Discovery Driven Planning is a planning and learning process that helps executives systematically convert assumptions to knowledge so that they can access significant opportunities while containing risk. The core premise of the method is that when there isn’t enough information to develop a conventional business plan, the thrust of planning must instead be on learning, while at the same time reducing cost and risk. Conventional planning tends to lock an organization in, too early, to a specific operational trajectory. Discovery driven planning comprises five interdependent practices: 1) define success and drive the plan from this definition; 2) benchmark against key external variables; 3) think through operational specifications; 4) document assumptions and 5) re-assess assumptions and goals at key checkpoints. It imposes strict discipline on new projects, but discipline that is appropriate to their uncertain nature. Examples might include an entrepreneurial business, SAP contemplating entry into SaaS, and a chemical company evaluating a new product introduction. With a bit of preparation, an example can also include an in-company project.
The talk is based on the best-selling article in the Harvard Business Review, where it is consistently named as one of the most important management innovations. It has been cited by Clayton Christensen as the antidote to “innovation killers.” This work has also been recognized as a foundational input to the “lean startup” movement which is currently so popular.