4 Estimates & a Gantt Chart – The “Planning Party” Response . . .

In established political fashion, I must now provide a more sensible “Planning Party response” to the rhetoric espoused by Amos (@adkron) regarding the “appropriate amount of planning” discussed during ThisAgileLife Episode 25 “4 Estimates and a Gantt Chart Ago”.

During the episode, my colleague Amos alleged that 4 months of planning to establish a new blog site (www.theagilefactor.com) was unacceptable, and that much of the planning and consideration that I put into launching the site was unwarranted.  Furthermore I should have been able to bring the site online in less than 4 months, and some may assume from the amateur-style debate rhetoric during Episode 25 that it took me 4 months of focused work to “think about what I wanted to do, then setup WordPress, and finally post something” – let me set the record straight on a few items:

  • Since I have many other obligations and activities going on, working to bring the site online and create the initial content was not my top priority throughout the 4 month period – I focused on it during my extremely limited spare time.  More accurate use of a technique like “Personal Kanban” or “Pomodoro” so as to identify and more carefully track key items (along with the many other items competing for my very limited spare time) may have reduced the time needed to launch the blog as I would have had less total work in progress.  Reducing my work-in-progress and prioritizing completion of the items related to launching the blog would have improved flow.
  • As for Amos’ claim that 4 months from envisioning to delivery was unacceptable – Amos has no solid value data to support this.  Ideally release of capabilities within agile development projects should be prioritized to maximize business value (ideally at the feature, not at the project level); however, in this case, my new blog is something that I’m doing on the side and there wasn’t any significant different in business value (to myself as the business supporting it) if it went online in August or if it showed up in November (like it did).  The key message here is to use business value (at the feature level) to prioritize and determine when capabilities need to be released.
  • All told my brainstorming, concept and goal development, initial writing, and technical setup to launch the website took roughly 12 hours – as mentioned above, this was 12 hours spent in short bursts initially, with longer work sessions to get stuff done as I got closer to a self-imposed deadline to get the site up.
  • The time spent brainstorming and documenting a “vision” amplified by “goals” quantified by “objectives” serves to provide a solid definition of “success” for the blog / site – having a well defined meaning of “success” has served to increase my motivation to work on developing content for the site in my very limited spare time.  I hypothesize that I will be more motivated to sustain the site, since I have documented goals that I want to conquer, and as I complete initial goals, I will define and adopt new goals to ensure that definition of “success” remains relevant.

The key learnings that I hope all can extract from the “4 Estimates and a Gantt Chart” debate are:

#1 – Planning is a needed and valuable activity so as to ensure all involved with a project (or product) have an understood and agreed upon definition of “success” – without a definition of “success” you cannot build a high-quality product.  Regardless of your context or project, how well do you know what “success” is, and more importantly, do you know how each of your day-to-day activities are helping to get you closer to achieving that definition of success.

#2 – Use business value to determine priority for when to stuff (projects/capabilities/features/etc) needs to get done – for personal / side projects use “personal utility” (what value does the project bring you) – if you identify something that has significant value (in either context) prioritize it and get it done.

#3 – Increasing your Work-In-Progress will decrease flow – this has been proven time-and-time again by kanban and lean scientists – techniques like personal kanban or pomodoro can help – they are most effective when you use them to track ALL of your side projects (recall you need to visualize everything going on within the value-stream for maximum benefit).

#4 – Goal setting works so as to make incremental steps towards the definition of “success” – just be careful to ensure that your goals remain relevant, if your objective changes, update your goals, if achieve your goals (which I hope you will) then create new ones – it’s like shampooing your hair: wash / rinse / repeat.

#5 – It doesn’t take 4 months to setup a blog, it should take you less than a day (or perhaps even less based on your success criteria) – if you believe it will bring value of any kind, just go do it – but remember if you are your own product owner, you still need to define what it means for you to be successful.

For those that are intrigued by Tice & Amos debates – next up: “Planguage” – a language all about planning, so as to provide a more precise definition of success.

… qed …

Personal Kanban – http://www.personalkanban.com
Pomodoro – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique
Planguage – http://www.gilb.com/Requirements

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