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Why a plan is important

planning, project management, change, business, support

Why planning is important 

6 March 2019

Of course we don’t need a plan for everything we do, for example, the everyday activities that we complete or undertake at home or at work. 

Although to some extent we do create a plan, albeit subconsciously …. making the morning cuppa involves deciding which mug to use, if you are going to complete another task whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, how many sugars (can I manage without today or will that wait until tomorrow?) etc 

But there are some things that would benefit from a plan, both at home or at work. 

Holidays – where I am wanting to go, when do I want to go: a beach holiday in the UK would be less appealing in January than August, likewise skiing maybe less successful in July than February, depending on the resort chosen. We may choose to take a less planned route, allowing things to evolve – perhaps booking a couple of weeks holiday and having an outline plan, travelling initially to France and then moving on as the mood and holiday progresses; being only limited by the time and our financial constraints.

There are other activities though that require more thought – often deliberating and discussions with others to decide the best route. We might not class that as planning, but it is. These are usually more significant activities such as weddings, moving house. Large or complex activities that need things to happen at certain times to ensure that the outcome is what we want it to be. And the result to our satisfaction. We undertake these with excitement and energy – investigating options online and then in person; seeking advice from friends and family; making sure that we have the best value for money and considering options for making the same outcome possible but at a cheaper cost.

Planning may be thought of to be a financially related activity – only those things that will cost us a lot of money will need to be planned. That might not be the case – there was a public information advertisement in the 1970’s – ‘Wish I’d brought me brolly’ which explained the use of the Pelican crossing to a small child. The brolly was hung on the crossing whilst they waited for the ‘man’ to turn green. After crossing the road successfully, and having explained the importance of doing so, it started to rain and they realised they’d left the brolly behind. ‘Wish I’d brought me brolly’ was the closing line – but underlines the importance of planning (the brolly was taken out) and carrying through the plan (leaving the brolly behind was not carrying through the plan) to ensure full success – whilst the road was crossed, they got wet having left the brolly behind.

Understandably, not a world ending issue, but a simple way of demonstrating that the best laid plan can fail if not followed through fully.

So it is with work based planning. Do we plan for all our activities? Or only when things appear to be going wrong? Do we have a criteria for which activities are classed as projects and so warrant the investment of planning? How often do we approach project planning with the enthusiasm we do so for our own activities?

Work based planning usually isn’t met with the same enthusiasm as our planning for personal events. But why? Work occupies about 1/3rd of our waking day – more if you include commuting to and fro, and the lasting effect the working day has on us. So planning for ‘non–business as usual’ activities must be important?

Planning all too often takes place divorced from those who will be completing the work, and so presented with the plan they feel disengaged and not involved in the process. Completing the work to prescribed requirements and conditions is their role in the process. Whilst this may be appropriate for some tasks, in the vast majority of cases, engagement with the delivery team is key to making the plan work. Discussing and planning together – with sticky notes, flip charts and pens, or whiteboard and pens – is the key way to understanding how the activity as a whole will be brought together. It enables so many things to be gained, including:

     • Engagement and true buy in of the delivery team;

     • Identification of synergies between key activities and day-to-day processes;

     • Better communications;

     • Identification of staffing strengths and weaknesses;

     • Increased efficiency and effectiveness of the whole team;

     • Better understanding of how the business works;

     • Identification of risks and issues – and management of them in advance;

     • Identification of pinch points / critical activities within the activity

     • Opportunities to make far reaching changes – beyond the activity(s) concerned.

If this can be gained from planning just one key activity, just think how much better a business could perform if its whole activities were to be planned. 

By planning an activity, there is more visibility of the actions required: who will do what and when. It helps make sure that you have the right people available at the right time, sub activities are identified and ready at the point in time at which they are needed, communications can be made, and the final completed product delivered at the right time and to the cost and quality required. Its no point in having the most incredible product ready if its too late or cost so much that the business needs to close as a result.

Taking this approach at a higher level ensures that the profitability of a business is maintained and supports its longevity. Mapping a business’s activities to support its business plan enables the business to perform better, with foresight and understanding of what the decisions a senior management team make have on the business one week, one month or six months in the future:

     • Capacity – are there sufficient resources: financial, people or components / products;

     • Capability – is the team able to perform their tasks;

     • Communication – does the team know what is needed of them and why? 

The three C’s are key to making sure that your business works in the best way that it can, so that you can plan for your future. Whatever that may mean….