Have a plan, but don’t be a slave to it
People who know me know that I like to have a plan, but I’m the first one to stray from it. This may seem like a strange contradiction or worse hypocrisy, but here’s my justification: if everything goes according to plan, the best outcome is limited to your initial imagination.
I’m not willing to settle for our “initial” imagination because routinely our best ideas come mid-stream during the project. If you are doing work where creativity counts and innovation is part of the formula, you might find that giving that creativity more room to breathe in your plan makes good sense. A great way to do this is with ranged estimation. We usually talk about a ranged estimate (e.g. 5 days – 20 days) as a way to capture uncertainty but it is also a great way to give room to possibilities in your schedule as well. Once you’re willing to admit that you can’t figure it all out up front, this gets easy, just ask your team to make the ranges a bit wider for things they have lingering and nagging thoughts about. You can always narrow it when you get closer but now you’ve left a bit of room.
With all this room in the schedule, why plan? Planning keeps us from getting lost and helps us stay focused on delivering business value. In our team’s case, that value is not always what we set out to do; sometimes it’s better because we didn’t follow the plan.
Of course because LP is flexible and eats changes for breakfast, our plan was smart enough to follow us.