Current Episode

Episode 24:

What should we do instead of painful “Annual Planning”?

🎉 The podcast is BACK!

Before we jump into the show, I want to invite you to join me for the LIVE Open Space event I’m hosting on January 27th, 2022!

Now on with the show! 🎉

If your organization is like most, you’re rushing around a bit more than usual right now.

Why? Because it’s the start of a new year, and leaders in your organization are insisting on “annual planning”. They want a plan for 2022 that will set you up for success.

Sadly, big upfront planning rarely works for the complex, ever-changing work we all do.

Thankfully, there’s something else you can do that’ll no doubt be more invigorating, and will likely give you and the rest of your team the boost they need to make 2022 awesome.

Mentioned in this episode: 


Like the podcast? I’d love it if you’d take 60 seconds to rate it in iTunes.

Do you have a question for the show? Submit it at

Leave a Reply

Welcome to Agile Answers. I’m Adam Weisbart your Certified Scrum Trainer and Agile Coach. Each episode, I get your questions about scrum and agility, and I answered them here on agile answers.

Happy 2022. I have decided that I’m bringing back to podcast. And so I want to jump on here and talk to you about 2022. You know, usually about this time of year people get in touch with me and say, Hey, thanks for, the certified scrum master course or the product owner coarser. thanks for the agile virtual summit content.

I went to, I got a question for you. My question is, now that we’re an agile organization, how do we do annual planning and what most organizations, maybe yours right now is doing and come up with a big plan for the whole year. They do it upfront in some sort of waterfall approach to that. And then make scrum teams follow that plan to the bitter end.

There’s a better way. Instead of coming up with a bunch of KPIs, without coming up a big plan upfront, there’s something that you could do with your organization, or even just with your team to get more energy moving towards some big goal for the year and you don’t need a bunch of KPIs.

You don’t need big plan for. There’s a very simple event that you can host that will help you get the best from your teams and organization and solve some giant problems together. Now, this isn’t to say you don’t need a product vision for your product, that you don’t need a product backlog of some sort that is ordered by business value and such.

You need all of that still, but in terms of coming up with your big annual plan, don’t come up with a big annual. Put together, those things that I described and then do something like this to energize your organization, your team members, get everyone focused on the same goal and come up with creative ways to solve for that.

And I prefer using an approach that is lightweight, that is simple and that leads to big outcomes. Now, I’m going to tell you about how I would go about facilitating such a thing. You can do this with 10 people. You could do this with hundreds of people. But before I do, I want to ask you a question, have you ever been to, let’s say an in-person conference and you know, the conference organizers spend tons of time, months beforehand putting together this event, getting speakers, putting together a schedule, printing programs, all of that good stuff.

And I bet if you think back to one of those events that you’ve been to in the past, you’ll realize that some of the best parts of those conferences, where the conversations you had over coffee or in the hall between sessions or sitting down at lunch with a colleague or friend and talking about something, you were passionate.

Does that ring true to you at all? This same thing reign true to Harrison Owen years ago, Harrison Owen was a conference organizer and he would spend months and months putting together conferences only to discover with some regularity that the stuff that people were most passionate about that had the biggest impact on them or these conversations in the hallways and over coffee.

And he thought I’m putting a lot of energy into these things, but the value people are getting are in the things that I am not planning. How could I create an environment where those conversations just happened all day? Well, he came up with this thing called open space technology and open-space technology has been used by people like me.

Hosting several hundred people events at the scrum gathering or they’ve been used by companies like AT&T when they had to redesign their Olympic pavilion in very short order. They had previously taken months and months to put together their plan and then realized they had to change.

Some pretty major stuff. And they realized they could not do it unless they convened hundreds of people like construction folks and designers and architects and electricians and got them all together. Came out with one audacious goal of redesigning this thing quickly in a number of days and had these cross-functional folks talking together, solving problems together.

And in the case of, AT&T they were able to do this successfully nothing short of a miracle. Often we use it for more mundane things like having conversations about things we are passionate about. so you can use it for small groups or large groups, but the thing here is you focus everybody on a big, important.

So for your organization, it could be the thing that’s going to move the needle for your organization this year. This thing, if we did it, we would delight our customers.

And then you use the structure of open space to facilitate this event. And you even, without any previous experience or practice doing it could facilitate one of these because it’s super lightweight. I’m going to walk you through the structure of an open space.

Just to give you a little bit of idea, and then I will point you to a couple resources that can help you do this. If you are interested. In fact, you could even come to an event that I’m hosting soon, , and try this out for yourself. We’ll be doing it in the virtual space normally, but during normal times we would do this all in the same room together and a big wait for it.

Open space, a giant room, like a giant ballroom in a conference center.

So picture this, you are at an event you’ve been called together all to talk about. Let’s just say agility and you probably have some things you’re super passionate about or some things you’ve been struggling with that you’d like to learn more. You got some topics that are important to you, you got them in your mind.

You’re probably excited to be there and you walk into this big room and there’s a few hundred people in there and there’s nothing else in there. It’s just a bunch of people. There’s blank walls. There’s no tables. maybe there are some chairs and the chairs are put together in a giant circle. It’s kind of weird.

He got like one big circle. And then in the middle of that circle in the middle of the room, there’s some paper on the. And there’s some pens and there’s some facilitator, maybe like me standing in the middle. And as you walk in, you sit down and the facilitator in the middle of the room and invites you all to have a seat.

If you’re not already sitting and starts talking kind of slowly kind of walking around the room can imagine them walking around the inside of the circle of all these chairs. And you’re watching this facilitator, as they introduce you to the event, they draw your attention to the big blank wall at the end of the room.

And they mentioned that by the end of our time together in this marketplace, at the very beginning of our open space, that wall will be filled with all the things we are passionate about talking about today. And we’re going to be able to do that because. Four principles and one law of open space. The framework is very lightweight and this presenter is standing in the middle of the room is going to introduce you to it here in a moment.

But you notice that they’re walking around the circle kind of slowly in a clockwise direction in the middle of everybody. And what this does is gets you to focus on them as they’re walking around the room. But it’s a little tricky because what it’s really doing is getting you to see everybody else in the room as they walk around the circle, you see everybody else, that’s there for the same purpose as you to talk about this topic that you are passionate about, that you want to solve a problem for.

You want to learn more about, and you see that you’re not alone sitting here in this big empty room. You’ve got all these smiling faces with you, and then the facilitator Introduces you to four guiding principles and one law, which I’m going to mention to you now, just so you have an idea of the framework.

They explained that in a moment, people are going to share the things that they are passionate about. And we’re going to do this in this marketplace, in which somebody writes down what the thing is on a piece of paper, they get an align. And when they get to the head of the line, they grab the microphone and they say, my name is Adam Weisbart

and I am talking today about facilitation of open space. That’s it just a quick description. Somebody else stands in the middle and said, Hey I’m here today. Cause I would like to talk about retrospective facilitation, the next person steps in and they share the topic they would like to talk.

This could be something that they know lots about and they want to share their knowledge with other people. It could be something they know nothing about and need some help in, or it could be something they’re struggling with.

So you’ve got this room of several hundred people and some subset of those folks, many of them, in fact, we’ll share these ideas during this market. And once they’ve shared these ideas it’s important to remember these four guiding principles. So the first one is we’re going to run a bunch of sessions at one. They don’t necessarily fall on a particular time slots or whatnot. It’s just how these things get organized on the big wall. Once someone shares one of these pieces of paper saying, I want to talk about facilitation. They will take that piece of paper to the back wall and they will find a spot for it.

So that later when we open the marketplace, when people can go look at all the things on the wall and figure out what session they’re going to first, they can figure out what area of this big open room. Session is happening in, so we’ll have a bunch of sessions happening at once and it turns out the first guiding principle is that whoever shows up are the right people. So you may have dozens, or you might have just a couple. Or in some cases you might only have one, the person who suggested the session, whoever shows up are the right people.

The next principle is whenever it starts is the right time.

Traditionally, especially when we do this all in the same room, we don’t really have time slots for these things. It’s not like a grid or an agenda. It’s more organic than that. So we can have conversations for as long as we need to. And so whenever it starts, it’s the right time, the next thing is whatever happens is the only thing that could have often people, especially when convening these little sessions get pretty tied up and wanting particular outcomes.

Kind of worried about it and such, well, it turns out that one of the principles frees you of that, and that is whatever happens is the only thing that could have, there’s no need to spend lots of time and energy, trying to make things perfect or go a certain way, just there to organically have these conversations.

So whatever happens is the only thing that could have. And then finally when it’s over and so. Again, we’re to get together to have these conversations and when energy is done for that conversation, the thing is over, right. We don’t have to fill time. We don’t have to end by a certain time. We just need to have the conversation until the conversation has done.

Finally, we’ve got one law. This law used to be called the law of two feet. it’s been redubbed the law of mobility. Either way, it goes like this. If you are in a session and you are not getting value out of that session, you feel bored and you just don’t have energy for that thing. It’s not what you expected, or you just don’t want to talk about it anymore.

It is your job to leave. Often an organizations. We have a much different culture around this and meetings. Even if you’re in a meeting, if you were told to be there, you got to stay. Otherwise it’s rude. Can’t just leave. You might lose your job. In this case, it would be rude to stay in a session where you are not getting any value or giving any value or creating any value because you would be sucking the energy out of the room.

By being there,

it is much more useful to have a tiny meeting with passionate people than a large meeting with people who don’t want. And so the law of mobility gives you the power to leave because it’s the right thing to do. It’s not rude. In fact, staying would be rude. The law of mobility is fantastic. In fact, I recommend that leaders Institute it in their organizations.

So with this very light structured we have some really amazing outcomes. We also have two other roles that are useful to you keep in mind. One category of folks are bumblebees, bumblebees buzz around from group to group and they carry energy and information in a cross-pollinating way from conversation to conversation.

I’m often in this role just by nature in these events, I go into a one session. I stayed there for 10 minutes or something, get some ideas, get passionate and excited about it, and then buzz off to another group. Join that conversation often bring ideas from one group to another

The other role is that of butterfly . Butterflies, float around and may not join an actual group. They might not go to one of these sessions. They might stick around like in the hallway or in between sessions, like in the space in between sessions, pull up a chair and just hang out and see who comes by. They’re their, to, support the openness and flow of the day.

Often people convene around them and have conversations. And then they go off on their way to another session.

At the end of each day we have the evening news where people share out what they learned in different sessions.

You can run these as just multi-hour events. In fact, I’ll be running one of these in my community called the agile master. At the end of January. So if you’d like to join us, I’ll put a link in the show notes and we’ll just be talking about all things agile. So if you have been struggling with a particular topic and you’d like help from a bunch of fantastic analysts that have built a really amazing community together in the form of Agile Mastery, you can come and join us and have some conversations about those things you are passionate about.

You could also come because you want to learn how to facilitate this in the virtual space so that you could run one of these. I don’t know, in January or February with your organization or your team. So you could tackle some big problems together to make 2022. Oh my gosh. 2022, an amazing year together.

And Hey, we could all probably use something that will make 2022 more amazing.

Whenever you decide to do this year. I hope you make an amazing, I know it can be hard these days to find energy, especially as a change agent, as an agilest, but, I’m hoping that this podcast will help you. So I’m going to start it up again. If you have questions that you’d like answered here on the show.

Well, you can go to get agile and record your question. And if I select it, it’ll be featured here on the show and I’ll, I’ll answer it even going to have a few spots where you can come on the show live and, I’ll help you out with the challenge you’re currently having. We’ll do that real time as opposed to your recorded question.

So if you’re interested in that. Go to get agile and submit a question. You’ll get the option for a seeing if you can get a little coaching session with me here on the show, but again, whatever you do make this year awesome. I hope you’re doing well. And until next episode, stay agile never changed.

Past Episodes

Episode 24:

What should we do instead of painful “Annual Planning”?

Episode 23:

Agile Virtual Summit Preview: Lyssa Adkins

Episode 22:

How do we make sure we have cross-functional teams and why does it matter?

Episode 21:

What agile practices can you recommend to our game development studio?

Episode 20:

How do we remove silos when doing government contract work using Scrum?

Episode 19:

How should we form new Scrum teams?

Episode 18:

How can we have good retrospectives (about our Scrum Master)?

Episode 17:

When’s the podcast coming back?

Episode 16:

How do we self-organize if our boss is on our team?

Episode 15:

How do we deal with constant interruptions to our Sprint?

Episode 14:

Can a User Story be too long? Ours seem insane!

Episode 13:

Can our Scrum Master and Product Owner be the same person?

Episode 12:

What 1 simple thing can I do to improve my coaching & scrum mastering?

Episode 11:

How do I get hired as a ScrumMaster if I’ve never been one before?

Episode 10:

Our team wants to be more agile. What agile process is best?

Episode 9:

How do we improve our giant, multi-team Sprint Review session (or Sprint Reviews in general)?

Episode 8:

What are some creative & effective ways to make Retrospectives more engaging?

Episode 7:

Will this hurt my Daily Scrum? And how do we deal with “non-dev” work?

Episode 6:

How do I escaped the dreaded ‘Scrummerfall’ trap?

Episode 5:

How do you help PMs and Managers not fall back into their waterfall ways?

Episode 4:

Our teams keep changing. How do I set guidelines that keep teams together?

Episode 3:

How do you make sure your team has time to make the improvements they identify in their Retros?

Episode 2:

When should the business stakeholders get help from the dev team to get items ready for work?

Episode 1:

How do I energize a demotivated Scrum team?

Mic Check! 1…2…3…