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Why should I even bother to make a plan?

It’s a question I often get asked and one I ask myself repeatedly too.

The obvious answer would be that it keeps you on track, encourages you to continue to take steps towards what you are aiming for and it will keep you focussed on where you are going. Depending on your plan’s detail, it may provide you with daily/weekly/monthly tasks and it will probably have a clear outcome with a deadline for milestones. Sounds great, right?

And now that we’ve planned our work, all we have to do is work our plan.

What could possibly go wrong?

I can hear you laughing, just as I am. You know that many things can and will go wrong.

It may be that something that pops up is more interesting than what you are working on and seduces you away, rather too easily! Or the phone rings and it’s something that takes up an hour to sort out, an hour when you’d planned to work on something strategic. Or maybe it’s one of those days when you simply can’t be bothered to do what you know you should be doing.

For me, a plan is a working document, prone to changing frequently if used to its best. On one of the bigger projects I was working in, it was actually someone’s full time job to update and amend the plan, all he did was change it and update it and change it again and again and again. I was always so grateful that wasn’t my responsibility. A plan will be full of changes; there will be replanning, rescheduling, reprioritising, because events change things, impact has to be measured and taken into consideration and the plan? Adjusted.

At the start of this project I thought it was a good idea to keep with up the replanning but when it alterations kept happening I became very agitated by the plan and just wanted to discard it. I wasn’t finding it useful and more annoying in truth.

But the plan wasn’t there for me; it was the way that the project manager kept people flowing with the most important tasks in an ever changing situation.

When the day came that the mission was finished and the project was signed off as closed, the only meeting left was the project review meeting. This was where we were able to compare the plan of intention against the actual events that took place. We were able to see where we were unexpectedly held up, the places we gained time and the milestones that let us celebrate the progress we were making. Lots of learnings for me in that meeting.

In everyday business, it’s the same. When we start out, we have to plot the journey and chunk our work down into easy manageable tasks that make it easy for us to stay on track, regardless of what comes into our way. When working on a project, we are always aiming for a deadline with a list of specific tasks to complete. When we fall off the plan, we have to re-establish our intention and get back on it – unless of course, the intention changes, and then you have to make alternative plans.

One of the myths of planning is once the plan is done it cannot be changed. That way leads to madness, stress and binned plans.

I’d say that a key point to remember is your plan is always done in the current situation and remember that many assumptions are made. Regardless of how many alterations there are to the plan, it is important to stay focused on WHAT we want; the outcome, and stay flexible on HOW we achieve it, the journey.

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