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Some Thoughts on Agile Planning

by Mike Cottmeyer, 10 May 2011 | Agile Planning

This post is from LeadingAgile by Mike Cottmeyer. Click here to see the original post in full.

Agile Math

The basic math of team based agile is pretty simple. You can slice it several ways, but at the end of the day, one of these three basic formulas has to hold true. It’s all about time, cost, and scope… you get to decide which two constraints you want to lock, but then you have to derive the third.

1. backlog size / velocity = duration

2. duration * velocity = backlog size

3. backlog size / duration = velocity

I generally suggest that agile is all about fixing time and cost, and deriving scope… but it doesn’t have to be that way. Feel free to derive time based on a fixed backlog and known velocity. You can even derive a planning velocity based on fixed scope and time. This one is the most risky, so be prepared to measure, adjust, and negotiate as the plan unfolds.

Limiting WIP

But here is the rub… when a team has too much work to do, and not enough time to do it, there is a cognitive dissonance between the messages of agile and what they see on the ground. We can say all day long that the PO gets to decide the “what” and the team gets to decide “how” and “how much”… but if management is fixing all three variables, the team isn’t going to buy in.

Rushing the Backlog

Generally, here is what I ask from management out of the gate… give us three...

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