Picture of Stephan van Rooden

Stephan van Rooden

Confession: I am not 100% agile!


Last weekend I returned from the south of Spain where I spent two weeks doing absolutely nothing. During this, from my point of view well-earned vacation, I did think a lot about my work. I didn’t intend to do this, but while driving in my car on my way there I made a shocking observation. I am not 100% Agile!

Last week during my talk on visual meetings at the Agile+ Market, I talked about my trip. I was very happy with the directions I had found on the internet. Instead of following my TomTom (which is seriously outdated) or a boring description which says ‘Turn left after 100 meter in the direction of…’ I had my directions consisting only of road signs. Great! Just match the road sign with the image on my paper. What could go wrong?

2000 kilometres
I had it all figured out. We would go to the south of Spain, just below Alicante, by car using these directions. A little over 2000 kilometres planned to the very last detail. And no bells started to ring at that moment. The first part of the road I knew exactly where to go but the trouble began somewhere halfway France. A new road with newer signs that didn’t show up on the paper. Panic, stress and frustration! How could this be? Why did they put this road here, now my directions are incorrect! Eventually, with some common sense we managed to get back on the right road and continue our journey. This occurred a couple of times and every time I blamed the French for creating a mismatch between my detailed planning and reality.

Was it that bad? No, not at all, I would guess the directions were accurate for about 98 percent. Not bad at all but as we reached our destination, I was very disappointed in myself. How could I not see this from happening? As I stepped out of the office that Friday and into my car it seemed I forgot everything I try to learn my clients.

False sense of security
A detailed plan for a 2000 kilometre road trip and not expecting the plan to be wrong? How naive could I be? Still, I see this happening everyday when I visit my clients. I try to explain them that a detailed project plan gives a false sense of security. You cannot foresee what is ahead of you.
When you do go on such a long trip it is absolutely not wrong to have a destination in mind and roughly estimate how long you think you will take to get there. But planning everything to the very last detail is a waste of time. You will run into things that are different and you will have to deviate from your route from time to time to get back on the main road. But first creating a detailed plan and halfway finding out your plan is no longer accurate leads to a lot of frustration and stress which is not worth it. Taking a wrong turn from time to time doesn’t endanger reaching your destination, it just requires you to put down the directions for a minute, get your bearings and create plan to get back on track.
It worked on the way back home and it will certainly help you when planning for your next project.

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