Last year my wife took a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary II (Southampton to New York City) with her cousin. The crossing was made on the 100th anniversary of the the sinking of the Titanic and followed the same basic path. While the trip on Barb’s part was last second to fill in for another traveler, the planning required by the Cunard Line to make the crossing and meet the needs of a demanding contingent of guests is awe inspiring. By the way it is hard to conceive of what 14 tons of meat would look like piled up on the dock waiting for the ship to be loaded. Any significant mistake in planning could not only jeopardize the revenues of the Cunard Line but also potentially safety of the crew and guests. Just think of the riot that might happen if there was no milk for people’s coffee!
Planning any project requires balancing flexibility so that change can be accommodated and looking forward in an attempt to avoid risk. Barb had to rearrange a number of projects to take advantage of the opportunity. Barb’s planning techniques had to be extremely flexible. Cunard’s planning techniques did not have to be as flexible to deal with the one passenger being switched for another but it did have to show some flexibility. Agile uses techniques that include backlogs, short iterations, feedback loops and re-planning to address in a focus on flexibility and risk avoidance. Other techniques can be leveraged based on your organizations culture however regardless of how you “do it” planning is needed to increase the chances of making the crossing safely. Organizational process improvement programs might not require a plan that calls for 2.5 tons of rice but like a transatlantic crossing you will need to know where you are headed, have a good compass and know when to change direction.