And so our plans are agile

Back in July, Neil Williams from the Government Digital Service published a blog post about their roadmap Trello board (which is publicly accessible).

The fact that the Trello board is public is interesting by itself because it provides valuable insight into how GDS manage their workload. But the most interesting part was the context that accompanied it:

It will be a true reflection of our intentions at any given time, but shouldn’t be mistaken for a Gantt chart.

This admission that it can only reflect intentions is refreshing. And Neil identifies several Donald Rumsfeld-style known unknowns that may derail those intentions:

  • the amount of maintenance that will need doing over the period
  • the number of urgent or important requests that will come in from colleagues across the organisation
  • how big each project will turn out to be once it gets underway
  • whether new information comes to light that creates more urgent projects than the ones already planned

I suspect this will sound familiar to in-house digital teams across the nation.

For me though, the most insightful part of Neil’s post is this simple statement:

Things change around us, and so our plans are agile

There is a huge amount packed into this eloquent little sentence. It says “we accept that we do not know everything”. It says “we accept that we cannot plan precisely because there are too many variables outside of our control”. It says “our response to that is entirely deliberate”.

We aren’t “doing agile” because it’s trendy. We are planning, iterating and re-planning because it’s the best way we know to keep making progress given the fluidity of the situation we are in.

Or at least that’s what I read. :)