For some this is a heinous anti-practice. For others it’s standard operating procedure. Either way it’s the fast track to project ruin.

Plan and Ignore is the practice of quickly drafting a project plan (typically to satisfy an external demand; typically in Microsoft Project) then tossing the plan and never looking back. This happens for any number of reasons. Some people don’t know how to plan. Some people don’t know how to track. Some simply don’t want to invest the time to do either activity correctly.

Plan and Ignore should never be confused with even the simplest forms of agile planning. Even the lightest-weight planning (such as a product backlog, t-shirt size estimation, and a burndown chart) can keep a team free of this anti-practice trick-bag.

The fundamental problem with Plan and Ignore is that no one actually knows the status of the project. Behind? Ahead? Safely on track? Likely no two people on the project team will give you the same answer.

And when your team has no consensus on its status all manner of bad mojo can result.

If you are actually behind, the people who don’t see this will likely be busy cathedral-building and apple-polishing instead of developing the much-needed ladder that the team will use to climb out of its current hole.

Furthermore, lack of agreement on a team typically raises the attention of management, especially when that lack of agreement is around status. But management often does not know how to be helpful in situations like this. They’ll demand to see status against the current plan, go hulk-mad when they discover that there is no current plan, demand a new plan be drafted, and waste yet more precious time prying tracking data from team members who are frantically trying to not fall further behind.

Finally, if management doesn’t cop on to the lack of consensus then the team will know they are behind only when they reach a consensus on the matter. Typically this happens one week before a major milestone, at which time the team recognizes the obvious – that it is no less than four weeks behind. And that’s when the fit will really hit the shan.

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