Dear Agile, Can We Please Start Planning Things Again?

Dear Agile, Can We Please Start Planning Things Again?

Dear Agile,

Can We Please Start Planning Things Again?

Just last week I found myself reading yet another blog post where the author criticized planning as not being “agile.” They said something along the lines of “If you’re planning more than two sprints ahead, or have a year’s worth of stories in the backlog, then you’re not doing agile.”

Believe me, I get it – no one wants to return to the bad old days of giant binders full of requirements that get tossed on engineering’s conference room table right before everyone disappears for two years to build a steaming pile of a system that no one is going to want.

Yes, those things happened. Yes, they were terrible. But we’ve moved on.

In fact, we are very far from that world these days. (Or at least most of us are.) Many organizations swung hard in the opposite direction, and agile started to take on a haphazard feeling of “Let’s just start moving in a direction and adjust as we go! Yay!” That clearly spells disaster for all but the smallest of projects.

So what are we to do? I definitely want to do agile, but if I plan too much, they’ll revoke my agile card.

To that, I say, “meh.”

Just plan things. Plan all the things. Plan as much as you want, but stop planning when it doesn’t feel useful anymore. If someone tells you that your planning isn’t agile, then tell them that being agile is about responding to change, not being irresponsible.

To quote the agile manifesto: “Through this work we have come to value… responding to change *over* following a plan.” [Emphasis mine.] That “over” part is the piece a lot of folks overlook.

Waterfall is pretending you can plan every little detail up front, and then trying to stick with that false reality. Agile is doing just enough upfront planning to make responsible decisions. If that means that you need to put together an incredibly thorough plan then by all means do it! Just don’t get so tied to your plan that you forget to respond to change.

Sincerely,
A guy who is sick of agile being used as an excuse for being lazy

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