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Blitz Planning at Point2

September 8, 2009

One session that I attended in Chicago at Agile 2009, and thoroughly enjoyed, was Alistair Cockburn‘s Blitz Planning workshop.  First, Alistair is an engaging speaker and is full of great ideas.  Second, it was the last day of the conference and I was eager to start trying some of these new tricks, tips and techniques I’ve learned about all week at home at Point2.

Blitz Planning results in “getting the contents of everyone’s head into a common space” and is meant to be speedy.  In the 90-minute workshop we planned a non-technical workflow (the process of getting up in the morning and getting out the door), then we planned an information kiosk system start-to-finish, and identified the earliest we could do the initial rollout.

blitzplanning1

Ideas are recorded on index cards by all members of the team as they come to mind and are not subject to scrutiny by other team members.  As a team member writes on a card, they call out their idea to help avoid duplication, and to spark more ideas from other team members.  When the team feels the plan is near complete, the cards are laid out on a table in chronological order, the plan is checked for completeness and any dependencies are identified.  At this time cards may be torn up, and more cards may be written to fill the holes in the plan or re-work it to remove dependencies and shorten the critical path to allow early delivery.  Alistair introduced the concepts of the “technical walking skeleton” and the “business walking skeleton” which contain the bare minimum to make it work, and the bare minimum to provide business value, respectively.  Your earliest possible delivery consists of both the technical and the business walking skeletons.

Unlike the information kiosk example at the conference, the project we planned touches existing systems and contains many moving parts.  Instead of 20-30 minutes to design a system and discuss it, we took an afternoon to write the cards and discuss, and we have more discussions and card-shuffling sessions planned for the next few days.  So far it’s been an interesting exercise and I feel like we’ve identified several potential problems early.  I’ll keep you posted.

By: Tefon Obchansky

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  1. Omega
    October 30, 2009 at 2:17 PM

    This sounds pretty cool, very open.

    Hope all is well!

  2. May 8, 2010 at 7:54 AM

    Hey, that is a Great picture of people doing the blitz planning – better than anything else I’ve seen! Would you be willing to let me use that pic on the web and in talks to illustrate the technique in practice?

    thanks,
    Alistair

  3. May 17, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    Hi Alistair. I took that picture of my team deep in a Blitz Planning session shortly after Agile 2009. Feel free to use the image.

  1. September 18, 2009 at 3:39 PM
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