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procurement project planning

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Have you ever found that you only want to plan things properly when it’s for an activity that you don’t really want to do? Certainly that’s my personal experience. If we have a task that excites us then it’s tempting to just want to jump straight in and planning seems like an obstacle that slows us down. On the other hand, with tasks we are not looking forward to, planning how to do them is a great procrastination tool.

We often hear that planning is an essential part of any project. I used to have a boss who liked to remind me that if we “fail to plan” then we “plan to fail”. He was right of course, but I believe there a couple of key points that are worth bearing in mind with regards to planning.

  • The scale of the plan should match the scale of the task. We may have the best project plan templates in the world, and sometimes it’s tempting to try to make a task fit a certain type of plan, but not all projects are the same. Some may last many years, others only a few days. The level of detail should be commensurate to the complexity and importance of the task.

  • Most plans should have a degree of flexibility. Usually as we progress through a project, we gain more knowledge about the tasks, the obstacles, the bottlenecks, and it should be possible to refine a plan to make it more accurate. Slavishly adhering to out-of-date plans is seldom the most efficient way of working.

  • People involved in a project should be aware of the plan. It’s no use if the project manager is the only person with access to and knowledge of the plan. The plan should act as a driver for all the stakeholders involved.

The Antarctic explorer Roald Amundsen once said “Adventure is just bad planning”. As his contemporary Captain Scott found out, this can have disastrous consequences.

So let’s plan, and plan well.