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The predictable project

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Wouldn’t be wonderful if we knew everything in advance? Or not.

I’ve before stated that the perfect project manager is a medium, who can predict the future.

Boss: “When will we be done?”

Project manager/Medium: “On October 15th, by mid day.”

But no project manager has come forward, claiming James Randi´s famous Million Dollar Challenge, stating that they have super natural powers. I don’t believe in mediums, so I don’t believe in predictable projects.

And how fun would that be? What if the future was predictable:

Boss: “Hi, Anna, I was thinking about starting this new project CVY.”

Project Manager/Medium: “Don’t bother, it will be late, cost too much and result in so much conflicts. Just forget about it.”

We don’t want the future set in stone! That is no fun. We want to be able to act on changes and succeed even if things look grim. So, be happy there are few predictable projects. Yes, you can make estimations and predictions, but that just give you different good or bad scenarios.

On a project which I got involved into, the project manager used MS Projects to make predictions. He was upset because the project “was late”. It turned out that he calculated on a focus factor of 100% and had not included holidays in his plan. The developers on the other hand calculated on a focus factor of 60% so you can imagine the difference of opinion about the lateness of the project. So, tools for making predictions can be really dangerous in the sense that they give a false picture in the same sense as reading your horoscope in the paper and forming your life after that.

George Dinwiddie has written an excellent blog post on the subject. It’s a bit long, so be sure to have some time to spare when reading it. But it’s worth while if you’re struggling with the question of predictability in agile projects.

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