Project Management

How to Plan for Uncertainty in Uncertain Times

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, 2nd edition, Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization as well as several other books including the newest: Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. See her blogs and more of her writing at

Cindy, a project manager, told me her company always spent significant time planning. “We had to create a two- to five-year look-ahead they called their strategic plan. There wasn’t much strategic about it,” she said. “It was all about which features and projects they wanted when.”

She’s right—that’s not a strategic plan.

Cindy continued: “We also had to create a one-year, budget-driven project portfolio. We spent all of October, November and December planning and estimating for the December planning activity.”

What happened?

“Last year, all our plans needed to change by the end of January. And, by June, we needed to change that document they called the strategic plan. We needed to change which products and services to offer when.”

I nodded.

She said, “I was convinced that they thought it they planned, they might get the results they wanted.”

I asked about this year’s plans.

“Oh, we scrapped all of them in early March. Now we’re flying by the seat of our pants,” she said before pausing. “It’s not very comfortable.”

I’m sure it’s not. Are you in a similar position? Maybe you don’t spend quite so much time planning. Maybe your previous plans lasted several months, or maybe even most of a year. However, we’…

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"The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions."

- Leonardo Da Vinci



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