The (False) Cheese Dichotomy of Project Planning

How Do You Choose an Approach?

Firstly, it depends

In 1827, the Scottish botanist Robert Brown described how pollen particles move randomly in water. This phenomenon — subsequently termed Brownian motion — later inspired Jean Baptiste Perrin’s work “on the discontinuous structure of matter,” for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926.

Brownian Motion. By Lookang Author of computer model Francisco Esquembre, Fu-Kwun and lookang (this remix version)— Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Secondly, more options exist

This leads us to the second delusion that constitutes the false dichotomy: the belief that only two options are available. My project manager was choosing between a big plan up front (cheese cubes) or incremental development (cheese slices). Here is a third option. Imagine that we serve multiple types of cheese. Furthermore, we set out a few biscuits, grapes, and apple wedges and add culinary bites of Finnish mämmi, Scanian spettekaka, and British kidney pie to the table.

  • When general direction is known, but every detail is not: plan a viable increment and defer decisions about the next step until after the first step is completed. (Known Unknowns)
  • When complexity is high: make multiple small experiments in parallel. (Unknown Unknowns)



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Staffan Nöteberg

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