Do I really need a project plan?

by Stuart on 1 August 2011


If you want your project to have any chance of succeeding, then you need to plan it.

In my course “Running Successful Projects” I use the example of decorating a room to illustrate the principles of project planning, on the grounds that most people are familiar with what has to be done when decorating a room. And it works pretty well.

Recently, I had to really decorate a room, and I mentioned this at a course, to be greeted with demands to see my Gannt chart for this project. When I announced that I had no chart, you can imagine the jeers and catcalls – until I explained why.

I listed the tasks that were required to complete my project. I put together a network to show what had to happen and in which order. I even estimated the length of time each task would take. But then I stopped. I didn’t work out the plan in any more detail. And why? Because I work as a consultant, and I can’t guarantee which days I will be working. If a client calls, do I tell them that I’m busy painting tomorrow, or do I attend to their needs?

So my planning went as far as I needed it to, and I could figure that, if I had no interruptions, then the job would be complete in about 7 days. Because I had a plan, I could make sure that I had all the supplies required ready in time to use them, and I knew what I was doing next. And when things didn’t go quite right I could juggle the remaining tasks, because I had a plan.

In the end I had a couple of days in the middle where I needed to look after a client, but that didn’t matter. I was able to keep on top of the job because I knew what was happening next and what supplies I would need.

So, the answer to the question is yes. Always yes. But how detailed a plan depends on so many things. How complex is the project, how many resources involved, how critical is it to your organisation, etc?

But you always need some sort of plan.

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