So if a baseline or snapshot of the plan is what we’re going to measure against, then it’s pretty tempting to wait just a bit longer so we have a little more information and feel a little more certain about the definition of those project objectives. That way we will be more likely to meet them and less likely to need to change them.
But consider this: The purpose of a baseline is as much about recognizing change as it is about preventing it. In the absence of a baseline, how do we even know if what people are asking for is different than what we’ve already done or planned?
Why, for example, do scopes creep? Often it’s because they were never baselined in the first place. How is it that we get into these battles with stakeholders about whether or not what they’re asking for is different than what they’ve already asked for? Maybe it’s because we don’t have anything to compare it to!
Baselines enable us to recognize change and respond appropriately. In order to control the project, we need to know the relative size of a change request or deviation from the plan baseline. Is it small? If so, then maybe we can make some adjustments to how we’re executing to bring ourselves into alignment with the plan. Is it substantial? If so, then we know to go through a process to get approval as to whether or not we will update the baseline and manage to the new plan.
But without something against which to compare changes, we are really guessing as to whether or not it’s even a change. That is likely to result in a creepy scope and a project manager with very little in the way of negotiating leverage.
It’s not enough to just monitor the project if we don’t have a means of controlling it. Without baselines we can’t do either.
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