Why Planning is More Important than Plans
Project management is intimately associated with the production of detailed plans, charts and schedules, constantly re-affirming Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s belief that “a goal without a plan is just a wish.” Planning is generally considered to be a higher-level process concerned with ‘how to initiate and execute the set of objectives’. Plans provide simulated maps of the unfolding future which act as baselines against which reality is assessed and expectations and achievements are monitored. Plans thus provide mechanisms for reasoning about actions independently of implementation. Projects rely on static plans to overcome the inherent uncertainty and novelty associated with completing a task, with the underlying assumption that if planning can be done ‘properly’, the rest of the project will be easier to manage. Plans are therefore used to anticipate and predict circumstances allowing an organised deployment of resources. The sixth edition of the APM Body of Knowledge positions planning as a key area under integrative management, explaining that “planning determines what is to be delivered, how much it will cost, when it will be delivered, how it will be delivered and who will carry it out”. The APM Body of Knowledge clarifies that following approval from senior management, the detailed documentation, referred to as the project plan, is prepared during the definition phase. This detailed documentation provides comprehensive answers to the following questions related to the delivery of the project: Why? What? How? Who? When? How much? Where? The agreed management plan incorporating answers to the full set of questions provides the baseline, thereby forming the basis for gate reviews designed to assess the continuing validity of the work.