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This Focused Performance Weblog started life as a "business management blog" containing links and commentary related primarily to organizational effectiveness with a "Theory of Constraints" perspective, but is in the process of evolving towards primary content on interactive and mobile marketing. Think of it as about Focusing marketing messages for enhanced Performance. If you are on an archive page, current postings are found here.

Monday, February 24, 2003

Dynamic Planning -- Cass McNutt, in ThoughtsOnThinking last year, posed a classic dilemma associated with plans and planning...
"...where on the one hand the Engineering Perspective tries to nail down and quantify all the variables, there's another perspective that says such effort is totally futile -- because there are too many variables to ever be managed or understood. For lack of a better phrase, I call this the Artist Perspective. It says that since the planning we do is essentially futile anyway -- it's all subject to change, right? -- that there is no point in trying to plan at all. The Artist Perspective says, "It's just a matter of winging it well." (Perhaps I should call this the "Que sera sera" perspective)."
Of course "winging it," even well (and with "agility?"), does not quite jive with the need to make promises that characterizes most project environments. Cass continues with an insightful view to this dicotomy..."I believe that both of these are false perspectives. I also believe that the division we typically erect between the two is a false dichotomy -- that they're two edges of the same coin... and I call that coin Dynamic Planning. Planning, that adapts on the fly from new information, takes into account the effects of iteration (and, indeed, expects iteration), and yet still projects as much predictability and control into any given situation as is economically feasible. It brings -- or rather, reveals -- structure for situations that seem to have none, and provides a framework for figuring out where the leverage is."
The problem with many "engineering plans" is that they become the end all and be all of the effort. If reality deviates from the plan, the plan becomes near useless because all of the hard links of time and dependency -- all of the milestone dates and interim targets -- seem so separate from reality that the plan is either reworked from scratch or abandoned to winging.

Cass' point about indeterminacy of such efforts requires an approach to planning and promising that recognizes and embraces the uncertainty of the situation -- detailing what can be known, but also including information about uncertainty up front along with mechanisms that allows the plan to flex with the inevitable variation, and to provide buffers protecting the promises that are the reason for trying to manage the effort in the first place.

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