Focus Blocks

Long-term plans shouldn’t rely on decaying estimates. What takes our team three weeks to build today might take a week in the far future. Or a month. In some cases, it might require a complete overhaul of a part of the codebase that doesn’t exist yet. Assumptions we make about our team today might not hold in the future. Our superstar data scientist, who could build it in a week, might be working for the competition by then.

Instead of thinking in features, long-term plans require us to think in more general categories of problems or goals. “We’ll focus on Improved Search Experience in the first half of February.

Timeline with three Focus Blocks

By not going into details, we keep the scope flexible while still being able to make long-term promises to stakeholders. When February comes around, our short-term planning will be the answer to the question:

 “What is the best Search Experience we can build in the coming two weeks?

The power of this approach is that it allows us to make long-term promises. Our salespeople can go out and tell customers that the clunky calendar interface will definitely be better by March. We can stick to those promises without going into crunch mode.

A Focus Block is a timebox when the team will give their full attention to a single problem.