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Does your shop do planning theater?1

Planning theater is when we spend time pretending to plan, by:

  • Starting with both ship day and the work list;
  • Impressing the plebes with the severity of the deadline;
  • Requiring reduced estimates without reduced work;
  • Agreeing with a scheme that will never happen;

There is usually only one reason for a team to choose planning theater over plain old planning: someone powerful wishes the team to bless some ridiculous assessment that they’re now committed to.

Here’s the thing. The next time you start a session of planning theater, why not just cut to the chase?  Print out the centered text below and affix your team’s signature to it. After all, rushing through a planning theatre session will work exactly as well as leisurely strolling through one: Not at all.

Since No One Cares About

The Correlation Of This Plan

To Reality

We The Undersigned Hereby Bless It


[1] I am indebted to Seth Godin for a number of things, but just now I want to highlight one: his coinage of the phrase security theater to highlight the impressive-but-useless process of boarding an airplane. [Ed: Apparently, I’m not indebted to Godin as much as I thought.  :) Bruce Schneier http://www.schneier.com/ is the rightful coiner of the phrase “security theater”.]

5 Responses to “Planning Theater: Just Wasted Time”

  1. Jeff Grigg says:

    That’s inspired. I think I’ll have to use it.
    Thanks!
    – jeff

  2. Jonas says:

    Lol – I’ve actually basically used this by refusing to attend such meetings in my past: a couple of project managers on their own is enough to establish a disconnect from reality, they don’t need me there!

  3. […] must have been the morning to challenge planning efforts, as GeePawHill did here. I was answering a post that had gotten around to discussing budgeting and planning for […]

  4. Heh heh, “planning theater”, I like it!
    BTW, “security theater” was coined by Bruce Schneier:
    https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Security_theater

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