Planning Variation by Industry
e best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men,
Gang a agley.
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!
Dierent industries may require dierent types of projects and have
dierent project management needs. is undoubtedly has an impact on
the need for planning and the eect of planning on success.
Zwikael and Globerson (2006) found that construction and engineering
had the highest quality of planning and highest reported success, whereas
production and maintenance companies had the lowest quality of planning
and lowest reported rates of success. “Construction and engineering orga-
nizations, which scored the highest on project success, also obtained the
highest score on quality of planning. Production and maintenance orga-
nizations, which scored the lowest on project success, received thelowest
quality score as well” (p. 694). ey also noted this is not the case for so-
ware and communications organizations. ey had a high degree of plan-
ning but still oen delivered projects with poor results. ey stated that
this may be due to riskier technology and environment, control issues,
oroverly ambitious projects. ere is, of course no way to know if projects
in these industries would have been even less successful had a high quality
of planning not beeninplace.
e production and maintenance industry is less project focused and may
have less of an entrenched project culture and less of an entrenched project
planning culture. e services industry is third in planning and second in
success, and soware and communications were second in planning and
third in success. ese last two results can be attributed to either dierences
34 • Project Planning and Project Success: e 25% Solution
in the impact of planning on each industry or the fact soware and com-
munications industries may be challenging environments. I think it is
clearly the latter. Project management training is popular in soware and
communications elds specically because they are environments where
failed projects are common. Good planning is required in this industry but
may not fully counteract the challenges and complexities found there.
Zwikael (2009) also identied the importance of the PMBOK
nine knowledge areas to project success and analyzed the impact by
industry. He showed that there is a marked dierence in the types of
knowledge areas that aect project success by industry. e study implies
that the importance of planning, which areas of planning are most impor-
tant, and the optimum quantity of planning can all vary by industry.
Early in my career, I worked as an engineer at a nuclear plant. It was there
I started to understand the benets of planning ahead, both profession-
ally and personally. As a maintenance engineer, I was required to ensure
that spare parts were available for the equipment. For less frequently used
parts, this involved watching the inventory lists and ordering parts when
there were one or two parts le in inventory. As you can imagine needing
a part and then waiting a couple of weeks for delivery was not acceptable.
A plant could not sit idle, producing no electricity for want of a single part,
perhaps as simple as a small seal. So parts would always be ordered as soon
as inventory went down to one or two items. I realized that applying this
to life in general could reduce wasted time and hassles. Don’t plan to buy
supplies when you are out; write it down when you are almost out. Keep
a running list on the fridge. I found with a little preplanning, emergency
runs to the grocery store for milk, sugar, or toilet paper disappeared, and
I could use that time for other things. ere is a more general lesson here.
Spending a bit of time earlier can save a lot of wasted time later.
Collyer et al. (2010) found that approaches to planning varied greatly
within industries. ey reported dierences in formality of planning that
varied with the dynamism of the environment. is ranged from less
dynamic (construction and defense) to highly dynamic (lm, venture cap-
ital, and technology). For example, a construction project will have highly
detailed requirements (architectural blueprints) that should not be devi-
ated from during the course of the project without careful change control.
Similarly, a defense project will dene the exact functions of the equip-
ment being built. Film or venture capital, on the other hand, must be more
exible. If something is not working during execution, it will be quickly
changed to assure success. For example, if amovie shoot is not going well,