The first post in this series discussed Myth #1 – Agile is Undisciplined. Now let’s talk about another common Agile myth: Agile Teams Do Not Plan.
This misconception generally relates to a lack of understanding of an agile, or incremental, planning approach. Most agile teams spend as much, if not more, time planning their projects. The difference is that this planning effort is spread throughout an entire project as opposed to being compressed into the beginning of a project. Intead of extensive, up-front planning, agile development simply follows an incremental approach to planning, which allows for initial planning at a high level and then iteratively planning at lower levels as more knowledge is gained.
If we look at the actual results of many traditional project plans, detailed, task-based project plans created at the beginning of a software project often quickly fall out of sync with the technical and business realities of a project. Over time, significant energy is expended in reconciling the original plans to these current realities. On the other hand, agile development accepts this volatility and instead replaces detailed, up-front planning with “continuous planning” — for example, quarterly at the release level, monthly or weekly at the iteration level, and daily at the task and team-member level.
Given that the technology, requirements, business demands, people, issues, risks, etc. are almost always in flux in virtually all software projects, this type of continuous planning approach provides the team with the necessary process-based ammunition to much more easily and efficiently adapt to the changes. In addition, teams are also able to incrementally optimize their plans as new information emerges.
What is just as important is that as teams begin to learn what they can deliver on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, they become more accurate at longer-range planning. Many of the agile teams I’ve worked with have become much more confident in both their short- and long-term planning abilities than they ever were with traditional planning approaches.
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