Don’t Forget Release Planning!

Oct 08, 2013 by Barc Category: Blog, Uncategorized 0 comments

One of the odd behaviors with the current rage for Agile and Lean Startup is an aversion to plan further than 2 or 3 weeks out. The current thinking is to get something out there as fast as possible and “lean in” to a quick user or A/B test. [Editor’s note: I recognize it’s a bit strange Sheryl Sandberg’s phrase has been co-opted by the Lean movement, but that’s a strange sociological artifact to be investigated at another time.]

I love the idea of quick prototyping and testing, but it’s ironic that ex-PMI (Project Management Institute) types, who used to make a living planning out 2-year long projects in Microsoft Project, now refuse to plan out further than a few weeks.

There’s a happy medium of course, and fortunately most respected experts (Mike Cohn, David Hussman, et al) agree that release planning (all the way through launch) is still a good thing.

Planning out at least through launch doesn’t have to be heavy.

I think of it in three phases:

  • High Level Plans (HLP):  Usually shows up as a long-term product roadmap that spans a year or two:


  • Mid Level Plans (MLP): A ‘Release’ Plan for one of the above projects (to launch):


  • Low Level Plans (LLP): Your daily 2-week plan per person (usually on a white board)


The audience for the HLP is mostly executives. The audience for the MLP is mostly for the PM and the manager or executive on the hook for delivering that project (be aware: it will change rapidly). The third LLP is for the development team and whoever wants to know how it’s going.

Many teams make the mistake of jumping right from the HLP to the daily scrum board (LLP), and not plan for what features (or stories) will actually get done when.