So what does this actually mean in the project management domain?
Plans are strategies for the success of the project. Strategies are hypothesis. Hypothesis needs to be tested to determine their validity. These tests - in the project domain - comes from setting a plan, performing the work, accessing the compliance of the outcomes with the plan, that corrective actions in the next iteration of the works.
This seems obvious, but when we hear about the failures in the execution of the plans, we have to wonder what went wrong. Research has shown many Root Causes of project shortfalls. Here are four from our domain:
- Unrealistic performance expectations, missing Measures of Effectiveness and Measures of Performance.
- Unrealistic cost and schedule estimates based on inadequate risk adjusted growth models.
- Inadequate assessments of risk and unmitigated exposure to these risks with propers handling plans.
- Unanticipated technical issues without alternative plans and solutions to maintain effectiveness.
The root cause for each of these starts with the lack of the following
Unrealistic Performance Expectations
When we set out to define what performance is needed we must have a means of testing that this expectation can be achieved. There are several ways of doing this:
- No Prototypes
- No Modeling and Simulations of performance outcomes
- No reference design to base modeling on to discover needed changes in baseline system architecture
- No use of derived products
Unrealistic Cost and Schedule Estimates
- No basis of estimate
- Optimism bias
- No parametric models
- No understanding of irreducible uncertainties in duration for work
- No reference classes.
Inadequate Assessment of Risk
- Not understanding "Risk management is how adult manage projects" - Tim Lister
- No risk register connected to planning and scheduling processes
- No Monte Carlo assessment of risk impacts on cost and schedule
- No risk mitigation in baseline
- Inadequate Management Reserve developed from modeling processes
Unanticipated Technical Issues
- No Plan B
- No in depth risk assessment of technologies
- No "on ramps" or "off ramps" for technology changes
Each of these issues can be addressed through a Systems Engineering process using Measures of Effectiveness, Measures of Performance, and Technical Performance Measures. The planning process makes use of these measures to assess the credibility of the plan and the processes to test the hypothesis.