Project managers need to stop treating their plans like Turducken!

29 November 2013
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When you think of  the perfect Thanksgiving dinner, it cannot exist without a turkey dinner cooked to perfection.  By no means a simple bird to cook.  The perfectly cooked turkey requires the careful care in its seasoning, basting and carving.   However a perfectly cooked turducken will take your culinary expertise to the next level!

For those who are unfamiliar with a turducken dinner, it’s the ultimate bird dinner combination in which a duck is stuffed with a chicken, then the duck is stuffed in a turkey and then carefully cooked so that each unique poultry and its flavours together deliver a harmonious taste for the holidays.  It was said to originate from Europe and later migrated to Louisiana as a local dish.  In recent history, it was popularized by celebrity sport broadcaster John Madden on Thanksgiving of 1997.  At any rate, the turducken phenomenon is interesting in that in pop culture it can also mean any plan that is unnecessarily complicated or futile.  Sound familiar?!?

One of the biggest challenges project managers face is finding just the right balance between too little and too much detail in their project plans.  More often than not, project plans can get out of control with hundreds (and in many cases thousands) of activities making it virtually impossible to effectively track progress on a project.  These “turducken” plans create noise that result in project managers working “in the weeds” and losing the necessary big picture view required to keep the project on track and quickly address inevitable bottlenecks that will arise.

Finding the right level of detail in a plan in never an easy task and should never be attempted independently.  In fact, it is the project stakeholders that need to drive the level of detail built into a successful plan.  Any information that does not concern your primary stakeholders may be better suited to fall into a checklist or tagged as To-Dos related or linked to the work breakdown structure (WBS) and/or task list. So if you are looking to avoid a turducken project plan in your future, know who you are planning for, and get their buy-in!

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