Planning is a vital component in a successful project. During training and in the real world, a significant amount of emphasis is placed on adequate planning prior to project engagement. From preplanning to forecasting, team formation layout, to duty and responsibility charting and more, planning is found in every single aspect of project management. However, there’s a chance that your detailed planning is actually harming your project. Going too in-depth with your plans can be a very bad thing. What should you know?
Realize Super-Accurate Estimates Are Inaccurate
In every project, you have to estimate the total cost of the project, including labor, materials and more. This is offset against the value of the project’s deliverables, and any additional value that your project offers the organization. The result after the offset is the actual value of your venture. It can be tempting to estimate your project’s cost down to the penny. Don’t do it. You’ll spend an immense amount of time arriving at that super-accurate estimate, only to find that as time goes on, your costs escalate beyond that point. There’s no way to predict the future, and while an estimated guess can be an excellent way to get close to your total project cost, attempting to be 100% accurate is nothing more than a waste of energy that could be better spent on something else.
Another problem with super-accurate estimates (whether in terms of money or time) is that you’ll have to communicate that information to your stakeholders. Once they have this figure, to them it’s almost set in stone. What happens when you have to explain that this figure is no longer valid? What happens when your expected control doesn’t materialize and you’re over or under on the budget? What will you do when you have to request more time for project completion because of unexpected delays and other hurdles?
The Right Path Forward
Rather than being super-accurate and suffering the inevitable problems that come from your inability to read the future, be pragmatic and estimate what’s necessary. Explain to stakeholders and managers that there’s no such thing as 100% accuracy during planning, but more than this, you must believe it yourself. For many, that will be easy enough to achieve, but for those who get hung up on the smallest of details and have to have the road forward mapped out completely, it can be tough to do.
Set realistic expectations for your project, and above all, plan for the unexpected. Plan to be surprised. Plan for emergencies. Plan for problems to crop up in almost any area and remain flexible. Perhaps the most damaging thing that occurs with super-detailed planning, beyond giving your stakeholders false expectations, is that you limit your options when something unplanned occurs. A rigid approach is a certain way to doom a project. Good project managers should remain flexible throughout the entire project, from preplanning to project wrap up. It’s the only way to ensure that you can get over those hurdles.