The Planning Fallacy

Written by Mike Cottmeyer Friday, 15 October 2010 09:07

You know… sometimes I can’t help but think that us agilists create unnecessary grief for ourselves when we talk about agile to our more traditional counterparts.

My friend Angeline Tan (@agilemeister) launched a Twitter campaign this week to get the Agile Alliance to show some West Coast love and move the 2013 conference to San Francisco. There was quite a bit of interesting discussion, but in the end Diana Larsen (@dianaofportland) closed the debate… Agile 2013 will be in Nashville, the contracts are signed.

I thought that was kind of funny. A bunch of agilists planning far enough in advance to have contracts signed, what… two years in advance? I thought we were all about emergent outcomes? What happened to just in time planning? I thought we were all supposed to just show up in Nashville and self-organize a conference right there on the fly?

Wouldn’t that be fun, just show up in 2013 start conferencing! (actually, that might be fun)

There is always some level of up-front planning necessary to pull off a big event. Likewise, there is always some level of up-front planning necessary to coordinate the efforts of dozens of developers trying to pull together a large enterprise class software system. Software at this level doesn’t emerge. There is a ton of room to plan and design as we go, but the core structures and patterns have to be in place early.

I think we’d do ourselves well… as a community… to popularize some language about how we deal with this kind of planning. It seems that somehow… in our day to day discussions about agile… we’ve given the mainstream project management and development community the wrong impression about us. We value “responding to change OVER following a plan”… that doesn’t mean we don’t plan.

I bet the first contract in Nashville was signed two years in advance also. None of us showed up in Nashville to a flooded hotel, did we?

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