‘A Goal without a Plan is just a Wish’
We all automatically plan as part of our daily lives without realising, but the level of planning required varies depending on the task in hand.
If you’re travelling, for example, shorter journeys usually need little planning other than allowing sufficient time to travel from A to B. Longer or unknown journeys involve much more thought, particularly where you have different transport options. While your plan may not be written down, there will be a list of tasks to complete including communication with suppliers such as airlines and train lines plus other people, hence why travel agents are still used by many people.
Thankfully there are good online maps and decent transport links (for the most part) these days which make planning a lot easier. However, planning the optimum route to a concert in Hammersmith recently took some thought as there were so many options. Eventually it was decided to drive to Ealing Broadway and take the District Line avoiding missing any last trains home if the concert overran. It was a route I’d wanted to try for a while and seemed the simplest solution for everyone involved.
Despite all the planning unfortunately the journey wasn’t without incident. A combination of bad traffic, negotiating yet another online parking app in the car park and unexpected tube train delays all added up. Thankfully, our contingency planning paid off and we were still in good time for the main event and a very good evening.
Our experience did however show that journeys are rarely a straight line and the unexpected always happens. To help manage the unexpected, projects are often broken down into stages. This allows checks at the start and end of each stage to finesse the next stage and reflect on what has happened to date. You can have as many stages as required depending on your success markers.
For example, taking our concert:
- Stage 1, planning
- Stage 2, travelling to the station (worked perfectly).
- Stage 3, parking and travel by train (unexpected delays used all the contingency time)
- Stage 4, the concert (no issues)
- Stage 5, train travel back (more delays but with less impact)
- Stage 6, drive home (no issues)
Looking back the issues were with the public transport which was out of our control but the other stages all went to plan. As a result (lessons learned), we’ll probably simpler to drive straight to the venue next time with sufficient contingency for travel delays.
Similarly, in business, Project Plans are tailored to the length and complexity of the required project journey. Project Plans are a great way to show the tasks, the inter-dependencies between the tasks and key milestones. Plans can also be shown in different ways, from full Gannt charts to high level flow diagrams depending on your audience.
Clients always have their end goal in mind when I first speak to them about their project but the actual journey needs planning. It’s always an interesting process working through the scope and requirements to sketch out the plan and bring together a cohesive and tailored plan that everyone involved can track. It can take time but the more you plan the more successful the final outcome. As Benjamin Franklin famously said, “If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail” and as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry also said ”A goal without a plan is just a wish.” .
Helen runs operational projects for firms to support growing and / or changing businesses, tailored to requirements. For more information please contact [email protected].