Your Project Plan: Yes, You Need One. Here's Why.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” ~ Robert Burns (adapted)
(This is part 2 of a 2-part post. You can find part 1 here.)
Project managers have to manage project budgets. Although it's always a line item in the budget, planning doesn’t make sense when you think about the pure economics of it. Consider these statements:
- Creating a project plan takes time and effort. (I have put together some project plans that were so big, the “planning” phase has its own plan!)
- Measuring progress and reporting against the project plan takes even more effort.
- In part one of this two-part blog post, I discussed how your project plan is almost guaranteed to have gaps and require changes – often due to factors you can’t control. That means you have to constantly reevaluate and adjust the plan. That takes still more time and effort.
All this time and effort spent on planning could be invested directly in achieving the project objectives. So, the logical question to ask is:
If things rarely go according to plan, why bother to create a project plan at all?
Stop The Madness
In order to justify the costs of creating and maintaining a project plan, there must be a compelling benefit (and “because everyone else does” is not a good reason). Consider these statements:
- Project success = achieving project objectives.
- Changes are inevitable.
- Minimizing risk to project success = successful change management.
- To manage change, you first have to identify it.
- The only way you can identify change is to have a baseline plan.
Having a plan empowers you to recognize and react to change. In other words, without a plan as a baseline, how can you even identify changes, let alone react and overcome? This is the value and the power of planning: identifying change, minimizing impact, and maximizing success in real-world conditions.
Here are some other reasons why a project plan needs to be in your project management toolkit, listed here in no particular order:
- A project plan is the only way to communicate the project intent in the same way to multiple stakeholders. It gets everyone on the same page.
- Funding and resources are finite. The number of potential projects is infinite. Plans are the only tool available to compare projects and prioritize which ones should get funded.
- A plan rooted in facts checks emotions and predispositions at the door – this can clarify decision making and overall strategy.
- Eventually, with enough planning, you’ll be able to impress your friends by actually being able to read a gantt chart. Also, the original plan is usually good for a laugh during project closeout.
One final note: we've found that sometimes plan adjustments require resetting expectations with customers and stakeholders. This is usually readily accepted (as long as it happens for good reason). I can guarantee your customers, vendors, investors, and stakeholders have all had to reset expectations more than once.
Because their plans change, too.
We'd love to hear about your reasons for planning (or not planning) in the comments below.
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