Planning for Realistic Project Outcomes

I’ve reviewed hundreds of projects over the years, and one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the number of project managers who still believe in miracles.

Too often have I witnessed projects that have made so little progress in the first 10 months, yet the project manager believes that the team can suddenly triple their output in the final 2 months in order to complete the project on time.

This is wishful thinking, in my experience this very rarely happens, it’s like a boxer who has been outfought for 11 rounds hoping to win by knockout in the last round.

In reality, boxers who have been beaten for 11 rounds are more likely to get knocked out themselves, than they are to deliver a knockout blow.

We even have a term for this wishful thinking, it’s called the Hockey Stick Effect, it’s where performance magically just increases out of all proportion compared to previous months.

We can’t just double or triple the resources involved at the end and expect that the output will reflect this sudden increase in effort, or that we will suddenly find a way to boost our efficiency way beyond what we were achieving before.

It just doesn’t work like that.

I appreciate that it might work for Harry Potter, but for the rest of us mere mortals it’s not an approach that will end in success.

This is why we need to have a plan, and transparency into that plan so that we can monitor and check that we are on track, and then we can make the adjustments needed early enough in the project before we end up needing a miracle.

If we need to increase output and to do that we need to increase the resources involved, then we need to do it at a time that will allow them to be able to become effective.

There is always a ramp-up period for new resources and if we add too many too soon, then we may even see that overall output drops as we work to get them up to speed.

The best route to success is to start strongly, look to build momentum and get ahead of the plan, there will always be setbacks along the way, and if we can build some cushion then we will be able to handle them more easily.

I much prefer to cruise to victory than looking and waiting for a miracle that’s not going to come.

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