A plan isn’t planning

Jul 15, 2015 · 2 min read
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“Green curry ingredients” by FotoosVanRobin; CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

It’s often a common situation that you can have an extremely detailed plan for a project; from specification through implementation to delivery. This kind of plan may give middle management and the business stakeholders a warm fuzzy feeling; but it doesn’t have any operational leeway. As the project progresses; you often get the situation that the reporting reality is a fantasy that is far removed from actual reality. The two versions of reality are invariably at odds with each other; and the outcome, at best, is a number of quick fixes that are waiting to blow up in your face.

Like any jury-rigged solution, the short term fix may be acceptable right now, but when it goes on to exist for far longer than anyone anticipated; it will fail in spectacular and unexpected ways just when you least expect it. Every short term fix is brought about by panic driven decision making. Panic driven decisions are only about the present, ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future altogether. Effectively it’s about maximizing the ease and pleasure of the current moment (or limiting the pain of the moment) over trying to make the right decision.
All of this is down to poor planning. Plans that have high-minded objectives; but don’t consider operational reality very closely or are not flexible enough tend to fall into this camp. These kind of plans are perfect for not getting things done; they’re detailed to be somewhat daunting but they are setup perfectly for never being able to accomplish anything.

From a technical perspective planning needs to simple; it just needs to be good enough so that things are able to be refined during the execution. Focus on what steps will get you a little bit further towards your goal; and do them. If you want to build a wall you don’t “build a wall”; you lay bricks over and over again until you have a wall. The big daunting things are invariably made up of small things; the skill is to find the right sized brick.


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