Quote of the week

I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.

Dwight Eisenhower

Eisenhower was making this comment in a military context, and it fits in well with Helmuth von Moltke’s much earlier quote:

No plan of battle ever survives contact with the enemy.

If we remove the quotes from their military context (although I have encountered plenty of people in my career who can legitimately lay claim to being “the enemy”), they talk about the usefulness of the planning process itself. A good project plan is rarely “useless”, but the planning that went into it should have brought many different aspects of the problem into play, and should have led to a far greater understanding of the problem space. This understanding helps when the plan makes contact with “the enemy” and has to be rethought.

I refer back to this post where the answer to the question “what was the most useful information you recorded during those design meetings?” was “the reasons why we didn’t do something”.

The two quotes also show the differences between “traditional” design processes and Agile design processes. Up front planning absolutely has its uses, but the plan inevitably has to change when you start implementing it.

3 thoughts on “Quote of the week

  1. John Payson says:

    I like the comment about recording why things weren’t done. Both the good and bad aspects of a design which is chosen will make themselves known in due course whether or not anybody records them when the choice is made. It may be nice to know how accurately they were predicted (which would require recording the predictions when they were made) but the pros and cons of other approaches which might appear to be better (especially if they’re not!) would be valuable information that would be lost if not recorded.

    • Bob says:

      It may be nice to know how accurately they were predicted

      This would be nice as an explicit step in a project postmortem (or retrospective if you’re trying to be a little more positive about the language). If I ever get the chance I’ll try this out.

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