Creating an execution plan forces us to consider options and alternatives, weigh current information, and make decisions. 

Without perfect information, however, those decisions are an educated guess.

Today, with fast moving markets, the information explosion, and people getting stretched thinner as “project resources”, priorities are in constant flux and plans that span beyond days are almost guaranteed to need adjustment.

Does that mean we shouldn’t plan?

Absolutely not!

It means that the role of planning has changed.  And even more importantly, the role of those managing plans has changed.

Practical Advice
When possible create shorter duration project plans, measured in weeks. Understand that beyond a certain time horizon, the plan becomes less concrete.

Don’t beat dead horses.  In areas where there are unknowns or change is probable, consider the two or three most likely outcomes, build the plan to address them, and move on.

Simplify complex situations into actionable items.

Reassess planned actions continuously.  Collaborate on and communicate all required changes.

Redefine failure. Missing a date on a plan is not failure.  Failure occurs when we don’t incorporate new information and continue down an outdated and incorrect path.

And finally, the best known advice for project planning: Under promise and over deliver!

This isn’t easy and requires both intuition and analysis.

Redefining failure is very dangerous.  Spinning our wheels and producing nothing is certainly not success either.  We need to discriminate between legitimate flexibility and the inability to execute.

There are many different kinds of projects with different levels of unknowns. 

  • The plan for a product development effort in an emerging market will likely change a great deal.  It should be planned as a series of small steps and evaluations. 
  • A project to implement a well established software system may have fewer unknowns and should change less. 

Now it’s your turn.

Do you have practical advice or disclaimers to add?