Jack Dalgren suggested projects with tangible outcomes have fewer fictitious schedules than projects that have internal or "softer" deliverables.
I'd suggest that the source of the problem is the lack of a definition of "done" in any project, tangible or intangible, internal or external.
One of the joys of the IMP/IMS approach is the creation of a clear and concise set of measures of "done." The Integrated Master Plan has three elements:
- The State of the Program is defined by the Program Events. These events are the major program milestones, assessment points or key decision points used to substantiate the increasing maturity of the portfolio of projects. Program Events answer the question at what level of maturity must the program reach to provide the desired set of capabilities in support of an Enterprise Strategic Objective?
- The State of the Product is defined by the Significant Accomplishments. These are specified results, substantiating an Event, which indicates the maturity (or progress) level for each product or process. Generally these a discrete steps in the progress of the development or deployment. The Significant Accomplishment answers the question where are we along the road to completion in terms of maturity not just the passage of time?
- The State of the Process is defined by the Accomplishment Criteria. These are the definitive measures used to substantiate the maturity level of the Significant Accomplishment. These measures need to provide objective and explicit proof of completion or closure of the effort. They define the conditions for closing the Significant Accomplishment and answer the question how do I know when an accomplishment has been completed?
With this approach the creation of a fictitious schedule is much more difficult. It can be done, but it takes real work.