Project Management

If the Future Is Unknowable, Why Plan for It?

Bart has been in ecommerce for over 20 years, and can't imagine a better job to have. He is interested in all things agile, or anything new to learn.

Like many of you, I’ve sat through several quarterly or annual program reviews. One of the agenda items is usually a look back from the start of the period, and seeing how many goals were reached, how many of the planned items were completed, and what changes occurred along the way. It is not uncommon to find that about half of what was accomplished was what we expected, and the other half was new or unplanned. In fact, there were some reviews where we completed exactly zero of the things we went into the quarter or year hoping to get done. This meant, mathematically, that being on the plan was no better than a coin-flip as to if it would complete (at best), or a direct sign that something would never get done (at worst.) To the uninitiated, this meant that planning was a waste of time. I think that’s the wrong conclusion to draw.

The process of planning is important, as has been noted throughout history. The plans themselves are sometimes less valuable, especially in an environment with plenty of change or with a lot of unknowns. Many people may dismiss the resulting plan, or assume that it holds little to no value, and thus, decide to go a quarter or a year without creating it. Inevitably, this turns out to be a mistake. A team or organization that goes into execution without a plan in place often finds itself directionless, or without a possibility of …

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"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."

- Dave Barry