Project Management

Don’t Fall in Love with Your Project Plan

You have invested a lot of energy into this relationship, building up a plan with your colleagues. Surely this plan is the one that makes all your project dreams come true. Not likely! Your plan has already booked its train ride outta town, and you will soon be left high and dry. Such is the story of investing too much in a project plan, as Mario Trentim relates in a post for Voices on Project Management.

Two-Timing Plans

An obvious gap exists between project planning and execution, or else project success rates would be much higher (or all our plans are spectacularly bad). Trentim believes one cause of this gap is that project managers get fixated on how the little details of the plan all connect, as opposed to ensuring that the overall concepts driving the plan are sound. No project plan can ever absolutely predict and prescribe how a project will proceed, and so any plan that relies too much on everything literally going “according to plan” is bound to collapse. Trentim writes:

To paraphrase the boxer Mike Tyson, “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” The real world is volatile and complex; missing and incomplete information is the norm. Will your plan survive the challenge? It depends on how well you execute. As many in the military learn, strategic, tactical and operational plans need to be executed with maximum agility. Adjustments, adaptations and unexpected decisions must be made along the road to project completion.

He then points to the OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop created by military strategist John Boyd, which facilitates the process of goal-centered execution. Observe involves collecting as much current information as possible from all available sources. Orient means using collected information to update your perspective on the project. Then it is just a matter of making your ultimate decision and following through on all of the insights you have gathered.

Project plans do not need to end in heartbreak. Just treat them as the short-term relationships that they are. You can read the original post here:

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