Something that comes by now and again is planning. And with this I don´t mean the planning sessions within Scrum or planning work through the day. I´m talking about the planning that occurs in boardrooms and amongst managers. Often I am asked to provide a long term planning. How many sprints something would take and even the distribution of manpower despite of the use of Scrum. Swapping teams and team members and relocating work. In most cases I can prevent such question in becoming a real threat and I always refer to the importance of a roadmap and long term vision.
But despite of this at some point planning is needed. In most companies long term planning is done during elaborate planning meetings with excel or something like that. And most of the time amongst the managers. We all know those session where you are in a meeting and have to point out where you´re work is at in the planning and if you need more time or resources (I hate that word). During my agile journey I came across two companies that did something dramatically different, resourceful en excellent. They redesigned there way of planning and with that willingly abandoned micro-management and lack of overview.
The first company is a large distribution center in the Netherlands. A few years ago they implemented Scrum and Kanban for their software development, but management was still working with elaborate and boring planning tools and meetings. With the intervention of a Scrum coach they started to think differently. They started to work with the one thing their scrum teams already used. Stickies. Their boardroom was transformed into a information center and is now containing a very long paper planning board. The rows are the various scrum teams and every column is a week. At every spot is one sticky. One sticky represents one sprint. So you can get an idea of what that might look like. A very large colorful plan board with only highlights on the various sprints. They only thing the managers now have to do is simply move stickies in order to make it fit. They know approximately how the sprints run and on what and when the teams are working on something.
The second company I stubbed upon has an even more creative and even playful way to plan the people and projects. They use a Lego Planning board. And it is awesome. Horizontal you can see al the projects, and vertical the weeks (or sprints) Every member of the company is represented with a Lego blog. A two stud for an half day and a four stud brick for a day. At the bottom of the board there is a sort of resource pool. A pile of Lego bricks. Together the exact amount of availability of that member. So all you have to do is simply build your planning. Deadlines and delivery is represented by long 4 stud bricks to indicate certain milestones. Now this seems a bit waterfall but the company is agile. Even though they plan with hours they keep in mind that slack is needed. Nobody works for eight hours per day. And they know this. So a brick that represents half a day is this but with a little less. The fun thing is that the planning itself can go pretty fast. Every Friday they have a short standup meeting at the board and indicate where attention is needed. They move a few bricks and of they go. Not only does it work, it also looks great. It is fun and it is easy to understand.
In both cases the managers of these companies made the decision to abandon old-school planning and change things. Even playful things. After all a manager is just a person so why wouldn´t stickies or Lego bricks work for them and bring more fun and even overview. And we all know that overview is the real control.