Better Quarterly Plannings

Common Pain Points

First, let’s examine some of the pain points your organization might experience during planning. The following are mentioned frequently :

  • The process takes too much time. Depending on the organization and its competing priorities, it can take several weeks.
  • Even if planning takes several weeks, it can still feel rushed because numerous sync meetings are involved. This is especially true when there are internal or external dependencies, like a front-end team depending on a back-end service.
  • Projects can rarely fit into a single quarter, and most of them span several.
  • Too many projects may run parallel because a product has multiple priorities. This can leave teams without a sense of ownership as they jump between projects.

The Proposal

In the article Playbook for Running Sprints, I characterized sprints as efficient, but only if:

  • The team always works on the most important stories.
  • There is a healthy feedback culture among team members.
  • There is at least a rough idea when things might be completed.
  • Who can add ideas to the backlog? Starting with PMs and EMs might be a good start to expand on later.
  • What are the requirements for epics to be added to the backlog? Consider requiring at least a one-page design document or a rule about minimum lengths. Also try to limit the epics’ size for a shorter feedback loop on proposal planning and the business impact of delivered epics.
  • Who can expedite epics and stop in-progress ones? Business priorities can shift suddenly when something unforeseen happens, like COVID-19 or a new regulatory requirement. As stopping in-progress work results in quite some churn, this decision shouldn’t be made lightly.
  • Who and how frequently should we meet to review backlog items? Depending on the size of your organization, these meetings could include engineering leaders and product stakeholders.

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Gergely Nemeth

Gergely Nemeth

Engineering Manager | Built @RisingStack, @GodaddyOSS @BaseWebReact | Find me at https://nemethgergely.com