The key purpose of Agile Release Planning

The following email lacks some context, but I wanted to post it anyway.  This is what I usually say (enact) at the end of the Agile Release Planning segment or workshop.  Hope it helps you.  This was said in a recent email to a class, as you’ll see.

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Hi all,

There was something important that I did not explain. About Agile Release Planning.

As with all the important things in life, it is what it appears to be, and at the same time it very different than what it appears to be.

What do I mean?

Well, obviously, we are doing planning, or so we think. And the output is a kind of plan. The product backlog broken into releases and sprints.

How good is that plan in the first day? Crappy. It has to be, because we are missing so many puzzle pieces. Roughly half.

So, what was the real purpose of that day?

I use body language to help you remember, because this is important.

First, I raise my arms and do kind of a circle above my head. That represents a big animal. An elephant (you will recall). And I say “they know all see the same elephant”.

Second, I move my hands out and forward from my stomach. That represents (not my best one) motivation. They are all more motivated. They all feel like “this is my baby, I helped create this”. And all the engagement, commitment, buy-in, involvement that implies.

Third, at my waist I move my hands in circles. Some people laugh and say “wax on, wax off”. Then I say “we are sharing….” Pause. “Sharing what kind of knowledge?” Takeuchi and Nonaka talk about 2 types of knowledge: tacit and explicit. (Read about that.) “So, we shared the … most important one….the tacit knowledge. And now we all know what we all know.”

“Now the people are waiting, willing, and wanting to do the project.” Usually at this time I ask Grant: “What is more important to project success? (pause) The people or the plan?” Grant thinks for only a moment and says “the people”. “So, you see, we accomplished something far more important than the plan. We got the people ready to do it.”

And this is the only way I know to accomplish that goal. There are other ways, maybe almost as good, to develop a plan. The initial plan. This is the only way, certainly the best I have ever found, to get the people ready. And we do team building as well, but people usually hate teambuilding exercises, so never tell them we are doing that. Just let it happen.

I hope those comments are helpful. Sorry you missed the body language.

Thanks!
Joe

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