Chapter 5

Planning: risks and rewards

THERE IS ONLY ONE TIME when it is possible to state the cost and end date of a project with certainty: when it is complete. No matter how well supported it is, every assertion until then is an estimate. Even if a customer or supplier wishes to fix a price or the deadline is “of the essence”, too much can change for anyone to treat the budget or timescale as anything more than a target. A target and a plan, however, are two very different things. A target is an objective or a goal. A plan should describe how that goal will be met.

Targets such as dates and budgetary figures are easy to set, and because they are, in the desire to meet them a project can become driven by urgency and economy rather than pragmatism and balance. All too often, projects fail because a target was mistaken for a plan.

In cultures where there is an urgency to see results, the benefits of planning are often forgotten until it is too late. In many instances plans are not produced because it is thought there is not enough time to think ahead. A former colleague of the author once ruminated that his organisation never appeared to have the time to plan, yet it always found enough time to do the project twice.

In organisations where projects are small or familiar, there is sometimes a feeling that there is no need to plan. The risk of the absence of a plan is not thought to be great enough to warrant creating one. But this does not recognise the high likelihood of change. ...

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