Project Practitioners > PMBOK Tips - Planning

PMBOK Tips - Planning

By Sinikka Waugh

I'll start with this question..."What do you love?"  Do you love the herculean effort of planning?  Do you love collecting requirements and bringing scope, time, and cost into alignment? Do you love creating possible plans and then sharing them with others for feedback, then refining them and trying again?  Do you love thinking through every possible angle and every possible detail in pursuit of "the perfect plan"? 

Or do you love action?  Do you love to start something, get moving, go forward?  Do you love to roll up your sleeves, get to work, and see what can be produced?  Do you love to "do"?

Perhaps you're at one end or the other of the spectrum, or perhaps you're somewhere in the middle, and details such as how big the effort is, how engaged the stakeholders are, and how comfortable you are with the subject area nudges you one way or another.  Perhaps it's not your own preference but the preference of those around you that seems to win out.

Either way, the PMBOK offers us words of caution:

Planning, first and foremost, is not an optional or simple feat.  It is essential, time-consuming, intensive, and often repetitive.  In Section 3.4 "Planning Process Group", the PMBOK reads, "The complex nature of project management may require the use of repeated feedback loops for additional analysis.  As more project information or characteristics are gathered and understood, additional planning will likely be required."

Check out the words that stand out here:

  • "repeated" - not just once, but several times
  • "feedback" - not the opinion of the one, but input from others
  • "loops" - asking for input but then disregarding it is not the way to go
  • "additional" - just when you think you're done, do it some more
  • "more" - there's always more, isn't there?
  • "gathered and understood" - this one's pretty telling - it takes two steps - a first step to assemble, and a second step to comprehend.
  • "require" - the only word in these sentences besides "of" or "the" or "project"" that gets repeated

I think the PMBOK is calling us to do some heavy lifting here in planning.  We're challenged to to not underestimate the weight of planning, and to not attempt to go it just once or to go it alone.

And yet, it's also a commitment to "doing".  The PMBOK reminds us "the act of collecting feedback and refining the documents cannot continue indefinitely."

Read that one again... "the act of collecting feedback and refining the documents cannot continue indefinitely."

Planning, in and of itself, may repeat and repeat and repeat, but the acts of “gathering input” and “updating the documentation” isn't where the power is found.

At some reasonable point, we must take a step forward into doing the work.  We must say "we have planned; and now it's time to execute.”

President Dwight D Eisenhower is quoted as saying  "Plans are worthless, but planning is everything." 

It's not the document itself or the artifact that matters.  It's the very act of doing the planning that counts. 

Planning?  Doing?  Which do you love? How about striking the balance of “doing the planning” and then “doing what you planned”?

With all of these planning tips in mind, we also offer 5 useful quotes about initiating. Read our last blog here.

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