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Planning Myths

October 8, 2012

By Jeanine Izzo

Don't let planning scare you away.  Photo taken by J. Izzo at Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West

This four letter word conjures up many emotions in the workplace…anger, frustration, resistance…PLAN.  Breaking out into the cold sweats upon hearing the word plan is commonplace among all levels in organizations.   When this happens, there are one or more misunderstandings occurring.  This article presents seven planning myths and their counter reality.

Myth 1:  Planning takes too much time…time we do not have.
While our days seems to get more and more packed, the truth remains that without proper planning, we will struggle to meet all the desired conditions (i.e. functionality, time to market,  budget, product cost, quality).  When the choice is not to create a meaningful plan, chances are that actions will default to  scramble mode; and in many cases it will take coming back a second and third time to ‘get it right.’
Reality 1:  Planning is time well spent.  It helps clarify expectations, engage team members and set initiatives up for success. 

Myth 2:  Planning is a waste of time…time we can be using doing the work.
If the work is not clear enough it can lead to wasted resources, capital and expense…all which add up to  time and money going down the drain.  Planning helps make the work clear.  Project Management teaching institutions, such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reference research that shows that there is a 1:3 ratio related to time spent and reward for planning.  For example, one week of planning saves three weeks of work…one month of planning saves three months of work.
Reality 2:  Planning saves time over the course of implementing a goal, project, strategy.   

Myth 3:  Planning is too restrictive. 
It is understandable why planning would have this misperception because there is structure involved with planning, yet when a well thought out plan is in place it actually increases flexibility.  When the project details are known more intimately, it creates a foundation for discussion and actions related to alternate options and trade-offs along the way.
Reality 3:  Flexibility comes alive with proper planning.

Myth 4:  A Schedule equals a plan.
A schedule is part of the plan, but it is not the entire plan.  In order to build an achievable schedule, it is imperative that the breath (scope) of work is understood in enough detail for reasonable estimates and sequence of events to be generated.  A plan typically consists of a number of inputs and facets such as, critical success factors/objective (ideally linked to overarching strategic goals), requirements, budget estimates, resource needs, assumptions, risks and a schedule.
Reality 4:  A plan is composed of multiple elements, including a schedule.

Myth 5:  Plans are stagnant…they sit on the shelf.
Unfortunately, this is known to happen when the value of planning is misunderstood.  If a plan is not being looked at on a regular basis, it is not a value added plan.  Plans should be used for guidance, discussion and communication.  Above all, plans should be revised along the way as more is learned and accomplished.
Reality 5:  Plans are living documents that evolve with the knowledge that is gained over time. 

Myth 6.  Planning does not allow us to meet the needs of the sponsor/customer.
Experience says that the needs of the customer will be met one way or another.  In absence of a sound plan, this usually entails crashing and/or fast-tracking the efforts, burning out employees, unconsciously sacrificing quality and running over budget…way over budget.  Planning allows better estimates and early notification of challenges that may get in the way of progress.  Thus, allowing teams to request additional support required to increase ability to meet needs.
Reality 6:  Planning helps make projects a win for all involved (The sponsor/customer, the providing organization, the team and the rest of the stakeholders).

Myth 7:  Planning is hard.
Planning can be difficult for many reasons among the following…  Goal/objective is unclear, common assumptions are not provided, individual contributors are not held accountable, lack of experience planning, proper support is not provided.
Reality 7:  Planning is made easier when helpful elements are in place. 

Making the effort to go from myth to reality is worth the investment.  Instead of going from willy-nilly planning to intense planning, set some goals around realistic improvements and develop the people and process in tandem over time.  Also, remember that a key to maximizing efforts is to right size the plan for the task at hand.  Over-complicating can be just as damaging as over-simplifying.

What planning myths have you experienced?

Note:  Jeanine Izzo has dispelled these planning myths through improving planning processes and developing team members.  Variances between estimates and actuals were reduced by at least 50% across projects.  Teams using her process were consistently able to come in on time, or ahead of schedule and budget while bringing value.

© Viage Partners 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Viage Partners with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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