Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Two Levels of Agile Planning

Almost all firms that I work with have at least two levels of planning.  We can call them “high level” and “team level”.
High Level                     
At the high level, project or product ideas come in.  Someone has to prioritize these opportunities initially, to see which ones make the cut.  Often this is formally done once a year (not our recommendation).  Often this is done by a small group, sometimes called a committee.
Depending on the size of the organization, high level could be for the firm, for the division, or for the department.
The committee considers the benefits and the costs and maybe some other factors. Sometimes the benefits and costs are formally calculated, and sometimes they are just ‘discussed’.
But usually, the committee comes up with a 1 to N list of projects that should be done ‘soon’ (again, often this means in the next calendar year).
Some recommendations to make this more agile:

  • Do it with greater frequency (eg, every month for the Top X projects)
  • Expect the numbers to change over time
  • Make the numbers explicit
  • Do as ‘team knowledge creation’
  • Get feedback
  • Consider how accurate it is, can be, and needs to be
Team Level
We believe every project should go through ‘release planning’ after it has been assigned to a Team.
The Team should do release planning again (it is like what the committee did) for the following reasons:
  • it is being done at a lower level of detail, on only high priority wor
  • time has past, so information is likely to have changed
  • the Team needs the detailed information
  • it affects Team motivation
  • it enables everyone on the extended Team to get on the same page
We also recommend that the high level results of the Team release planning should be given as feedback to the committee.  The committee may have questions and may raise issues that the Team neglected to consider.  But more likely, the committee will learn more about how badly they mis-estimated or mis-understood the work.  And this is useful feedback for them.

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