One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is that they don’t have time for planning. Keep in mind that these clients have tools and a process in place, but they still avoid using them. Why? They have “too much work to do”. The best way to solve this conundrum is to gain a better understanding of what planning is and then start planning to plan. Make time for intentional planning.
Planning is part of the work and you should consider it as such. You need to be all about intentional planning in your work.
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
— Dwight D. Eisenhower
Eisenhower planned the biggest project known to man! Remember that D-Day was not originally scheduled for June 6, 1944, but had to be moved because of weather. Because of planning, the Allies were able to adjust their plan to accommodate it.
The Act of Planning
You learn things through the act of planning. You better understand what can go wrong. The resources required to accomplish your goal becomes clearer. You discover tasks that you might have originally overlooked. Contingencies become more apparent.
Without going through this process, you are essentially running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Yes, I know that’s not a pretty picture, but it applies. If you are frenzied, frantic, and chaotic, then you are much less effective and efficient.
I have a perfect example. I came into a new project as a project manager with a new client. One of the tasks was to “build reports”. The task was supposedly mostly done — and definitely mostly due. The developer and the client had been discussing it for weeks. I barely had the opportunity to ask for a list of what reports were due before the due date.
My mistake was not itemizing each report. I should have proved a place for discussion and clarity on each — and required them to stop and have said clarifying discussion. Rather, I allowed them to keep working. (Hint: this was a rookie move.) A week after they were due, lack of completion frustrated the client. Comparatively, the developer didn’t know what remained to finish because they had a running commentary on the reports as a whole.
If I had just taken the, literally, 3 minutes it would have required to list each deliverable out separately, that whole mess could have been avoided. Doing it after the fact did not have good results!
To be more intentional with your planning, schedule a 1/2 hour every Friday afternoon to prep for the following week and align your to-do list with reality. Look at your meetings. Look at your workload and at your commitments outside of work. Now, look at your to-do list. What can you REALISTICALLY accomplish? And don’t forget that something most assuredly will throw you off track. Adjust your schedule and list accordingly, rather than allowing the chaos to get a hold of you.
If you just can’t make yourself do it… or if you hate doing it… then it is probably time to get some “help”. The help comes in the form of another person taking a look at the tools you have in place and reminding you of where you stand against your plan on a regular basis. If you find the right person, then he can help you rearrange and reprioritize. Depending on your workload, the person doesn’t have to be full-time. Here are some places to find help:
- a detail-oriented partner (friend, spouse, significant other)
- a detail-oriented employee
- hire a real project manager (FYI — I’m available for part-time projects!)
Being intentional about your planning will change your world. It will enhance your client relationships. Your team members will work more efficiently. Your projects are not as likely to go over budget or get out of scope as often. It will also help the main goal: completing projects!
Originally published at Beyond the Chaos: Small Business Project Management and Operations Consulting.