Plan Properly, Execute with Agility: Family Travel Use Case

Having certified in both Project Management Professional (PMP) and Scrum Master, I know that both standard project management methodology (often referred as waterfall) and agile offers some benefits (and drawbacks). If we can combine them and take the best of it, then that would be awesome.

While waterfall is quite easy to understand, many people has mixed up between agile and scrum though. What is agile? It is really a mindset. A mindset that mandates us to be adaptive and flexible to unforeseen changes. In software development and project management this mindset then described in 4 (four) values and 12 (twelve) principles of Agile Manifesto, and manifested to numbers of practices (including scrum). So first thing first is the mindset. Without the right agile mindset all the practices are useless.

As a person who is doing (project) management for living I like to do plannings, including for my family travels/holidays. And in this article I want to share how you can use both waterfall and agile together and achieve greater result from the combination by using one of my family travel to China (3 cities Shanghai – Beijing – Xi’an during winter) as use case.

China Visa Application

When we are travelling, our objective is clear, to have fun as much as possible while learning other culture and of course tasting the local culinary. With that as objective there are several items that mandatory for us to have in order to get that objective (let’s assume this as user story):

  • As a user, I want to go to good (and famous) attraction places
  • As a user, I want to take good pictures
  • As a user, I want to try local public transportation
  • As a (muslim) user, I want to have halal (preferable local) food for breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • As a (muslim) user , I want to be able to do my prayers
  • …and the list can be as long as your typical project requirements list in the office

Dealing with these uncertainties (we don’t know the place, language, weather condition, etc) it is always better to have proper planning beforehand. I normally spent excessive amount of hours to gather all the needed information, put it into a detailed plan and explain it to the family member before go for the journey.

My Plan Spreadsheet

But no plan is a perfect plan. Things can go south, or at least not coming as the plan. This is where the beauty of agile kicks-in. We need to adapt and flexible enough to change our plan but still can get/deliver the objective. Although we have our plan detailed, we did have to change some plans because:

  • We didn’t know that air pollution in China is very bar during winter. Our impression of winyer is always fresh air.
  • Our youngest daughter caught a fever during the trip
  • You have to do body check and item scan every time you enter Subway station (sometimes it takes a long time just to queue)
  • Pair of shoes accidentally left in the overnight train from Beijing to Xi’an.
  • Out of Renminbi (Chinese Yuan) when taking taxi to Xi’an airport going back to Kuala Lumpur.
  • …and many more
Air-polluted Shanghai

How did we adapt to the changes?

  • We did a daily (not really stand-up) meeting every morning to check what was missed from yesterday’s list, whether we want to add it to today’s or just skip it.
  • We improvised.

Which is basically what being agile is all about.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is to achieve the objective (in our family travel the objective is always to have fun as much as possible while learning other culture and tasting the local culinary), and to get there no single methodology that fits all scenarios. Waterfall has great advantages in their planning, and you can’t neglect them, on the other hand we need to be more adaptive and flexible to the changes that might happen (sometimes a change request is just too late) and agile offers that. Why don’t just use both, shall we?

The Great Wall
Xi’an Bell Tower
Restaurant Worker in Xi’an

1 comments On Plan Properly, Execute with Agility: Family Travel Use Case

  • As one wise quote said, bang. Hope for the best (by do proper planning), prepare for the worst (that’s why we behave agile throughout the whole process) and be ready for surprise. So, planning means we aiming the best possible target. Differentiating and separating the possible target from the unrealistic dream. Behaving agile means take a note from latest situation and condition, then do daily stand up meeting to brief whole team in avoiding the worst possibility. Yeah, very suitable with your post title: do proper planning and execute with agility.

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