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Research by Ana Guinote and Mario Weick shows that people in positions of power are particularly ineffective planners.

People who feel powerful focus on getting what they want and ignore the potential obstacles that stand in the way. Here is the fallacy of planning: the planning efforts of powerful people rely frequently on “best case scenarios” and lead to far shorter time estimates than more practical plans that take into account what may go wrong.

How Experience and Qualifications Amplify the Fallacy of Planning (i.e., “Overconfidence”)

Overconfidence: The Fallacy of Planning

Good time management starts with the deliverable and breaks it into manageable pieces, understanding the activities required to support each, and an estimate based on multiple factors such as group size, functionality, and experience. However, most leaders are relatively poor at estimating the time they will need to complete any task. Psychologists refer to this as both the planning fallacy and the bias of overconfidence. Fallacies and biases put us at increasing risk of reaching our objectives on time.

The Overconfidence Bias Damages

You can learn more accurately how to predict the length of an activity and become a better estimator and planner, if you consider the potential obstacles and two other factors. 

  1. Reflect on your past experiences and how long similar activities have taken in the past, and
  2. Break the activity into smaller pieces or tasks (e.g., questions or steps) and factor in the time for each task.

For example, Brainstorming as an activity should be broken into three tasks, namely:

  1. Diverge or List—estimate time based on whether or not you are using break-out teams, ELMO rule (Enough, Let’s Move On), etc.
  • Analyze—estimate based on the tool to be used (e.g., PowerBalls or Decision Matrix) and allow time for scrubbing the list.  Estimate separately for some time for thorough definitions, capturing omissions, and deleting sub-optimal input.
  • Converge or Decide—estimate based on providing substantial reflection (i.e., active listening) around the rationale for decisions made and allow extra time for testing the decision against the initial purpose of the decision.


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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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  1. Hello Terrence, Great advice. The underlying message is this: reliable estimating takes (at least) two people. Challenge is always beneficial. Have you thought about…? How did you arrive at…? As ever, Martin

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