Course Corrections: PM Acceptance of Change

pathways from point A to B“Course corrections are not project management failures, nor do they suggest a loss of control – quite the opposite in fact. Rigid plans with fixed definitions of success limit our options and invite failure…..adjustments are natural and necessary.”
Personal Kanban


The Best Laid Plans always go into the trash.

It really shouldn’t surprise me. But every time I watch as a customer change or an unexpected risk affects “the plan”, I still feel a slight twinge.  I should know better.

I mean, I do know better.

Once you’ve finished all the hard work of the WBS and dragged estimates out of the most reluctant and tied it all together into a schedule – it’s essentially good for that single shining moment before any activity takes place.Changes Ahead

Afterwards: folks will beat their estimates or the customer ships the equipment earlier or there is some impossibly annoying problem that the coders are scratching their heads over.

It’s always something.

Generally I like when the ‘something’ is an opportunity to pull the date in, but the only certainty is that plans never go as expected. Personally, I think all the work you put into it is why you grow so attached to the idea that it cannot change.

When I feel the slightest twinge, I have to remind myself of a few things:

  1. No plan is perfect. Like life – there is always something that you didn’t foresee or the luck of the draw is not with you.
  2. Situations change. The customer may have a different business requirement that might impact the scope of your plan or dramatically increase it. You get paid to roll with change and help the team adjust to it and deliver to the changed scope.
  3. Time for a course correction: Snap out of it. If we can’t adjust to the fact that the plan needs to change – then we won’t be able to see the options that we have.

It’s like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football. His eyes are the on ball. We all know and Charlie knows that the ball is going to be coldly ripped away by Lucy.

But Charlie never loses hope. At the start of his run, he can see himself kicking the ball….until his foot kicks the wind and he falls…again.

This is not to say that our planning is futile or should be half-hearted. TAmerican football player kicking the ball, kickoffhe reason that it hurts to see Charlie race toward the ball is because he is never half-hearted. We know that our plans, based on vetted assumptions we make at the time, are solid. Our plans define what we are trying to accomplish and give us something to measure our achievements by. So we are never half-hearted.

Like Charlie, every project we start with has that one moment when we think every activity, risk, and potential issue has been flagged and addressed. We think we know how the project will proceed.

And then we kickoff…

The question is: are we open to course corrections? Leave a comment or send me a tweet, my id is jgodfrey.


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