The concept of planning has a very intuitive appeal, irrespective of the type and size of endeavor. Who wouldnâ€™t want to undertake an activity without a little bit of upfront planning? Will you take your car and just head out for the next family weekendÂ in the neighboringÂ town â€“ without first checking if your car is roadworthy for the long drive, has enough gas, or needs a visit to the garage before the long drive? Will you buy a house without first checking your cash flows and other commitments for the next couple of years? Will you get your kids admitted to the nearest school you come across, or you will do little bit of investigation and plan is based on your specific needs and childâ€™s comfort?
Still then, it comes as a great surprise when many among us disregard the benefits of planning things upfront. While they might still succeed in a trivial pursuit, for it might present very predictable outcome, require relatively risk-free approach, is generally easy to recover from a bad position, have virtually all resources at oneâ€™s disposal, etc. While such trivial â€˜projectsâ€™ might not demand a rigorous planning, we should also note that often such planning is a very intuitive process, one that happens very effortlessly and unconsciously in our minds. Such planning, or several of its elements, have been executed so many times that one doesn’t have to think of anything else – it just happens. To an untrained eye, it might appear like a careless approach where nothing is being planned, and yet the actors seem to be in supreme control – it is nothing short of magic! However, let the vision not get the better of logic.
However, for any non-trivial problem, or a trivial problem with a few key changes, or some last-minute unpleasant surprises, the life is not that easy. They transform into wild beasts that donâ€™t obey their masters anymore, they behave randomly (or at least unpredictably), and unless you address them proactively, they are only more likely to make things increasingly difficult for you. What followsÂ then is the endless loop of firefighting (often leading to ‘immortal projects’ that I conceptualised in my earlier blog post “From Project Immortality to Project Moksha“).Â So, why is it that some people refuse to plan their projects, choosing instead to clean up their mess over long evenings and frustrating weekends over the next several months? Here are some of the reasons that I have come across:Â Â
- Our project is too large to plan
- Our project is too small to plan
- Planning is waste of time and effort â€“ Iâ€™d rather be coding right now!
- Planning commits me to something that I must stick to at all times, even when the world around me has changed.
- Publishing the plan will expose buffers in the plan to our customers
- Publishing the plan will expose buffers in the plan to project team members
- If we publish our plan, customer will question our productivity being low
- The project is evolving and the situation is changing on a daily basis
- We are too deep fire-fighting the project â€“ have no time to plan at this point
- Why plan things that are too simple, and as for things that are too complex â€“ well, you anyway canâ€™t manage them, so why plan?
- We believe in adaptive processes rather than a predictive planning
- Planning involves tracking which means supervision of a personâ€™s time. We think that creates mistrust in the team.
- We do burn-down chart which is better for projecting the delivery date
- The sub-contractor is responsible for project plan
- This is just a simple porting work
- Next 2-3 months we will be doing real research. There is no way I can manage that effort to a plan!
- Plans are for the weak-hearted, the brave hearts face the tornado head-on
- We typically estimate and pad it by 30% to make it a realistic plan
- We canâ€™t estimate number of bugs we will get in the testing phase, and hence canâ€™t plan for those phases
- Someone or other is always leaving our team or the company. No use building plans around them.
- All real work happens in nights and over weekends. Plans have always failed us.
- Our customer only cares for working software
- Requirements are always changing
- Customer has given us fixed end-date, so our plan doesn’t count
- My management will always underprovision team resources
- Doing estimation won’t speed up the project – it will take the same time even without an estimation
- We do Agile
- We do Scrum
- Plans are anyway changing all the time
- I have the project plan – here it is in the gantt chart
- Our project is diferent – planning will stifle the innovation and creativity
- Any version 1.0 product will be like that only!
You might have seen variations of these, or brand-new excuses. Feel free to share them here. We need to deglamorize these lame excuses for they serve no one’s interests. At best, they handcuff us into existing methodology, and at worst, they ensure project immortality (discussed above). Both are fatal for your project’s success.
What’s your excuse not to plan your project ?