Join Doug Rose for an in-depth discussion in this video Plan in the inception phase, part of Enterprise Agile: Disciplined Agile (DA) versus Spotify.
- You've seen how DA breaks up the Agile life cycle into phases. The developers of DA call this the full Agile delivery life cycle. These phases are similar to the classic Waterfall approach. Although unlike Waterfall, you might work on some of these phases at the same time. These phases seem to contradict an Agile mindset. Remember that Agile favors experimentation over planning. You need to inspect and adapt. You don't want to plan the work so that you can work the plan.
Yet these phases seem to encourage you to do a little bit of planning at the beginning, some work in the middle, and a big bang release at the end. The inception phase seems to be the most different from an Agile approach. It's here where you set the goals and milestones for your product. These goals can be simple, like trying to set up a shared workspace, but they can also be more complicated, like trying to define the scope of your project. One of the key things to watch out for is how much detail you put into this inception phase.
If you spend half as much time planning as you do working, then you're probably not getting that much benefit from your Agile teams. I once worked for an organization that had something very similar to this inception phase. They created three sprints that they called sprint zeros. So they had six weeks that they set aside so they could create high-level goals and organize the project. In fact, the creators of DA point out that most Agile teams create several sprint zeros.
They usually spend two or three sprints planning out their delivery. This organization had a little trouble figuring out where Agile started and Waterfall ended. There was a project manager in the meeting who wanted to create scope and milestones. Then the scrum master said that the milestones didn't really matter. The team could get new information and then quickly change their direction. This left everyone confused. Why did they spend several hours planning out the work if the team could just ignore the milestones? It felt like they were just creating a mess of both Waterfall and Agile.
That's why you want to be very careful with what you do in this inception phase. You could certainly run agile teams with this early planning phase. You can set up a workspace, agree on common coding practices, and even go through user story training. What you want to watch out for in this inception phase is when it's too long and detailed. You don't want to spend time planning at the expense of giving your teams freedom to learn and adapt. DA makes this a little difficult, because they use project management language.
You have goals, milestones, and phases. That might lead to a lot of people to conclude that Agile is basically the same as any other top down planning heavy approach. It gets more difficult if you have some of the same organizational roles working in this phase. If you have project managers, business analysts, and database developers, then they're going to want to push the team to create detailed plans, because that's the way they're used to working. Instead, push the teams to try and create the minimum amount of scope and details.
That will help communicate that even though the language is the same, the overall purpose of this phase is much different. What you want to watch out for is an inception phase where everyone's doing the same thing that they would do in a traditional Waterfall project. You don't want to get to the point where your teams are doing the same things with the same people yet expecting to get the benefits of a more Agile mindset.
- The Disciplined Agile lifecycle and phases
- Disciplined Agile roles
- Evaluating Disciplined Agile
- Challenges of the Disciplined Agile framework
- Evaluating the Spotify approach
- Pitfalls of the Spotify approach