“It’s the question that drives us, Neo. It’s the question that brought you here. You know the question, just as I did.”
No, it’s not “What is the Matrix?” but rather, how do you know when your team has done enough project planning to feel confident that commitments can be made to your customer?
Isn’t there an app for that?
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was the equivalent of a meat thermometer that could let you know if further planning is required or if you are at risk of realizing business value shoe leather?
There is no expert system which codifies the shared knowledge of the world’s project management experts to help you know when enough is enough. The essence of projects is uncertainty, and it is that uncertainty which stymies the best efforts of project teams to find the sweet spot.
While we may not be able to perfectly time it, here are a few tell-tale signs which could tell you that it’s either too soon or that you may have gone too far.
When should you put your project plan back in the oven to bake some more?
- When more than just your risk averse team members are expressing concerns
- When you are not sure that you have identified and assessed needs and wants of all key stakeholders
- When there are still some shaky assumptions supporting the foundation of your plan
- When a second (or third) pair of fresh eyes hasn’t reviewed key elements of the plan
- When resource estimates are based on the work being done by very specific individuals and their availability is still questionable
- When each day brings new information resulting in meaningful shifts to approach or estimates
When is your project at risk of getting burnt from too much planning?
- When team members are dwelling on details of activities which are in the distant future
- When only your risk averse team members are feeling concerned that it’s still not quite ready
- When a variety of different techniques support the estimates where commitments are going to be made
- Once response plans have been successfully implemented for all key risks
- Once commitments are in place for all key resources
- When the number of new revelations impacting estimates is few and far between
Professional chefs are able to use a dash of this or a splash of that while novice cooks must practice strict adherence to recipes. With experience, our intuition for knowing when we are ready to get started improves. However, introduce sufficient change into the scope or context for a project and even seasoned project managers will need to fall back on signs such as these.