One of my favorite authors (even though he has turned me down several times for a podcast) is Jim Highsmith. Jim has authored, several books with my favorite being Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products (2nd Edition) which comes as no surprise to most readers of this blog.
One of the items that Jim challenges in the book is the project management thinking of Plan-Do. In the book, he states that when considering plan-do it assumes that we already have the acquired knowledge to get the job done. He believes it should speculating not planning and exploring versus doing. In the process world and most specifically in the area of Lean, we think of PDCA and the planning portion of it as a hypothesis and the do as the experiment. Which I feel lies somewhere in between Jim’s explanation of the two. If I use the three components of how I visualize my Lean thoughts, Standard (SDCA), Incremental (PDCA), and Exploration (EDCA), I believe I can safely say that my thinking does align itself with Jim’s.
In the before mentioned book, Highsmith discussed the “Story” aspect of iteration planning. He says in the book,
I was slow to embrace the term “Story” for iteration planning. What finally convinced me was this need to change people’s perception of planning. The traditional terms we used were “requirement” and “requirements document”— words that conjure up fixed, unvarying, cast-in-concrete outcomes. “Story” conjures up a different scenario, one that emphasizes talking over writing and evolution over a fixed specification. Using the term “speculating” rather than “planning” has a similar effect. When we speculate, we are not prescribing the future, but rather hypothesizing about it. And, to those who practice the scientific method, we hypothesize and then run experiments to test that hypothesis— exactly what happens in agile iterations. Speculating also conjures up a vision of a group musing about the future instead of one rushing to document.
In the past several months, I have really started to embrace this “Story” type of thinking. I have started to create more narratives in the planning phases and even in my proposals.
- In project scoping there are fewer tasks being assign in the earlier phases but it also seems to drive more conversation in beginning of the project or an iteration such as SDCA, PDCA, and EDCA. I think it is a good thing.
- On the proposal side, I have found many people uncomfortable with this process. They are looking for what you are going to do. I equate that to starting with the answers. Which I typically think in the sales and marketing world is a disaster waiting to happen.
What are your thoughts, is more narrative/speculation a good thing or a bad thing?
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