Most project management professionals are aware of the Sir John Harvey Jones quote on planning.
“Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.”
But so often planning done badly or not tracked and used is more damaging than not planning in the first place.
Most of you will recall the school playground joke “What is worse than finding a worm in your apple?”, the answer being “Half a worm because you then know you have eaten the other half.”
But the situation of building a plan and taking all the time and effort, creating a framework of control and structure and then not tracking it or updating it, is effectively that half of a worm. You have the expense of time taken to form a plan, but no ongoing benefit of that improving delivery or informing you and your stakeholders of possible outcomes that you can manage better with a solid tracked and managed plan.
If the plan paints a picture you do not like but when checked it is a sensible plan then use it to change the situation. Not adjust the plan to make the situation look better and give the answers senior management want to hear. Too many times you can hear comments that the plan is not right it says I will be late but I do not believe it. Rather than the plan generating the question I will be late, how do I use plan data to ensure we come in on time or give earlier warning of the risk of overrun or sensible adjustment to scope if no alternative route can be agreed.
So if you have a plan use it sensibly, why put in the useless effort of building a plan and not using the plan. The only reason you should build the plan is to help you deliver the project on time to budget and meet the objectives.
I wonder how many projects have got to an end and dusted off a plan, with the question “oh so that’s what we thought we would do”.
Poor planning can be worse than no planning. Because there is some form of plan in place you can have the false comfort of control. Failure close to expected delivery will still come as a surprise but with a higher price tag. Planning is a journey across the whole project life.