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Debunking the Myths about Agile 3: Planning not required.

One advantage of Agile I have heard is that you can just go to work and don’t need to plan as much as predictive. This is 100% WRONG. You actually plan MORE with Agile and you refine and re-plan constantly.

Here is a great picture that helps to illustrate the differences between an Agile process vs a Waterfall or Predictive process.

As you look at this picture, you can see that the end goal is the same. I would also argue that the amount of work to do both is the same, if not even more for Agile in this case. I would also argue that the Agile plan in this instance would actually take longer.

The Difference lies in understanding the total scope, and what will provide value to you and the customer:

Waterfall: In this instance, Waterfall assumes that the team and customer fully comprehend and have articulated the desired end state with a level of detail and clarity that allows the plan to be built from the outset. Almost all the planning is done up front with a detailed scope, requirements, resources and schedule. From a value delivery perspective, the team or customer doesn’t need something along the way, is fine waiting, and knows exactly what they want.

Agile: In this instance, the team or customer may not be sure what they want, but they know they need the ability to transport a human over land that saves energy and they need it now. Maybe they are trying to identify a customer market for what they are building. They are able to get something to market quickly that solved a problem. Then the user-story is refined and they learn that they need more stability. Follow on feedback determines that mechanical advantage could further enhance the product. Technology advances then allow them to add a motor. Final iteration realized that the need to transport a family would be a critical component which results in the last development of the Car.

The Planning difference:

Waterfall: Planning for waterfall is heavily invested prior to starting work. There are processes of detail refinement, scope definition, requirements mapping etc. Identification of resources, dependencies all occur up front and are planned for. Once the plan is finished then work begins.

Agile: Planning is done up front in order to set a common understanding and vision for the project. The team knows what they are focusing on and they collaborate to design the work and execute. Continuous refinement allows the team to add features, functions, and upgrades over time. Planning and execution are a continuous feedback loop that is ongoing. Planning in essence never stops. One key element of planning though is the governance piece that allows decisions to be made and ensure to stay within the bounds of the scope of the project. Governance in Agile projects in some ways must be even more restrictive and defined than in a predictive project to prevent scope creep. As teams are smaller though in an agile environment, it is easier to manage the feedback and actions of the team.

Why not both:

What is lost sometimes is that both Agile and Waterfall can be a great compliment to each other. Certain processes would benefit greatly from an agile application and mindset. Here is one simple graphic to articulate this point but there could be many others. Agile process could continue to be used on into the manufacturing phase illustrated here to refine elements and characteristics of the car itself based on Voice of the Customer (VOC) feedback or other elements of process improvement and lean. Refinement in the manufacturing process would also be another great way to incorporate Agile. The options to integrate Agile are endless within a waterfall structure.

This is a fascinating topic and there is so much to unpack. If anyone ever wants to have a discussion please reach out. We would love to help you or your organization grow and improve.

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