Thursday, April 12, 2007

The bigger the plan the less the value

'In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.' - Dwight D. Eisenhower

In some cases plans are worse the useless, they become a detriment to the project - they become a risk to completing the project on time, on budget and with the expected quality.

Planning is a method of:
  • uncovering tasks required to complete a project
  • identifying risks
  • identifying level and types of required resources
  • uncovers potential conflicts with other projects
  • communicating to users, team members and sponsors
  • the potential timing of deliverables
Once a plan is 'put to paper' (printed, communicated out, saved) it has become obsolete, most likely due to delivery dates needing to be updated for 100's of various reasons. The more information in the plan - the more effort (cost) is consumed in maintaining it and communicating out, not only for the project team, but also for those the project team need to work with in order to help update the plan (developers, users, etc.). This is similar to analysis paralysis - planning paralysis - where the majority of time in a project is spent on maintaining the plan instead of completing the work to delivery the planed objectives. One indicator of this could be the effort associated with project meetings compared to actual work effort. I would take a rough guess and say that if time/cost associated with project planning/maintenance exceeds 10% of the entire project budget then the project management has moved from reducing risk to being a risk. This does not include time required to meet required reporting (SOX compliance for example).

Take a close look at the 10,000 tasks MS Project plan you've just printed out and think about the time (cost) associated with maintaining it - could you gain more benefit from a less detailed plan? Did the project team lose sight of the project planning benefits? (risk reduction through identification of required work, risks, etc.)? Make sure that the project plan is not an anchor instead of a guide.

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