Saturday, November 25, 2023

Shifting baseline syndrome

It's a rare project of any significant scale that does not rebaseline sometime in the life of the project.
Why rebaseline?

The PM rebaselines when the "old" baseline is no longer relevant as a guide to management. Either cost, schedule, or scope have gotten so far off the original baseline that the baseline is no longer valid for future management decisions. Thus: rebaseline.

How do you go about rebaselining?
  • Gather all the actuals and variances in the current plan. Archive that data.
  • Replan the future from the present. That is the new baseline
  • At the end of the project, add the archive to the new baseline performance for the overall project performance.
Shifting Baseline Syndrome
Shifting baseline syndrome is the phenomenon whereby, over time, the "old" baseline drifts out of memory, or perhaps new staff never experienced the "old" baseline. We acquire the mantel of the new baseline, and all seems fine in this "new normal" which morphs to just "normal".

Measurements are taken against the new baseline; in effect, the goal posts have been moved. We become insensitive to the position where the goal posts used to be. The new position is accepted as normal, and we move on from there.

Countering the syndrome
Actually, it's not really necessary to counter the syndrome day-to-day and you wouldn't want to if you could. The new baseline is your management plan going forward.

It is only necessary to keep in mind at the PMO level that there is an archive of actuals and variances to be accounted for at the end of the project. 

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