Next Wave of Planning

Coast Guard 47' Motor Lifeboat in Morro Bay, CA 04 Dec 2007 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!This week, many of you will be involved in the detailed planning for Release 2, and in the higher-level planning for the rest of the project. I’ll use today’s post to share my thoughts on what success looks like at the end of that planning. By the time we’re done we should be able to:

  • Update the Inception Deck. The current “Size it up — Project Schedule” slide shows a schedule that is now out of date. It was a good enough plan to get DCMS/DCO approval in April 2011, but experience has shown that Segment 1a will take longer than the first six months of calendar year 2012 to configure.  We spent less than planned, and we delivered less than planned.  We need to update the view of the project to provide our current best guess.
  • Update the Project Structure. The Acquisition Planning team will combine the high level schedule with the high level spending plan to show our best estimate of what we’re configuring and delivering when. The is an important view of the project for the Coast Guard Investment Board, for the Executive Oversight Council, and for our partners in the financial community who need to know our best guess for CG-LIMS execution as they develop the strategy to optimize the Core Accounting System (CAS). It’s also the view of the project that is used in the Project Plan and is linked from every other planning document required by the SDLC process.
  • Update the OMB-300. Our current OMB-300 matches the high level notional schedule that was delivered a year ago. It’s tied to the system that reports to the American people how we’re using the funding appropriated to the project. As of today, we’ve reported that we didn’t accomplish all we planned from January to June 2012, but we don’t have an answer for when we will finish that work. Nor do we have an update on how we’ll spend all the funding that has been appropriated or is in the plan through 2017. Not having an updated plan is a huge red flag for DHS as they review our submission. We’ve told them that an update is coming. We need to deliver on that promise soon.

I’m leaving the planning in the capable hands of the development team and with the team leads from the PMO. Plans are best made by those closest to the execution. I don’t want the schedule to be a work of fiction that comes from my head as the project manager. The plan will be one that the team has developed, the team will execute, the team will work to gain support for from our investors.

I know many of you are familiar with and are being led by Cohn’s “Agile Estimating and Planning.” That’s a excellent guide. As I read through it, several points resonated with me and reinforced the need to do this planning constantly. Okay maybe not constantly, but we need to get on a cycle of updating the master plan more than once a year.

What makes a good plan? A good plan is one that stakeholders find sufficiently reliable that they can use it as the basis for making decisions.

I think that sums it up well. We need a plan that is good enough for the folks who need it to align CAS optimization, folks who will decide strategic direction for legacy systems other than ALMIS, folks at CBP who are making strategic decisions about their aviation management systems, folks making investment decisions in the CG, DHS, OMB, and Congress.

No amount of additional effort will make an estimate perfect.

We’re not looking for a perfect estimate. We want “good enough.” We know it’s just an estimate. It’s our best guess about the future. We need to be willing to make it and use it until we learn enough the change it.

And one final thought before you begin the work: I’m a fan of keeping problem solving groups as small as possible. I encourage you to keep the group doing the planning as small as possible. But I also encourage you to make sure you either include or have someone responsible for reaching back to OSC and the CG-8 PMO. The PM IPT reps from both places are great resources to include in the planning. Much is going on behind the scenes with respect to other logistics systems and CAS. It’s important for them to be fully engaged in the strategic planning we’re doing as we update the high level CG-LIMS schedule.

I’ll provide some constraints that may help:

  • Don’t change the ORD segment priorities. For now, assume that the EOC, Director’s Council, and IB don’t know enough to rearrange segment 1a, 1b, 2, and 3. Plan as though we are going to configure them in that order.  By the time we finish 1a, priorities may change, but don’t let that bog down this planning exercise.
  • Assume the total planned AC&I investment remains $40.9M.  The high level plan should make it clear what we plan to configure and deliver in releases of six months or less within the 40.9 budget per the 13-17 CIP.

I know some of you are uncomfortable planning any farther into the future than you can be sure about your ability to deliver.  I’m asking you to accept that discomfort and plan anyway.  Some of you know what it’s like to go out on a SAR mission in a storm with limited information and no certainty about the future. You relied on your own and your crew’s  knowledge, training, and experience and did the best you could to accomplish the mission.  There were no facts about the future.  You did the best you can with the resources and information you had.  That’s what we’re doing now.  We know a lot more today than we did when the original plan was developed last April.  Use that knowledge to develop the best guess you can with the input from the smartest people available.

photo credit: Mike Baird

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