• Text only, very few visuals
  • Documents are generally longer than short books.
  • Over reaching the intended scope of the project in the weeds
  • Assume that the person reading the documentation are chimpanzees
  • This article describes a hypothetical alternate universe that has no connection to reality
  • Written for the wrong audience – trying not to please management, but making it useful for those who really need it

Who Will Do It? In my experience, there are three types of people:

  • New project managers who believe that templates and paperwork are what project management is all for. Analyse Paralysis is a common problem.
  • Veteran project managers who have lost touch with the technical aspects of their teams’ work and retreat to documentation land.
  • Project managers who follow the flow and don’t question the organization’s tendency to have 1,000-page management plans that no one will ever see.

What about Standards? Management plans are what I am referring to. I like best practices and standards documents. Travis listed some of his favorites:

  • PMI?s The Standard for Program Management
  • DI-MGMT-81334B
  • MIL-STD-881
  • INCOSE SE Handbook
  • ANSI

It is a mistake to start with standards. The reality of how things are done around here should be the starting point. It’s not easy. There are often many processes that are not well-defined in organizations. Half of your time will be spent interviewing people who do this stuff every day and building consensus for those processes that are unclear or have contention among staff. Rarely is there no project or organizational history. If this is your first project in a start up company, you can map reality. Once you have created a baseline document, you can begin to incorporate ideas from standards and best practice (internal or external).

  • Although the plan sounds great in theory, it is not practical in practice. It reminds me of a Yogi quote.
  • The plan is not realistic and does not reflect how things actually work. This makes it less credible with staff.
  • The plan uses a lot of fancy language, and references to standards that no one understands except the author, increasing the likelihood it will not be understood or followed.

Start with reality

  • Although you facilitate the writing, the primary source of the process is the stakeholders ( = buy in!
  • You will gain a deep understanding about how things work in the current state. This knowledge is essential to create a credible plan.
  • You can start with a solid plan and build on it.


  • A plan that is not approved by the majority of the staff who will execute it is doomed for failure
  • Attempting to change or dictate new processes in a document is doomed to fail. Unfortunately, that’s what most organizations do, especially government. Begin by understanding and building consensus through communication, drafting visuals of the processes, etc. Document it as concisely as possible.

Changes are always the same.