“Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve sent you tips about identifying tasks during iteration planning. Those tips were aimed at helping your team identify the right number of tasks and tasks of the right size.
But, is identifying tasks even worth the effort it takes?
For most teams, yes.
I don’t find the list of tasks itself to be all that helpful. However, the thought that goes into creating that list is very helpful.
Suppose you are planning a trip to New York and are ready to pack. You’d either make a packing list or you’d just start tossing things into your suitcase. You’d put a bit of effort toward thinking of everything you’d need. But you’d also know that if you missed anything, you’d be able to buy the forgotten item while in New York.
Contrast this with packing for an expedition up Mount Everest. You’d put more thought into that. You can’t simply buy a forgotten item at 27,000 feet. So, you’d almost certainly make a packing list and you’d probably double- and triple-check it.
But, while you’re climbing Mount Everest, is that packing list still helpful?
Not at all.
But the thought that went into creating it was.
It’s the same with identifying tasks during iteration planning. The act of thinking of those tasks is the benefit. The benefit is not necessarily the list.
Everything on that list of tasks could have been identified in real time, day by day during the iteration. But identifying tasks that late will lead to more coordination issues and possible delays. If I know I need something from you next week, you can choose when to do that work. If I need it from you now, and I’m stalled until you provide it, you don’t have the luxury of choosing when to work on it. You need to work on it now—I’m waiting for it.
So, should your team identify tasks during iteration planning? In general, yes. I think a team can stop identifying tasks once they’ve mastered the skills of
- Collaborating during the iteration to work through newly discovered items
- Knowing how many (and which) product backlog items to bring into an iteration
Until a team reaches that point, I do think team members should identify tasks. But, please remember that last week I said a team should target identifying only about two thirds of the total tasks they’ll ultimately do in the iteration. That’s a good balance between thinking a little about what needs to be done without over-thinking things.
It would be similar to planning your expedition up Mount Everest knowing that you can get a few last supplies in Kathmandu.
That ends our three-week series of tips on the iteration planning meeting. I hope it has helped you and your team succeed with agile.”