Aug 022012

In my first post in the Test-Driven Business (TDB) series, I took the liberty of being a little provocative, placing Planning after Ideation and Implementation as one possible way in which the three phases could be sequenced. This arrangement is illustrated in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Cultivation Culture

Obviously, Planning could precede Implementation and it might precede Ideation. The reason for my provisionally placing it last was to draw attention to the complicated interrelationship between the three phases, to the fact that in today’s markets linear order between the three can’t really be taken for granted. As a matter of fact, I would contend that sharp scholars have been observing that the order is not necessarily linear for some twenty years now. Witness, for example, the following excerpt from Mintzberg’s The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning:

So planning, again always in the formal sense, cannot do much more than extrapolate the known trends of the present. That is why Weick concluded that “Plans seem to exist in the context of justification more than in a context of anticipation. They refer more to what has been accomplished than to what is yet to be accomplished.”

If you accept Mintzber’s premise, placing Planning after Ideation and Implementation is quite natural.  If Planning indeed is justification for what has been accomplished through implementation, placing it last in Figure 1 makes perfect sense. I would go as far as saying that a company that places Planning last might actually be more in touch with the harsh realities of corporate life than a company that places it first or second.

One could actually characterize corporate cultures – in the sense defined and elaborated by William Schneider – according to the order of three phases. Figure 1 could be thought of as Cultivation culture; Figure 2 can be thought of as characterizing the Control culture; Figure 3 as Competence culture; etc.

 Figure 2: Control Culture

Figure 3: Competence Culture

The plot thickens, so to speak, when one considers (in addition to the order of the phases) how the two strands within each phase are carried out – sequentially or in an overlapped manner. By combining the order of the phases with the way the strands within each are merged, we get deeper insights as to the nature of the corporate culture. I will explore the descriptive power of so doing in my next post in this series.


  8 Responses to “Test-Driven Business: The Myth of Planning”

  1. I think that Mintzber’s premise is true for many bespoke projects, however planning first should be only executed if there is an established best practise pattern. Since today in most industries you focus on these patterns (like building a house or assembling a smartphone) I think that in IT we should concentrate more towards catching up with this maturity, instead of reverting back to the way we started working in the 60s to 80s. I know that most people think that the concept in figure 1 is new and was first possible after the agile manifesto came 10 years ago, but this way was the norm before waterfall was adopted in the late 80s. And from that time we know of the shortcommings of this way, so I think we need evolution here instead of always going back.

    • avatar

      Hi Cay:

      First and foremost, thanks for your comments and insights.

      I tend to view things not in terms of going forward or backward, but as driven by context. The context of just about everyone of my clients nowadays can be briefly summarized as being a simultaneous pull in three dimensions:

      1. Markets used to be conversations; now they are actions.
      2. Value chains used to be linear; now they are value webs.
      3. Technologies used to be distinct; now they intersect.

      If you accept these three premises, the question on my mind is what do they mean to the software process in the overall business context. For various clients of mine, it means rearranging the order in which things get done.

      I will certainly agree with you that such rearrangement can generate (or resurrect) various nasty pitfalls. Having said that, I believe any process, and the software process in particular, needs to reflect the needs, constraints and predicaments of its era. Hence, my “playing” with the order in which things get done.


    • avatar

      Here is a very interesting post from today on the subject:


  2. Israel,

    many thanks for your reply, however I have some questions on the 3 points that you made.

    1. Have Markets not always been actions or forces ever since Porters in the late 70´s?

    2. On all the value chain as a web I agree, however all the defenders of the value webs such as Verna Allee are proposing the exact opposite with more planning and analysis and less emphasis on ideation and implementation emphasis.

    3. On Technologies I also agree, however should we have technology dictate the way here or switch to concepts such as the “Just Enough” movement? Should it not be that technology should follow the business?

    I really enjoy this critical debate.

    Best regards,


    • avatar

      Likewise, Cay. This is fun!

      With respect to markets, I am probably remiss in being a little two terse. I am referring to markets being formed by such simple actions as you or I posting a picture or tagging a picture. Good recent examples are The Fancy and WiseMarkIt. Basically, they transform simple photo sharing to market relevant actions with potentially rich semantics.

      On value webs, I am a great believer in the Serendipity Economy in the sense defined by Daniel Rasmus. In particular, the decoupling of building a product from value realization is IMHO a phenomenon of far reaching consequences. If you accept this premise, the emphasis shifts from traditional forms of planning and analysis to determining and supporting the characteristics of the desired value webs.

      I could not agree more on #3. As a matter of fact, I nowadays use Slywotzky’s quip “Not technology; business design!” in explaining the effect of merging technologies. The best example I am aware of is a little known start-up name of DoByWeb. IMHO they moved the state of the art in “no coding required” to a new level in which services are created and brokered without programming. You could think of DoByWeb to services as Run Book Automation to System Management.

      At the risk of repetition, I am thankful to you for this lively debate and very much look forward to enriching it further.



  3. Israel,

    I still disagree, with respect to markets this is just a trend that was started by Ford with his Model T, so instead of answering 10,000 questions on how your car should be, you got one size fits it all with some little configuaration. When I look at the examples you gave that is the same just ported on the web, where you will also see that the business model relies on numbers and automation to get the price down.

    With respect to Serendipity Economy, this is an old value web that is called by the more CMMI related folks the Marketing process. So when you do Marketing you put a lot of money in all kind of channels and then hopefully or by accident (you could also say by serendipity) the result appears. I have build a large number of BI solutions for many car manufacturers percisely for them to find out what chanel worked and how well. The real value webs in new product life cycles by adding new product categories (for example on computers the emergence of owning various computers at the same time (notebook + smartphone + tablet + ebook reader)) are the real new value webs IMHO.
    Another example is that of the emerging cheaper products in high salary countries that destroy the traditional value chains. However all of these value webs are actually increasiong the need for planning and analysis.

    I also enjoy this little discussion as I am big fan of critical thinking and dispite of having a podcast with a big audience, I do too seldom find people I can really discuss with as most stop after the first exchange.



    • avatar

      Hi Cay:

      The whole point of debating IMHO is in learning from you and other folks who jump on the thread. It is not too productive, and actually quite boring, to listen just to my own voice…

      The good points you bring up deserve careful thinking. I am a little pressed on time right now as I need to switch to final prep for a Cutter Q&A webinar for participants in the Agile Roots conference. However, I will respond in substance tonight (US time).

      More later…


  4. avatar

    Hi Cay:

    I think a good way to view the topic(s) we are discussing is to differentiate what has not changed from things that have changed or are changing.

    I see your good point about Model Ts some 100 years ago. Having said that, IMHO
    there is no way in which highly individualized mobile or web services that turn sharing a photo into an economic action, and in aggregate a marketplace, is like Ford selling Model Ts…

    To put it in other words, Model T was trasformative for its own era. The convergence of Cloud, Mobile, Social and Data as a Service is transformative for own era.

    All the best,


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