Blog: Very Short Blog Posts (10): Planning and Preparation

A plan is not a document. A plan is a set of ideas that may be represented by a document or by other kinds of artifacts. In Rapid Testing, we emphasize preparing your mind, your skills, and your tools, and sharpening them all as you go. We don’t reject planning, but we de-emphasize it in favour of preparation. We also recommend that you keep the artifacts that represent your plans as concise and as flexible as they can reasonably be.

The world of technology is complex and constantly changing. If you’re prepared, you have a much better chance of adapting and reacting appropriately to a situation when the plans have gone awry. But all the planning in the world can’t help you if you’re not prepared.

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5 responses to “Very Short Blog Posts (10): Planning and Preparation”

  1. Chris says:

    What’s the difference between preparation and planning? Planning is a form of preparation, isn’t it?

    Michael replies: Planning is a specific activity in which we develop a set of ideas on how to do something. Preparation is typically a more general set of activities that we perform to achieve a state of readiness to do something. Planning may be a factor in preparation, but it may not. For example, I have a mandolin in the house, and I’ve been playing Irish music for years. Consequently, I am prepared to perform a set of jigs on the mandolin if you were to come over and wanted to hear a few, even if I have not planned for that. On the other hand, if I knew you were going to ask for some tunes, I might plan to serve you a Guinness to drink while you listen, but if I have none in the house and don’t do anything to resolve that situation, I will not be properly prepared to offer you a pint.

  2. Fantastic Michael – I agree wholeheartedly with what you state above and knowing the distinction between planning and preparation is IMO crucial.

    It reminds of some recent research I have been doing

    “We find that planning processes are often more directly related to predictions than to actual behaviour.” – Heuristics and Biases – Thomas Gilovich, Dale Griffin, Daniel Kahneman

    To answer Chris and their comment – I see planning as predicting where preparation is what you will do (actual behaviour) to be able to test.

    Some other quotes I have come across whilst researching planning are:

    “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
    George S. Patton

    “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

    In other words prepare just enough to actually exercise the system as soon as you possibly can.

    To finish in the book “The Click Moment” by Franz Johansson (@Frans_Johansson) he states the following:

    …In fact, it might mean that the plan is outdated before you even start to execute it….”

  3. Whenever I see a Test Plan or Strategy that needs a ream of paper to print (oft filled with boilerplate template obviousisms), I quickly go looking for a door that needs to be propped open in case a draft develops.

  4. steve newton says:

    I like this post. It has made me think about my work and what is planning and what is prep’. My current role is managing UAT and is largely about shepherding user groups to tell me what they need to see to accept the delivery and then to run the acceptance. A lot of preparation. But I still have to do a lot of planning as the management and exec’ don’t like to start anything without a detailed, fully inclusive, plan that tells them what we are going to do. Our at least plan to do. I like to remind people that No product is prefect and if we take the time to make it perfect it will be outdated by the time it is released. It’s the same for a plan. I find my self spending a lot of time creating a plan that those ‘in control’ like, then just getting on with the job and not referring to the plan again.

    Michael replies: I’m consistently bemused by those who insist that others produce a written planning document in a way that they would rarely, if ever, do themselves. Often, the request is based on mistrust: the managers aren’t aware of what their employees are up to, because they’re not having important conversations with those employees, because those employees are swamped with the busywork of producing a written plan.

    Its The prep that gets the job done. Not the plan. The plan just tells people what you think you will be doing and how you decided what you will do.

    I don’t think the plan, as such, tells people your intentions. The plan is a set of ideas about your intentions and how they might be fulfilled. I think you mean two different things here: first, the planning document tells people your intentions; and second, even then, the planning document is a medium through which you tell people your intentions. Please don’t take this as nitpicking. On the contrary: I’m trying to de-centre the planning documents and put you back in the centre of things.

    And thank you for your comment!

    Those who are following this thread might like this post, and especially Jerry Weinberg’s comments that follow it.

  5. Steve Newton says:

    ‘put you back in the centre of things’: I feel like I’m always at the center of things. Often not the ‘things’ I want to be at the center of….

    You are of course right. The plan is the act of planning, the ideas, the intangible products of the planners mind and experiance. The document, that most project managers refer to as ‘the plan’, is just a communiation tool; a way of making the intangible, tangible to others who don’t share my experiance and brain space. It always surprises me how many people, outside of my team, do not know what’s in my head. Even though I have repeated the process time after time and lectured them in the planning and processes several times a year.

    I do like the post you referenced. It’s exactly why I produce the ‘Plan documentation’, get it signed of, then just get the job done. Which does make writing the report interesting when I have to remeber what I said we would do and try to make it line up by tracing the path from planning to closure, in another deliverable document for the bosses and customers who don’t trust the evidence of a successfull go live, even after daily updates and avaibable metrics.

    The Documentation I produce is often just a reformated and consolidated set of minutes from several planning meetings/interviews.

    You know what? I’ve just noticed that my reply is much longer than your original post. Another example of a man forced to over document and can’t break the habit.

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