GIST Planning is a relatively easy and lightweight agile approach to product planning that favors autonomous working. GIST Planning is a lean and agile methodology that was created by former Google product manager Itamar Gilad. GIST Planning seeks to address this situation by creating lightweight plans that are responsive and adaptable to change. GIST Planning also improves team velocity, autonomy, and alignment by reducing the pervasive influence of management. It consists of four blocks: goals, ideas, step-projects, and tasks.
Understanding GIST Planning
As a product manager, Gilad understood that there can sometimes be a mismatch between product planning and reality. While product roadmaps such as Gantt charts help to some extent, these approaches are vulnerable to change initiated by top-down management. Indeed, the net result of these directives is often the replanning or cancellation of certain projects.
The four blocks of GIST Planning
GIST is built on an acronym consisting of four blocks. Each block has a corresponding planning horizon and frequency of change.
Collectively, project teams must understand that the four blocks encompass a core planning methodology that must be followed in its entirety.
Let’s now take a look at each of the four blocks in more detail:
- Goals. Where does the company want to be, and when? How will the company know when it has got there? Goals should ultimately coincide with the reasons for a company undertaking a particular project.
- Ideas. In GIST Planning, ideas are hypothetical ways to achieve goals. Product managers must create a dedicated idea collection system in the form of an “idea bank”. Here, brainstormed ideas are stored and then prioritized using the ICE Scoring Model or other prioritization frameworks.
- Step-projects. Many teams make the costly mistake of picking a promising idea and immediately executing on it. Without proper due diligence, the team ends up investing heavily in an idea that was never worth the investment. To reduce risk, each project is broken down into step-projects lasting no more than 10 weeks. Note that each step-project is an experiment that tests an idea using the Build-Measure-Learn principle. This helps teams avoid wasting resources on pointless projects.
- Tasks. Projects are broken down into step-projects, and step-projects are broken down into tasks that many agile practitioners will be familiar with. As a result, this block of GIST Planning does not need to change. What’s important is that the blocks above it can also behave in a somewhat agile manner.
Advantages and disadvantages of GIST Planning
GIST Planning is mostly based on agile principles, but it does have some clear and unique advantages for businesses.
- Continual generation, evaluation, and prioritization of ideas. In GIST Planning, there is no potential for one bad idea (followed without due diligence) to stymie 5 great ideas. With less emphasis on the arbitrary scheduling of ideas, businesses continually cycle through ideas to find the hidden gold.
- Goal-driven development. A key tenet of GIST Planning is the stipulation that ideas must further company goals. This allows decision makers to devote resources to company wide initiatives that deliver on mission or purpose-related goals.
- Short-sightedness. The incremental and iterative nature of GIST Planning means that a business cannot commit to goals beyond a few months into the future. This compromises the ability of the organization to set goals for large projects that may take years to materialise. Ultimately, future resource planning and allocation become vague and uncertain, potentially hindering growth and agility while also making the company more reactive.
- GIST Planning is an agile approach to project planning based on the principles of lean start-up and agile development. It favours team autonomy and velocity through a reduced management presence.
- GIST Planning is based on four blocks that encompass a planning methodology: goals, ideas, step-projects, and tasks. Each block runs concurrently with a specific planning horizon and frequency of change.
- GIST Planning advocates the continuous generation and evaluation of idea. This helps project teams avoid sinking time and money into projects that turn out to be unviable. However, businesses that adopt GIST Planning may have trouble implementing large projects that require a commitment lasting more than a few months.
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