Agile Release Planning is not about the Plan
Here is one key observation about release planning from the past week and a half.
I have been working in France. I have worked with 3 different companies, and a bunch of great people.
In the third class, we did a 2-day workshop. The Workshop was mainly about agile release planning, using the real work of that company and those teams.
As with most people, some of the people were waiting. They wanted to wait to plan until everything was known. Much was known, yet they thought the Plan would be better if they knew more.
This is a normal human reaction. (This group was not unusual in this way.)
But this is not the way of life.
Life changes, we learn.
We must always be changing the plan. So, we do not do Agile Release Planning to have one Plan. We start Agile Release Planning now, while we are relatively uninformed, to learn. The initial Agile Release Planning is not primarily about the plan.
We want to discover with the crazy human beings we are working with (the Team) and working for (meaning: the customers). It is about learning.
I say ‘crazy’ in a most affectionate way.
Crazy in a nice way, crazy in an inexplicable way, crazy in an emotional way. Crazy in far more ways than we have understood yet. Because what it means to be human, to be a customer, a teammate, a friend, another stranger on the road…what it means to be this we still do not know. The customers and the teammates are, for many reasons, both good and bad, changing all the time.
So… we do some planning, relative quickly, and we ask our co-workers to work with us; help figure out what we are doing, and how we will do it together.
Lesson 1: We plan now, even with very imperfect information. Then we evaluate, and think about what we need to make a better plan. We do some of the work, and then we learn more, and re-plan.
Let me also add, sometimes it can be true, before taking a path, some things must be known. Or…if we choose one path wrongly, it may be hard to change paths later. So, we want to know more. If you are convinced you have this type of situation, you have a higher need for more information early. Use common sense.
But I caution you. At least with a software product, and other products, from experience, you may be using one of the standard rationalizations for procrastination: “I need to know more first.” Analysis paralysis, as it is often called. Surely, yes, review what you know now, then learn from taking action. The school of hard knocks is a wonderful teacher.
Also, if we take the example of 6 months of work to be planned, this agile release planning should take about 1 elapsed day involving, usually, the Scrum Team (7) and some ‘business stakeholders’ (4). (By business stakeholder, I mean some people who will work with the team, and come to the first part of the Sprint Planning Meeting, and to the Sprint Review to give useful feedback about what the customers will want.)
After we know what all of those people know, we may want to do further research. And we will do it more effectively.