Project Management

Why Planning Can Be Bad

Mike Griffiths is an experienced project manager, author and consultant who works for PMI as a subject matter expert. Before joining PMI, Mike consulted and managed innovation and technology projects throughout Europe, North and South America for 30+ years. He was co-lead for the PMBOK Guideā€”Seventh Edition, lead for the Agile Practice Guide, and contributor to the PMI-ACP and PMP exam content outlines. Outside of PMI, Mike maintains the websites about leading teams and, which teaches project management for visual learners.

Life is all about balance. Live too conservatively and you run the risk of missing out on life’s adventures and opportunities; live too wildly and you run the risk of misfortune and regret. We have to walk a fine line guided by our personal view of where that correct boundary is. Planning is similar--the adages “Look before you leap” and “Cross that bridge when we come to it” speak to the differing views toward project planning. However, instead of being guided by some moral compass, we should be guided by the quality of our planning inputs and likelihood of changes.

To some people, a mentality of “Cross that bridge when we come to it” strikes them as the irresponsible abandonment of project management rigor and fiscal responsibility trusted to them by project sponsors. Why would you not always do as much planning as possible before starting a project? Surely, that is only right and proper! Well, not if doing so would be harmful. It all depends on the quality of that input data--when the input data is good, we can reliably plan; when the input data is bad or the project’s final destination is likely to change, then we need to get better data and keep evolving the plans.

When aiming at a fixed target, it is appropriate to aim, aim and aim some more and then fire. In the project world, this is akin to plan, plan and plan …

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