I was recently taking a look at a little quiz (advice magazine style – score yourself!) that rates how agile you really are, and of all the areas I was struck by the question on planning.
I think like a lot of corporate employees (as opposed to, say, start-up employees), I have had proper planning drilled into me for the last ten years. You can’t embark on a project, big or small, without a sufficient plan. And over the years, I have not only learned it, but embraced it – some plans I have worked on have become more and more elaborate, easily reaching into the double-digits of page numbers in Word. And Visio, of course, who makes a plan without some Visio diagrams?
Which doesn’t mean I don’t immediately see the logic in the Agile value of just-enough planning. Certainly, I would say 95% of those 22-page word doc plans never got implemented, most never implemented at all, the rest implemented in a way that was very, very different from all that planning. Even for personal projects, I am able to look back and realize that because I learned as I worked, whatever I had planned out at the start changed.
I think I am just one of those people that is assuaged by the presence of a good plan. I am not a hyper-organized person, by nature, so I don’t see why I would have trouble just “jumping in”. I certainly know other developers that love to get right into it, that have no problem skipping the modeling, business rule writing, and research steps.
So embracing the value of just-enough has been a hard one for me to personally adopt. One step that did help me, in case you too are a heavy-planner, is getting out of Word. I use wikis extensively now, and for personal projects love PBWiki since it lets you set your wiki to be private, a feature not often repeated among the other free-wiki hosts. I still let myself write and research and plan for a bit before starting a project, but writing in simple text on a wiki, and having access to that data via a web browser rather than Word, makes it all much more lightweight. It makes it more reusable too, I can reference previous plans (or changes to plans) in future ones with a simple wiki link. I can almost feel myself starting to embrace “just-enough”… almost.