Every project plan has an end date Simply put, that's the date when we plan on finishing the work. Recently, I asked a developer what his confidence was that we would finish on a date that was two months earlier than the finish date. I knew that he was working hard to make that happen. He thought about it and gave me an answer: 75%.
The project manager was confused. She had a finish date in her schedule that was a couple of months later than the date I asked about. Was the developer not telling her something?
I explained it this way:
- The plan is the plan is the plan. That's the best guess at work, durations, dependencies, etc. Nothing in his answer changes the plan. I just slid the date left and asked a question about confidence.
- That 75% answer would probably change every day, moving higher or lower, if I were to ask the question every day. You don't want to adjust the plan based on what are essentially mood changes.
- If I picked an earlier date, the percentage would surely go down. If I picked a later date, it would go up. It simply represents a confidence level of finishing on that date.
- If he had given me a number that was 90% or 100% and had the same answer next week or next month, you would probably want to adjust the schedule to reflect reality.
Here's an interesting exercise: every week, ask three questions of your project lead:
- Confidence of finishing two months early.
- Confidence of finishing at the planned finish.
- Confidence of finishing two months late.
Track their answers over time. You can learn a lot by doing this, and sometimes get an early warning of trouble ahead. For me, the real benefit of this is to see how the answers change over time. If you're getting honest answers, you'll see how the last week really went on the project.