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Paul DeLong

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Rolling Wave Planning - A Step-by-Step Guide

Paul DeLong- 08/15/19 11:50 AM

If you want your product development projects to run smoothly, you need to have a regular cadence for long-term planning, short-term planning, and daily priorities. The long-term planning is done at a high-level and less frequently. The details are captured in the Rolling Wave Planning (RWP) sessions that focus on the short-term plan.

Rolling Wave Planning is a strategic planning activity that takes place every week or two, depending on the phase of the project and how fast things are changing. Rolling Wave Planning focuses the team on the short-term goals, course correcting as needed. Standup meetings (huddles) is a tactical activity that ensures the team stays focused on the correct priorities every day.

For the daily priorities, Agile (or most specifically, Scrum) selects “Stories” from a backlog for the team to focus on for one Sprint (which is usually two weeks long). However, for hardware development, it works better to use Rolling Wave Planning to identify and capture the detailed tasks that need to be completed in the near term. This is because the work in hardware projects has to be done in a certain order, which requires the development and management of a plan that shows task and project dependencies. And just like Agile, or Scrum, we also use the Standups, or Huddles, to ensure everyone has the correct daily priorities and to undercover any blockages. Standups can take place daily, or every few days, depending on the phase of the project and how fast things are changing.

Benefits of Rolling Wave Planning

Some of the benefits of Rolling Wave Planning include:

  • Ensuring you have identified the critical details in the upcoming work
  • Ensuring the team members are well informed about the near-term
  • Creating buy-in and accountability
  • Allows the team to course correct as new information arrives and new risks are identified
  • Makes the long-term plan is more manageable

This is a brief summary. If you want a deeper dive into Rolling Wave Planning, take the free course on Playbook Academy. Or discover other Lean-Agile courses of interest such as Applying Agile to Hardware and Critical Chain Project Management.


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Related articles

You may also like these other blog posts on the principles of Lean-Agile project management that have the biggest impact on product development:

  1. Correct priorities 
  2. Decentralized planning 
  3. Rolling wave planning 
  4. Shared project buffers 
  5. Frequent standup meetings 
  6. Capacity loading 
  7. Pull vs. push task management