Why agile for planning?
Can planning be done in a 'waterfall' or adhoc approach? Sure. But the same benefits in using agile for development can also be applied to planning. Starting with a clear statement of vision to align the team. Agile applied to planning forces teams to document deliverables and define 'done'. Instead of 'shippable code', think be ready to present to senior management. Management can review and steer teams based on what they need to make better decisions. Multiple teams can be used to tackle questions of independent scope. Ideally, planning can end sooner and help the organization move to execution more efficiently.
If your team is jumping right into solutions or adhoc planning, here are my suggestions on steering them to an agile process:
- Define a vision - What are you trying to accomplish. Define an end state. Insure that the team is aligned on what they are trying to accomplish.
- Define the problems - Help the team to do a basic work breakdown. Define the problems that need solving without getting into a discussion on solutions or artifacts. Moderation or facilitation of this discussion may be needed to keep team members focus on problem definition.
- Prioritize and Sequence - What problems need to be addressed first - either to address risk, deliver the most value, or are prerequisites.
- Define problem deliverables - These are equivalent to agile stories. Now that you have a backlog, define the specifics of the problem that need solving then define 'done' by describing a completion artifact - a document, spreadsheet, a slide, a db design, etc.
- Sprint - With a backlog of problems and definitions around the priorities, the team should be in better shape to establish its sprint process.