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Tuesday, 17 October 2017 00:11

Remind Yourself of the Value of Planning

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this content is from the TenStep weekly "tips" email dated 2017.11.10

Remind Yourself of the Value of Planning

How many times have you heard about or been involved in a project that struggled? Or perhaps it just was not as successful as it needed to be. Did you ever spend time looking back to see what caused the project to go wrong? If you did, chances are that you will have said, "You know, we should have spent more time planning."

Most projects have deadlines, and it seems they are getting shorter and shorter. Hitting aggressive deadlines puts pressure on the project manager to start the project as soon as possible. However, remember that urgent projects need to be finished sooner - not necessarily started sooner. The project will finish sooner if you do not have rework and chaos.

Before the project work begins, you need to spend time in up-front planning to make sure that the work is properly understood and agreed. This is not wasted time or 'overhead' time. This is the time the project manager spends ensuring that the project team and the sponsor have common perceptions of the project, when it will be complete, what it will cost, who will do the work and how the work will be done. Templates

 can help document the results of the planning process, but you still need to develop the content.At the end of a difficult project, the benefits of planning might be obvious. But the benefits are also known ahead of time as well. At a high-level, these benefits include:

  • Understanding and gaining agreement on project objectives, deliverables, scope, risk, cost, approach, etc. This ensures that the project team and sponsor agree on the work that is required.

  • Determining if the original business case is still valid. When the project was initially approved, the project cost and duration were probably estimated at a high-level – maybe up to ± 50%. Now that the project is starting, the estimates should be revalidated to get them closer to ± 15%. This additional refinement may result in the estimates ending up higher than before, and these higher numbers may make the business case unattractive. For instance, a project that requires 10,000 effort hours might make business sense. If the more detailed planning process results in a more refined estimate of 20,000 hours, the project may not make business sense anymore.

  • Making sure the resources you need are available when you need them. This is a result of creating the project schedule with resources assigned.

  • Providing a high-level baseline from which progress can be compared. This is a result of creating the milestone timeline based on the more detailed schedule.

  • Validating the processes used to manage the project ahead of time with the sponsor. The procedures that are used to manage the project should not be a surprise. They should be discussed and agreed to ahead of time. 

The effort required to define the work depends on the amount of information and the level of detail that need to be understood and documented. It should make sense that small projects need a shorter planning cycle and larger projects need a longer planning cycle. The duration required to plan the work depends on the length of time necessary to discover and document the information, as well as the time required to gain agreement and approval from the client.

At times, the project manager can get frustrated because of the difficulty in gaining agreement with the client on scope, schedule and cost. But that is exactly the reason this work is done ahead of time. Think of the problems you will encounter trying to gain agreement with the customer on scope, schedule or cost when the work has started and the deliverables are actually being produced.

The key is to plan the project well and finish it early - not plan poorly and finish late.

At TenStep we are dedicated to helping organizations achieve their goals and strategies through the successful execution of critical business projects. We provide training, consulting and products for organizations to help them set up an environment where projects are successful. This includes help with strategic planning, portfolio management, program / project management, Project Management Offices (PMOs) and project lifecycles. For more information, visit or contact us at
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