Microspeak: The plan for the plan

I ran across an old document that contained a phrase I hadn't heard before:

The Plan for the Plan for the XYZ Team


XYZ is at ZBB and we are now at a recall class only bug bar until RTM. The team has also started working on a plan for a plan to address the requests made from the XYZ Leadership Team several months ago. Details of the planning ...


3. Bob would like a more concrete plan for a plan. Milestone breakdowns, entry/exit dates, etc...


Plan for a Plan

We established some deliverables to begin creating the plan for a plan:

Development/Design Code Review
Due date: Next week
Prerequisites: Dev work items

Alice will drive this to get sanity checks from other developers about overall design.


There's a lot of Microspeak in that snippet. We've got ZBB, recall class, deliverables, to drive, and the phrase for today: plan for a plan/the plan.

The phrase "plan for a plan" makes me think that you're trying to decide how you're going to decide what you're going to to. This is different from "early stages of planning", because when you're in the early stages of planning, you're actually planning something, even though you're still in the exploratory stage. On the other hand, planning for planning sounds like you don't even know how to plan, and you have to go learn how to do it again.

It reminds me of that Dilbert cartoon where Dilbert taunts the pointy-haired boss by suggesting that it would be rash to have a premeeting without planning it.

Comments (10)
  1. John says:

    We have a former Microsoft employee here, so I know ZBB stands for Zero Bug Bounce.  I feel so cool.

  2. Arlie says:

    Either these people have seen "Office Space" and found it howlingly funny, or these are precisely the kind of people that "Office Space" finds howlingly funny.

    (In one scene in Office Space, "PLANNING TO PLAN" is written in huge letters on a whiteboard in the background.)

  3. Michael says:

    @John: Funny, "ZBB" means something completely different in my company.  I wouldn’t have thought that an acronym that odd would mean something different.

    Here, is means "zero-based budgeting": "if you give me something else to do/support/develop, you’ve got to take something else away, or extend my schedule."

  4. kip says:

    In my last company we used the term "date for date", which meant the date when you were to provide a target date for your delivery.  Which always struck me as nonsensical: if I don’t know what my target date is, how can I possibly know when I will know a target date?

  5. Dima says:

    "Driving issues" is another good one (I think if "to drive" is Microspeak, than "driving issues" should be, too).

  6. Jesse says:

    If managers were more like software engineers, I bet they would have already coined the term "meta-planning" for this.

  7. PHB says:

    I’m amused to note that the Dilbert comic you referenced now has more than twice the number of votes than the other comics on dates around it.

  8. Sameera says:

    How do you manage to locate old Dilbert posts? :)

    I’ve tried but never managed to find what I’m looking for. Maybe the answer is as simple as you having bookmarked what you think you might find useful…

  9. David says:

    I’ve seen an agenda item of "plan for the plan for preplanning" in a Microsoft meeting.

  10. Ken Hagan says:

    In the context of Dilbert, shouldn’t that be "Alice will use Fist of Death to get sanity checks from other developers about overall design."?

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