Planning Is Irresponsible

We do agile – we don’t plan” – this was the agile ‘slang‘ in early days when agile transformation was starting. For some persons, it was a motivation to escape from constantly repeating the lengthy project anatomy sessions – perhaps for me too.

Just to quote the well-known sentence from Dwight David Eisenhower

missingtarget[1]: “Plans are nothing; planning is everything“. Some agile coaches would further say that a long term plans and long term commitments are irresponsible and unprofessional behavior! Long term plans go exactly to the opposite of Lean thinking: deciding too early, no constant focus on the highest possible value through prioritization, delaying to deliver value frequently, not having potentially shippable product often, questionable incremental development of value and iterative learning and improvement…and many more.

What is the most sad of all – process forces people to commit to something that is unlikely to happen which violates the basic human respect and represents a source of many conflicts between the “line management” and project management.

Therefore, a true incremental and iterative development on principles of continuous improvement limits planning and commitment to a small chunk of time where requirements are fairly known, impacts of external ‘surprise’ factors are limited and they don’t influence planned outcome to the large extend. Each of iterations moves us closer to the wanted product. It makes our planning gradually less wrong – thus more predictable within the range of uncertainty as shown on the example:

So, if we realize that our plans are just estimations, perhaps it would be easier to cope with such an uncertainty. 

[1] 34th US president winning 2 mandates 1953-1961

Let’s Talk About Waste

Let’s Talk About Waste

I like the pure lean definition of waste – Anything that does not add value to the customer, full stop.
We might argue about it…it would simply be a waste!

In the book: “Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit” by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck, waste in SW development is defined as everything besides analysis and coding with the following categories:

  • Partially Done Work
  • Extra Processing
  • Extra Features
  • Task Switching
  • Waiting
  • Motion
  • Defects

Some thinkers would add one more category on top of the list – a waste of unused human talent.
This is the moment were leaders come into the game. Unused talent or “idle brain” is the situation either when nothing useful or something wasteful is done.

Analysis of Performed Activities

On the (quite old) figure shown, there is a ratio between value added and non value added activities in a typical organization.

As seen from the figure a large part of the process and activities may appear in a form that our customer would not be willing to pay for. However, those activities are built into the final price of the product that we sell making it less competitive than it should be. We tend to focus on increasing efficiency of the small green part and ignore a big pool of wasteful activities with the color that irritates bulls. Losing energy, time and resources with the red part completely shadow the efficiency gain on the green part.

There are strong indications that with the system thinking focusing to optimize the whole production chain, about 50% of the red part can be eliminated.

Non-Value Added Activities


The non-value added part is usually a big legacy part of activities, process, methods, tools and culture that cannot be changed over night. It also cannot and should not be terminated all together. There are activities that are perhaps not adding any value, but still needed to maintain and execute the operations of the organization.

By eliminating wasteful work (a pure waste) and minimizing actions that do not generate value, but are still needed due to different reasons, we maximize a value added work. So let’s relentlessly learn how to see and expose any type of waste. That’s what continuous improvement is about in a large extend.