Treading the line between optimism and pragmatism can be a difficult one when creating timing plans and project plans. Creating a project plan which gives flexibility to mitigate against unforeseen change is critical to project success. Simply planning for the best case scenario, or Plan A, isn’t good enough – you need to bake into Plan A, Plan, B and Plan C too.
Don’t stick your head in the sand
Being optimistic is nice, it’s fun, it’s easygoing. But it’s also a very quick way to shortcut project failure. You need to be realistic and anticipate for the fact that no matter how good a PM you are, projects don’t go to plan. Things always take longer than they should. Things are going to go wrong, people are going to be ill, you’re not going to get resource when you need it, the client won’t like the design, the client will change the scope and the developers will struggle for ages with Android 2.1 and a slew of IE8 bugs.
Turn over every stone – identify the risks
It’s worth sitting down with the team at the beginning of the project and exploring with them the parts of the project that make them nervous. There will always be something that’s making people slightly uncomfortable. It could be that there’s a new server, a new CMS, a new prototyping tool, or even just that someone hasn’t got the software they need or their computer keeps is on the blink. Whatever the potential pitfalls and risks could be, you need to make sure you know each one of them so you can account for them.
Explore the alternatives and actively mitigate against risk
So how do you actively manage and mitigate against risk within your timeline? The key is to throw aside your optimism and develop worst case scenarios. You should be asking yourself ‘What would happen if…’ and developing alternative timelines based on those scenarios. Together with your risk register, identify which risks are high impact and high probability and build your timeline around accommodating those risks becoming issues.
Remember the unknown unknowns and load on the fat
There are known unknowns and unknowns unknowns – the latter is much harder to mitigate against. Consequently, it’s more prudent to put away your optimism and be pragmatic and realistic about the reality of projects. There’s a high probability that something will come up in the project that you didn’t anticipate, nor had identified as risk (whether or not you’re at fault for that). So the only way to mitigate against this type of risk is to plan for it the only way you can – add in additional buffer to your timeline.
What do you think?
What do you think we’re missing? What else is there to planing for it not going to plan that should PM’s be thinking about when creating timing plans? We’d love to hear if you’ve got any more tips – why not share them using the comments below?
10 top tips for creating timing and project plans
This 10 top tips blog series has been written as a guide for estimating and approaching creating cost estimates in the midst of it all. In this series of posts we’re looking at the following:
- An introduction to creating timing plans
- Define your workflow
- Establish your planning horizon
- Break it down
- Ask, don’t guess
- Question when questioning
- Allow time for amends
- Plan for it not going to plan
- Finish well
- Post project review & optimise
- Checkpoint charlie
- A summary to creating timing plans