Project plans are, it seems to me, like weather forecasts: well intentioned, produced using the best available information, worth looking at certainly, but frequently wrong.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have them, necessarily. Nobody suggests not having weather forecasts just because they are often wrong, and you could say the same about project plans. There are certainly situations where project plans don’t add any value and I don’t see why they are there, frankly. But I can accept that they sometimes have a part to play – if only to provide a guide to the general direction of travel. That is fine by me.

Ultimately it is people’s perception that is the problem. Plans and forecasts don’t seem to be enough nowadays. People expect absolute certainty and predictability in everything, even if we know in our heart-of-hearts this is an unachievable nonsense. Plans and forecasts need to be treated as such. With a degree of caution: Points of reference are sensible, but whole-hearted reliance and an expectation of quasi-scientific perfection is just silly.

We should know better by now.

The word “Wrong” also needs examination. People often seem to assume that something “wrong” can always be put “right”. It is often further implied that the wrong could have been avoided entirely if only we had done something differently: If only we had taken some (inevitably elusive) action. If only we had gone that little bit further to make the plan perfect. Damn. No matter – next time it will be better and we will improve, right?

This is just hindsight playing tricks, I’m afraid. A wonderful thing, but also depressing and destructive if you don’t keep it in check.

The most dangerous thing is that it perpetuates the myth – and thats what it is – that the “perfect” project plan is achievable. Like the perfect weather forecast…

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