some things in perspective: Can I make a plan for the next 3 years in the project? Absolutely.

Will it be real/correct/anywhere near that? Absolutely not. We can’t predict what will happen, no more than we can control if we’ll even be in the company in three years.

Then why bother? Two reasons.

Putting a plan in place requires thinking. I know, we don’t talk about much about thinking in agile too much, it’s not (air quote) part of the process . But much like TDD makes you think before you code, creating a plan makes you think about what you can and cannot control, what can happen, milestones, etc. It doesn’t mean what you planned will actually happen, but you know you’ve done some risk analysis just by thinking.

The 2nd reason is the cornerstone of any agile methodology: communication. You show this plan to the project sponsors, and convince them that you’ve actually thought about it. They know it’s not accurate, and that maybe the project will stop because of economic events that even don’t appear in the plan. But that gives them confidence. It raises trust.

In the past I didn’t understand that. I was sure the only way to gain (actually win back) trust was to show actual working software. It’s definitely a show of force when you’re delivering working software consistently. But you should do more . When you show a plan, you gain trust. When you communicate status on the plan you gain trust. And when you react to unforeseen events and communicate decisions, changing the plan on the way, you gain trust.

If you’ve already got this trust in place, you’ve got it made. And, you need to work at it to maintain it.

Projects succeeds when everyone communicates with each other, and trust each other. It’s up to us to build the trust on the business side. If we don’t? Let’s not be surprised that another unforseen event happened: the project got shot down.

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