Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Do you suffer from Planner's Droop?

The good news is that Planner's Droop is not medical. However, it is a potential project plan condition you need to be aware of in your project and determine how you are going to address it. In this post I explain what it is and some suggestions on how to handle.

Planners Droop - Project Plan Quality Reduces over Time
You need to recognise that in many projects the plan quality and detail degrades over time into the future. The time-scales vary with different project types and where you are in each phase but a very general rule of thumb I use in the IT world is to have a good level of detail in the next month horizon, less detail over 2-3 month horizon and more of an outline after that.

Sometimes your droop is more dramatic

Ideally your plan should be based on a variety of Estimates, I personally prefer bottom up estimates checked by top down. However, sometimes the plan quality "falls off a cliff" because good bottom-up estimates of latter phases depends on the results of earlier phases. This can often be seen in IT waterfall life-cycles where Requirements Analysis and Systems Design need to be completed before confident bottom up estimates of downstream phases can be produced.

Use of PRINCE2 Stages for severe Planner's Droop

A potential solution to plan droop falling off a cliff is to adopt PRINCE2 Stages in your Project. This allows you to "commit" a plan section by section when there is a good justification like the IT waterfall development model above. So in this example, you would have a firm plan (hopefully based on some bottom up estimates out of Initiation) up to the end of Systems Design and a more outline plan for the remainder of the project typically based on top down estimates.

The Project Owner approves this firm plan at the end of Initiation and when the project has confirmed the business requirements and system design, this should allow bottom up estimates to be produced for the remaining key phases such as Construction, Testing and Implementation. The plan & budget is adjusted as necessary and a further commitment of the next Stage is made by the Project Owner. 

PRINCE2 Stages fit well with formal gated reviews of projects, a topic I will return to in a future post but briefly it is a formal assessment of the project at key points to see it is still viable.

Other activities to address Planner's Droop

Whether you utilise Stages or don't, if you recognise Planner's Droop in your plans, you need to be looking ahead and have a rolling activity to undertake detailed planning for those parts of the plan which aren't at a detailed enough level. So maybe this could be a once a month activity to look forward six weeks and ensure that the required detail is established.

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