The economic benefits of Big Room Planning

How to overcome the quantification bias

Many are scaling agility by introducing Big Room Planning (BRP) as a seminal event in their planning calendar.  Those who have experienced a BRP know the return realized from greater collaboration, transparency and alignment.  They’ve seen it and they’ve felt it.

It’s that last part that gets us in trouble.  We expect others to make that leap of faith based on feelings.  Really?  Try having that discussion with your CFO.   He or she is probably looking for hard data to support the ROI of this event, and it’s not easy to overcome the quantification bias.

If you’re hoping to bring 150 people together, from across the globe, you need a solid business case.  Sending your sponsors to observe a Big Room Planning can help greatly but what if you can’t get them on the bus?  At this stage, many just give up.

With a good understanding of cost-of-delay it is possible to quantify some of the more tangible benefits.

The benefits fall into two broad categories:

  • Faster delivery; removing a delay in the value stream improves the time to market of a feature and a subsequent reduction on cost of delay.
  • Less work; requiring less effort to deliver the same value enables the Agile Release Train to pull in more features and deliver more value. We can measure the benefit through reduction in cost of delay of the pulled features.

 

Here are some of the more quantifiable benefits.

Elimination of Waste

Identifying wasteful work provides the opportunity to pull other items from our backlog.  We will uncover features that are unnecessary.  More commonly we will discover that many of our features have stories that are might not be part of the minimum viable product for that feature and can safely be deleted or moved to a future release.

More Effective Sprint Planning

During sprint planning the conversation around “what story is next” can be time consuming. Teams that have done Big Room Planning understand the why behind the stories being pulled and have established consensus on the stories allocated across the sprints of the program increment.  So, the question during sprint planning becomes not “what’s next” but rather “has anything changed”.

Healthier Cadence

Teams that don’t meet their commitments erode trust in their ability to make future commitments. Additionally, the continuous spilling over of work into the next sprint throws teams badly out of rhythm and establishes unhealthy habits.  During Big Room Planning, teams balance demand with their capacity (in full view of their stakeholders) dramatically reducing the risk that they over commit or are pressured to over commit.

Faster Decision Making

Outside observers attending BRP notice how rapidly decisions are made.   With all the people in the room who are responsible for–and affected by–the outcome of the work being planned, decisions can be made in the moment avoiding the time sucking delay of the email approval chain.

Avoidance of Value Stream Delays

One of the most common causes of delay in the value stream is people waiting for other people.  BRP brings together all parties and through discussion we identify key dependencies which allows us to sequence our work to avoid costly delays

Risks Identified Ahead of Time

By having all concerned parties participating in risk identification we exponentially increase the chances that all risks are identified and addressed right there and then.

In Conclusion

There is still no substitute for direct observation as many of the benefits such as happier, more connected employees will still evade quantification.  However, plugging-in your data to the above benefits will enable you to understand the economics of your Big Room Planning events.  You will discover that even very conservative assumptions will yield compelling results that greatly help you make your business case.

Lastly, a word of caution.  If planning is so beneficial then shouldn’t we always do more?  Optimization never happens at the extremes.  We know too well that too much upfront planning will tip us over the waterfall so finding the correct balance is key.

Join me on Friday, April 27, 10am PT / 1pm ET for a webinar discussing how it’s possible to quantify the more tangible benefits of Big Room Planning. This webinar with be worth *your* investment.


Ken Clyne
Ken Clyne is a Principal Agile Consultant with CA Technologies where he pursues his passion…

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