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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Scenario Planning

The traditional project planning model was developed during periods of low rates of change and lack of business client power and involvement. It involved a major "one-off" planning process at the beginning of the project and the production of a detailed project plan for all phases of the system development cycle. The extensive use of the "freezing" of client requirements ensured that the plan was locked in (while the client was locked out).

I Can See for Miles . . .

If you can't predict the future with certainty, don't put it in a schedule. All you are doing is

This approach to planning had parallels in military planning and strategy. As discussed by John Keegan (1992), the concept of chateau generals, which involved the planning and management of military campaigns by generals remote from the front line in chateaus, was endemic in military strategy and highly refined by World Wars I and II. The remoteness of the generals led to a loss of real-time intelligence of progress and the evolution of one-way planning. As Keegan noted, this planning approach led to a belief that the plan must be followed at all costs. This concept of remote- and expert-driven planning remained until the Vietnam War, when generals in Washington planned a campaign conducted in a country 10,000 kilometers away.

Real-time planning in the military was developed and perfected by General Norman Schwarzkopf during the Desert Storm campaign against Iraq. In his autobiography, It Doesn't Take A Hero, Schwarzkopf (1992) discussed how, in the planning of Desert Storm, "the last thing we want is a repeat of Vietnam where Washington picked the targets" (macro planning) and his insight that "timing is everything in battle and unless we adjusted the plan we stood to lose the momentum" (real-time planning). Using sophisticated feedback loops, Schwarzkopf and others developed a broad four-stage strategic plan for Desert Storm with micro or real-time planning being used to achieve each stage. The plan for each stage was adjusted as events altered the plans. For example, the ground offensive was planned for 100 days and was over in 100 hours.

A Day Is a Long Time

In eXtreme projects, the pace and rate of change are substantially faster than in conventional projects. eXtreme project management is like eating an apple: Daily is better for you.

Peter Schwartz (1991) and others have also developed scenario planning as a strategic planning approach. Again, they argue that traditional linear strategic planning is no longer relevant in today's turbulent business environment.

The L.A. Law Model

Many of the episodes of the TV series L.A. Law started with a partners meeting in which the partners discussed the status of the various cases they were involved with.

Real-time planning involves a daily meeting between you and your team (and certain stakeholders) to review the status of your project. In eXtreme projects, events move quickly and the daily meeting (hopefully, with some good coffee, fruit, and Danish pastries) is a key for keeping your team focused on the managerial issues of the project. These meetings should take place when the whole team is together and should not be sidetracked into technical details.

Scenario or real-time planning accepts that requirements, resources, technology, and other variables will alter during the project and, because of organizational turbulence, the realistic window for detailed planning may be less than three months.

In effect, real-time planning identifies major deliverables in the future (as events, not plans) and plans in detail the next achievable point. This concept is also explored later in this book.

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