Speculative plans create the illusion of competence

Product Management Oct 23, 2022

The fog of speculation makes the fog of beforehand even worse

‌Root your plans in reality, not in speculation.

The problem is that when you do that, you have simpler plans that might appear like you didn’t put in much effort. This is because we tend to believe we know more than we actually do.

Complicated plans filled with speculation create a sense of comfort that simple plans cannot provide. That’s because we try to invent certainty out of uncertainty by filling in the gaps with our fantasy.

It feels good, and management pats us on our shoulders for a job well done.

Investing more effort when you lack information by injecting speculation gives the appearance of a better plan, while you’re actually throwing sand in your own gears.

The reality is that your plan is now worse because you’re not only clouded by the fog of beforehand, what you can’t know before starting the work, but also by a fog of speculation of your own creation.

By creating a speculative anchor in your plans responding to changes becomes even more difficult. The difficult part is convincing your leaders of this fact.

A speculative plan is a paper victory that gives the illusion of control.

A simple plan based only on what you really know while accepting that what you don’t know will have to be incorporated is deeply discomforting and uncertain. Your leaders might even think you’re incompetent because the plan lacks detail and self-invented certainty.

Learning to live with that discomfort is essential, but it means letting go of our precious comforting plans rooted mostly in our imagination.

We might find such plans uncomfortable but when you do complex work they produce the best results.