If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail

I am always amazed at how little planning is done, or if it is done, it’s not done at a detailed enough level.

There is often a claim that projects slip one day at a time, but that is only true if you have a detailed plan which you have been tracking and monitoring closely and accurately.

In my experience projects often slip by weeks or months overnight when people realise that their plans were poorly created or ill-conceived, and they then realise that some key tasks were missed or that they didn’t understand their critical path. Usually, this is at a point when there is too little time left to incorporate the slippage or omitted tasks and still meet the deadline.

Often projects are behind schedule the day they start, as the effort and time required to complete them has been seriously under estimated. This is one of the key reasons that projects fail to meet their on time delivery, because they never stood a chance in the first place.

Planning is a skill that can be learnt, but it’s often neglected. The number of project managers who have never had a planning training is alarming, but this is hardly surprising as many project and program management training courses do not include a planning module. Planning is becoming a lost art.

I often ask myself, how did this happen, who thought that this would be a good idea?

One of my great friends, Doug Fain, is one best planners I have ever worked with he worked for NASA and was involved in planning several missions. There is nothing that Doug cannot plan.

He once told me that for one of the missions, they needed to have a special alloy invented which could stand intense heat, without this invention, then mission would not be possible. As part of the plan, he worked backwards from when they needed the alloy, to create a date by which it needed to be invented, then he planned the R&D tasks needed in order to give them a chance to develop the new alloy with sufficient time to complete the mission.

Fortunately for Doug, the R&D group came through and the alloy was developed with time to spare.

As leaders we should look to re-establish planning as a core skill within our organisations, we should look to provide detailed training  and coaching and create expert planners. With a core of expert planners we will significantly improve our on-time delivery and reduce total costs by reducing costly project overruns and eliminate waste.

If you’re looking for good planning resources and training, I can highly recommend, CEGB Consulting and just ask for Doug.


Remember if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail!