Agile methods such as Scrum, Kanban and OpenAgile do not require long-term up-front plans. However, many teams desire a long-term plan. This can be thought of as a roadmap or schedule or a release plan. Agile planning helps us build and maintain long-term plans.
Agile Planning Process
The steps to do this are actually very simple:
Write down all the work to be done. In Scrum these are called “Product Backlog Items”, in Kanban “Tasks” and in OpenAgile “Value Drivers”.
Do some estimation of the work items. Many Agile estimation techniques exist including Planning Poker, The Bucket System,Dot Voting, T-Shirt Sizes. These tools can be applied to many types of estimation. There are three kinds of estimation that are important for Agile Planning:
Estimating relative business value. Usually done with the business people including customers and users.
Estimating relative effort. Usually done by the Agile team that will deliver the work.
Estimating team capacity. Also done by the Agile team (this is sometimes called “velocity”).
Create the long-term plan. Use the team capacity estimate and the sum of all the effort estimates to come up with an estimate of the overall time required to do the work. (In Kanban, which doesn’t have an iterative approach, this is a bit more complicated.) Use the business value and effort estimates to determine relative return on investment as a way to put work items in a logical sequence.
Agile planning allows a team to update estimates at any time. Therefore, the techniques used above should not be thought of as a strict sequence. Instead, as the team and the business people learn, the estimates and long-term plan can be easily updated. Scrum refers to this ongoing process at “Product Backlog Refinement”.
Principles of Agile Planning
In order to use Agile planning effectively, people must be aware of and support the principles of Agile planning:
Speed over accuracy. We don’t want to waste time on planning! Planning in and of itself does not deliver value. Instead, get planning done fast and use the actual delivery of your Agile team to adjust plans as you go.
Collaborative techniques. We don’t want to be able to blame individuals if something goes wrong. Instead, we create safe estimation and planning techniques. Inevitably, when an estimate turns out to be wrong, it is impossible to blame a single individual for a “mistake”.
Relative units. We don’t try to estimate and plan based on “real” units such as dollars or hours. Instead, we use ordering, relative estimation and other relative techniques to compare between options. Humans are bad at estimating in absolute units. We are much better at relative estimation and planning.
About the Author
Mishkin Berteig is the President and Co-Founder of Berteig Consulting Inc. He has been training, coaching and consulting for organizations adopting Agile methods since 2001 and is committed to helping individuals, teams and organizations apply Agile methods. Mishkin is a Certified Scrum Trainer, and qualified to deliver OpenAgile and Agile Project Management training. He has developed and delivered Agile training both in public and in-house seminars for over 3000 people in Canada and abroad. Courses have been as short as three hour intro-style and as long as five day boot-camp-style, and audiences have ranged from junior team members to senior executives. He has also assisted organizations of all sizes to make the transformation from traditional methods to Agile/Scrum methods (Extreme Programming, Scrum, Lean, OpenAgile). Assistance includes Agile Engineering Practices, Agile teamwork, Agile project and product management, Agile management and executive management.