Make the Most of Adaptive Planning

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at andy.jordan@roffensian.com. Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

The recent shift to adaptive planning by many organizations—that is, from predominantly annual planning cycles to more frequent cycles—has provided significant opportunities as well as challenges.

On the opportunity side, reviewing and adjusting project approval decisions more frequently gives the chance to correct mistakes before too much money is spent or too much effort wasted. It also takes some pressure off the initial planning by reducing the need to prioritize initiatives multiple quarters ahead of the scheduled start date.

On the challenge side, adaptive planning extends the stressful, often contentious planning process throughout the whole year, making it much harder to separate it from regular business operations. Unloved though the annual planning offsite was, at least it created a physical separation from how the business was run that made it easier for disagreements to be left behind once planning was completed.

Why is adaptive planning not helping more?

The fundamental problem when it comes to adaptive planning is that it’s not actually a new approach to the planning process. Instead it’s the old approach sped up, and that’s simply not going to work. Annual planning approaches are disruptive—from developing ideas and expanding the best ones into proposals, to building high-level estimates, seeking support, making the…

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