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Fire and Forget? Strategic Planning is Broken

Dennis Stevens Chief Methodologist
Reading: Fire and Forget? Strategic Planning is Broken

At the Atlanta Scrum meetup, our Chief Methodologist, Dennis Stevens, recently delivered his talk entitled: Assumptions & Ambiguity Be Damned. Over the course of his presentation, he talked about the current state of strategic planning…

Spoiler Alert: it’s broken.

He also covered some of the challenges large organizations are facing when planning out work, and the things that you can do to make it better.

First, take 90 seconds to watch this clip in which Dennis lays out some of the symptoms associated with poor strategic planning and then join us for the Premier of the full video on September 25th, at 8 pm—on YouTube.

Take me to the Premier

Video Transcript

So what kinds of things are going wrong with strategic planning? What’s the current state of it? This kind of concept of fire and forget. We come up with a big upfront design of the strategy, a big upfront execution plan. We’re going to go after this market. Here’s what we’re going to have to do. Here’s your funding. Here’s your budget, and then we throw that over the wall and we just expect to go run it on its own. When we do that, the delivery organizations, the execution organizations, probably from product manager through product owner all the way down into delivery becomes more of an order taking sort of model where we’re not really collaboratively defining what we’re going to do. There’s not a lot of feedback loops. It’s kind of heading down a path. We’re just order-taking and trying to execute as more and more work gets shoved into the system.

We find out when we get into that that we have an inability to course correct. There’s tends to be a lot of inertia for a project, once it gets started, to keep going. And what that leads to, this sort of combination of big upfront order taking, fire and forget once a project starts, it never stops. It leads to behaviors in organizations where we end up working on 10 times more stuff than we have the capacity for. We never estimate our projects right upfront. People want to get their projects started because once you get started, it won’t get canceled. So they try to shove stuff in and get things started, even if we don’t really have the capacity to deliver it. And we end up breaking our ability to execute projects at all in the organization. We end up with technical debt, we run into all kinds of interesting problems. So not only is our strategy not adaptable, but it actually damages our ability to adapt in the execution phase.

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