Tag Archives: agile planning

There is no illusion of strategy, you just have to be prepared to iterate

I’ve just read Graham Oakes’ article ‘The Illusion of Strategy’ with interest.

There is a lot of stuff out there right now about what the role of strategy in digital is, with new terms such as ‘agile planning’ (which I wrote about here) and ‘lean planning‘ coming to the fore.

Oakes argues that there are 2 types of projects out there: one where you know what you’re doing and one where you don’t.  He says most digital initiatives fall into the second category, because you have to iterate.

But if you look at the thinking behind agile and lean, iteration and experimentation doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have a strategy.

A well defined objective and a basic idea (or set of ideas) about how you will achieve that objective can be described as a strategy, can’t it?

Reporting back, you might miss out all the experiments or wrong turns you took, to make it sound more clear-cut.  But you still knew where you wanted to go and had a rough idea of how to get there.

There is no illusion of strategy.  It’s either there or it’s not.

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Get used to hearing about Agile Planning

Take the time out to read Neil Perkin’s presentation on ‘Agile Planning.’  You won’t regret it.

There are lots of ‘this is the new planning’-type declarations out there.  Planning is planning is planning.  However, this is still fantastic, for a number of reasons.  7 reasons, in fact, which match the 7 sections, which cover the main aspects of our work:

  1. I love the way he talks about how increased connectivity is a driver for creativity and better ideas.  How partial hunches, half-ideas need to be put out there, allowed to collide and network, and become better ideas.  This is a totally true truism but it never hurts to repeat it.  Stop leaving people to work things out alone – together we are better.
  2. The use of 2 killer quotes, reminding us to challenge the question and find the problem to solve.  We should always challenge our clients’ questions and help them identify the real business problem, even if they tell us to get on with it and do them a banner, we have still shown that we are thinking about the bigger picture.
    • Jeff Bezos said, ‘There are two ways to get bigger as a company – look at what you’re good at…or start with the customer and work backwards, even if it requires new skills.’  I’ve always thought of the audience first.  It always makes it easier, even if you have to work back to what the company is good at/wants to push.
    • Clay Shirky said, ‘Institutions will try to preseve the problem to which they are the solution.’  This is also true, although I reckon it is becoming less so.
  3. Creating and curating choice is a very interesting section of the presntation – I’m not sure that I fully agree with it.  It’s good to explore all the options but when it comes to talking to clients about what they can do it usually makes sense to have a fairly limited number of choices, as you can seem indecisive or unsure.  On the other hand, it is far preferable to make decisions with clients, collaborate, and so the best thing to do here is agree that there will be a collaborative discovery process.
  4. Test and learn – think like a start up.  Don’t be afraid to take risks, embrace uncertainty.  Make stuff hackable – this is what I like about the Cult of Done manifesto – things don;t have to be perfect – if they are imperfect there is scope for them to improve.  Someone wise who I work with says on a fairly regular basis that ‘a website is never finished’ and this is the truth.  And this is something I like but I think a lot of us are a little bit afraid of it.
  5. ‘Always on’ marketing – just a reminder that we’re not about campaigns anymore, we’re about continuous communication.  Yes, yes, yes, but also, we have campaigns too.  I’m more comfortable with the molecule approach a la John Grant.  This is more helpful, and easier to explain because you can go into detail but also look at the big picture.
  6. Smart collection and re-application of data – turning data into wisdom.  When I was a baby planner I also worked as a knowledge manager, which was all about turning information into insight, knowledge and wisdom.  Knowledge is information you can do something with.  What you do with it depends how wise you are…  there’s lots of nice data collection stuff in there, APIs etc.
  7. Free your mind and your budget.  We’d all like to do this…

So we’ve had account planning, digital planning, connections planning, integration planning, brand planning, comms planning…  I think we will hear a fair amount about agile planning and this may be the thing that stays, given that our projects are agile, or at least they are here at Equator

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