Not Planning is a Bad Plan

Sprint x-1 ends and it’s time for Sprint x to begin.

Our teams meet and accept the Stories for their Sprints. Acceptance is based on initial Story Points and whether the priorities make sense. After that, the teams get together and actually map out the tasks necessary to complete each Story.

Except day 2 comes around and I don’t see the tasks. I ask, and the team didn’t take the time to plan, they just started working. They don’t want to take the time to create the plan. They know what they need to do. They’d rather not waste the time writing that down.

What could be wrong with that?

From a managerial point of view, nothing is wrong. We’ve moved away from Command and Control based management so managers don’t need to see detailed plans. When the Sprint is done any management functionality can work off the completed Story Points and the current velocity.

But some of the Management functionality is taken by the team itself. It has made a commitment. If it wants to keep its commitment it has to understand how it’s doing. Otherwise the last day of the Sprint is here and they’re not ready.

Really good developers who are correct when they say “we know what we  need to do” fall into this trap. It’s not a skill issue, it’s a human nature issue. There are lots of scenarios that will get you to this point, but if you don’t have a written plan you can refer to before you start working each day you will go off plan. (NOTE: You have to use it, too.) Only the most trivial Stories don’t fit this pattern.

So, take the extra time. Put your plan down. Make sure your team can follow it. The time you spend at the beginning may save you twice as much at the end.

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