Agile and Continuous Planning

Should we do it, Can we do it, Will we do it

These are the series of questions your Portfolio Management intake process should answer as part of deciding to bring work to your teams.

Unfortunately, most organizations bypass all of this in favor of just saying Do It and pushing work to their teams. And don’t tell me SAFe solves this because I’ve seen too many PI’s blown up by Leadership deciding at a moment’s notice to interrupt a PI in favor of the next most important ‘thing’ we must do.

There is an opportunity cost that you incur when you interrupt a plan, which translates into lower productivity and lower quality. My guidance to leadership is that if you can’t see 12 weeks into the future and protect that plan, then you aren’t focused on what is important or valuable, because you so easily allow for interruptions to your plan.

A mature intake process should provide for a foundation that first evaluates an idea against the organization’s strategies. Combining this with an associated value score provides context to the idea that is often missing in our decision-making.

Discovery is an important part of Intake, does this idea make sense, and does it align with our strategies and OKR’s? If the answer is no then shelve the idea and move on to the next idea in your backlog.

If the idea aligns with our needs, then you need to provide teams time to do a quick assessment of how this idea might be implemented, along with a high-level cost assessment (# of sprints is sufficient).

Remember this is about continuous planning and flow so this should not be a significant time requirement in your process.

This step will foster the build vs buy conversation as well as provide Architecture input to ensure we aren’t creating unnecessary complexity in our technology.

And finally, once we decide we can do it both from a technical and cost perspective then we can make the final decision to confirm we’ll do the work.

Once decided then we work with our teams to understand their current capacity and the backlog of other valuable work that they currently have.

At this point leadership needs to have important trade-off conversations regarding prioritization as they cannot stay in the mindset of they want THIS and THAT, rather they have to adopt the approach of THIS or THAT.

For some in the Agile community, this may sound like BUFA, however, having implemented this Lean Portfolio approach coupled with my Portfolio Valuation model I know it can be quick and efficient and keeps unnecessary interruptions from making their way down to teams only when the value of not doing something now (think regulatory or critical defects) outweighs the risk of delaying that type of work.

The key outcome we seek in continuous planning is to have a clear line of sight for the next couple of quarters so that teams can properly plan and prepare to deliver high-quality code.



Pragmatic Agilst who has led many organizations on their Agile Journey. Key areas of focus include Portfolio Mgt, Quality and DevOps/Automation

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Michael Connolly

Pragmatic Agilst who has led many organizations on their Agile Journey. Key areas of focus include Portfolio Mgt, Quality and DevOps/Automation