Can you really overplan a project? It turns out you can. When schedules are adjusted too frequently, or when task durations are forecast too optimistically, the project can quickly fall into the overplanning trap. Most people recognize and quell the occasional bout of overplanning when they see it in themselves, but what happens if that gene runs wild? There can actually be downsides to too much—or too frequent—planning.
The moving target syndrome. One pitfall of updating plans too frequently is that milestone dates can become too fluid. Unless you’re the only one involved in bringing the project to fruition, others will already have target dates in mind for items they’re managing. Manipulating those dates too often can make it difficult for others to achieve their milestone objectives.
Whittling down contingencies. It’s not uncommon for project management teams to build contingency time around key tasks, where variables make tight planning less precise. When a project timetable is managed too closely and updated too often, there’s a tendency to chip away at those contingency days. If everything doesn’t line up perfectly and that additional time is actually needed, the rest of the schedule may again need to change to accommodate the wiggle room that shouldn’t have ever been removed.
Unrealistic targets. This becomes a problem when one person updates the entire project schedule based on their own progress, rather than communicating with all stakeholders to ensure that time savings in one area actually affords the opportunity to adjust target dates in other areas. It’s particularly troublesome if equipment installation schedules or other dates along the project continuum are fixed, and changes create a milestone date that another team member can’t possibly meet. If changes aren’t communicated well, deadlines may be missed simply because someone didn’t know their target date had changed.
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