If the plan always changes, then why bother planning?

A client once asked a very challenging question – if the plan always changes then why bother planning in the first place? Fair question, right? Well, we are here to answer it.

Towards the end of a project workshop, we were discussing the need to manage changes to schedule, resource, costs or scope in mid-flight, as these can often diverge from what was originally planned. One participant looked puzzled and piped up:

"If the plan is always changing, then why should we bother planning in the first place?"

Some colleagues looked at this individual in a way that implied they didn’t rate the question worthy of discussion. However, the old saying that ‘there is no such thing as a dumb question’ was never more true than in this case. This simple yet fundamental question spawned a discussion which helped everyone to better fix in their minds why we plan projects.

4* reasons why you always need to plan

  • To prove that, based on current knowledge and working assumptions, the project can be completed successfully within the limits of organisational constraints while ensuring that risks are actively managed
  • To create estimates of time and resource, so that we can procure them through the project sponsor
  • It will help actively engage business stakeholders in thinking about how and when the project will impact their business environments and bring about the intended benefits
  • To agree with stakeholders how and when they will play their part in supporting the project’s goals.

Above the others, it’s also helpful to have a plan in order to…

  • provide a CONTROL mechanism – a ‘route map’ against which we can monitor actual progress, and make decisions about when and whether we should adjust course.

This is not the first question that has sparked a debate in one of our workshops. Let’s take a look at some other common myths when it comes to change planning:

  1. Planning is NOT about scheduling a precise sequence of activities and dependencies – absolute accuracy about the future is unattainable, and striving for it is therefore a waste of precious management effort
  2. The schedule is NOT the plan. Changes to the schedule (for example rearranging a meeting or changing the delivery date of a component) can often occur whilst leaving the overall project plan intact. The plan (route map) is a much wider and strategic view of how to achieve the project, while the schedule is a tactical response to the plan.
What project-related questions do YOU want answered? Let us know in the chat box below and see your question featured in an upcoming blog post.

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