The Importance of Detailed Planning

I recently wrote on The Importance of Precise Estimates.  This is a related topic.

Mark Levison called my attention to an article by Michael Hugos subtitled ‘Agile projects require more planning and coordinating than waterfall projects‘ on  In this article he advocates answering the question, “Has the scope of any project task changed?” at every daily standup.  He uses this information to update a detailed Gantt chart to provide to senior management.  In Michael’s words,

It also gives senior managers who are not on the project (but who are still ultimately responsible for what happens) the information they need to feel comfortable. And that saves project team members from being distracted by endless management questions and misplaced advice (and nothing kills agility faster than endless management questions and misplaced advice”¦).

Michael, in LOLspeak, “Ur doin it wrong.”

You’d do well to review Hubert Smit’s presentation on Five Levels of Agile Planning.

A Gantt chart is way too much work to keep up to date with such volatile and detailed data.  I suggest using a burn-up chart, instead.  Developer tasks is way too detailed a view for senior management.  Steering the company requires a higher level view.  A task level view by senior management invites the very micromanagement Michael fears, and suggests that middle management isn’t doing useful work.  If middle management is tracking individual tasks at a daily level, then they are also micromanaging, and destroying the development team’s ability to self-organize.

For Agile development to work, you have to delegate appropriate levels of organization to the people doing work at that level.  You have to treat people as living, thinking beings–not just a pair of hands to do your bidding.  It’s not a means to drive them harder, squeezing the slack out their days.

The good news is that letting people organize their own tasks frees you to look at a bigger picture.  You can track if and when a project is going astray much more easily that way, than you can by presuming you’re the only person who knows all the tasks that need to be done, in what order, and by whom.

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