Should I spend a lot of time developing an early detailed schedule?

Should I spend a lot of time developing an early detailed schedule?
This question has many elements: Who is developing the schedule input? What is the right level of detail? We've all heard statistics indicating that lack of planning is one of the biggest causes of project issues, but are there issues with doing too planning much too soon?

ProjectConnections founder Cinda Voegtli once said:

"I'm still amazed that there are groups out there that let the project manager do detailed scheduling, then expect any team member to be committed to that schedule. I'm all for the planning, and I favor the workshop approach. So many good discussions happen around the planning that help teams get to a common understanding of the purpose of the project. In fact, we normally start out a project by having a Vision meeting, where all the team members get together to discuss the customer the product is for, the benefits it will bring them, etc. This high-level definition gives a basis for making key trade-off decisions later. I mean, have you been on a project lately where you didn't have to agonize about how to get everything developed in the demanded timeframe, and decide on a subset of features or whatever? To me, that's the most challenging part of planning these days—getting through all the trade-off decisions. Planning ends up being very iterative as you work through your alternatives."

Key take-away: don't rob yourself of the benefits of early team engagement during development of the project definition and individual team member schedule input. You'll end up with greater team buy-in to the resulting scope and schedule.

Keep the right detail gradient in the iterative planning process. Start the planning process at a high level—more negotiation and discovery—and gradually increase detail toward the end of the planning phase. If you descend too quickly into detailed schedules, that work may be swept away and wasted by a subsequent trade-off decision. Don't spend lots of time linking dependencies on tasks in a scheduling program until you've have a solid, written product vision foundation, including agreements on major feature/time/cost trade-offs.

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