An Agile annual plan requires more than a day of scrumming

By Aart Jan Eenkhoorn

The end of the year is in sight. This also means the annual moment of looking back and forward. Luckily the caller can't see my smile when he asks:

'We want to write our annual plan with the Scrum approach, would you like to guide us?'

The smile is of a farmer with a toothache. Because although facilitating an annual planning session is interesting, it generally has nothing to do with what scrum is intended for.

We willen ons jaarplan met de Scrum-aanpak schrijven, wil jij ons begeleiden?

Scrum is about now; What kind of working result am I going to achieve now? As a team, you determine what you can deliver to your users in two weeks based on the product vision and the prioritized items. The team is left alone until its delivery by the organization. Facilitating self-organizing teams is the essence of the Scrum approach. 

This approach can also be very effective when writing an annual plan as a team. That's why the phone call wasn't so crazy; you can approach scrum with an annual plan. In half-day sprints you go from rough (themes - mission - vision) to refined deliveries (goals and targets). Not only refreshing, also very effective. 

But the Scrum approach can do so much more than effectively write an annual plan! You can also implement this in an Agile (= agile) manner. The 'looking forward and back' then happens constantly. Your wishes can change; your product vision from the annual plan is fixed. Not only is the approach flexible, but what you want is also flexible: an Agile annual plan. How do you implement an annual plan Agile? 

Items are prioritized based on the product vision from the Agile annual plan; which items can be realized now and which later this year? We constantly look at what users want from it. Has this need changed in the meantime? Don't just think about software, it's about usable results (including things that are not IT-related). Items are developed in such a way that they can be planned by the teams and created in a short time. We work in iterations: an agreed period of 2 to a maximum of 4 weeks during which a usable result is delivered. 

The important items from the product vision that have not yet been worked out in concrete terms are further investigated by the organization while the team is working on the result. Why do we want this item? What does it yield? The feedback based on the results delivered helps to adjust and refine the product vision. 

This approach not only allows the teams to deliver a working result, but the result also meets today's needs. The product vision from the annual plan is therefore leading but not set in stone. There is room for adjustment, learning and new insights: an Agile annual plan. 

That's why I eagerly await the caller who asks: 

'We want to achieve the goals in our annual plan with scrum, would you like to guide us?'

My smile will be one of pride and admiration.

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