Benjamin Franklin said it best, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Planning is critical to any project’s success. Poor project planning is like letting your soldiers go to battle without any armor or weapon to use. It’s like going in the project blindly and still hoping things would turn out smoothly. You’re essentially depending on luck. But any business owner should do better than letting Lady Luck take over.

Every project we embark on incurs time, effort, and costs. You are in the business of making a profit and poor planning will side-track you from hitting that goal. Poor planning will inevitably incur wastes – wasted time, effort, and money. Let’s say you do end up finishing your project, but at what cost?

When the project budget is overstretched, deadlines missed, team members, demotivated, and the expectations of customers are not met, can you still say you successfully finished your project? I doubt it. But project failure can be mitigated if proper planning is in place.

Reasons for Project Failure

The PMI Pulse of the Profession 2018 report showed that out of the 4,455 survey respondents 39% of them said that change in the organization’s priorities causes projects to fail. 29% of them said it’s because of inadequate vision or goal for the project, while 28% of them said it’s due to inaccurate cost estimates. These statistics emphasize that poor planning increases the chance of project failure.

There are a number of reasons why projects fail. Some project performance factors are crucial to any project implementation, and the lack or insufficiency of efforts towards these factors may lead to project failure. These factors are:

  • Focus on business value, not technical detail
  • Establish clear accountability for measured results
  • Have consistent processes for managing unambiguous checkpoints
  • Have a consistent methodology for planning and executing projects
  • Include the customer at the beginning of the project and continually involve the customer as things change so that the required adjustments can be made together
  • Manage and motivate people so that project efforts will experience a zone of optimal performance throughout its life
  • Provide the project team members with the tools and techniques they need to produce consistently successful projects

The fourth factor covers the importance of project planning. Inadequate planning is one of the major reasons why projects spin out of control. I couldn’t agree more. I believe the majority, if not all, of the seven project performance factors, are directly related to having a planning methodology to execute your projects.

There must be a plan in place to set the goals and objectives of the project, to declare the tools and strategies that the team will use to manage the project requirements, to deal with risks and uncertainties, to manage stakeholders, and to keep your project team motivated. All these factors require some degree of planning to aim for an optimal result. While it can be expected that project scope can creep and risks may surface, if you didn’t plan how to tackle and manage these, then your project will fail.

Effects of Poor Planning

Poor planning can lead to serious consequences, especially in the latter part of your project. Here are some of the effects of poor project planning:

Lack of Stakeholder Support

At the onset of any project, a clear definition of goals and objectives must be set out. This needs to be communicated to stakeholders so you can establish alignment and common understanding. If you don’t have a clear project definition presented to your stakeholders, you will have a difficult time getting their buy-in. Stakeholders often have different expectations of each project. For them to sponsor it, they must clearly understand what the project is about and why they would rally behind it.

Poor Budget and Timeline Estimates

Projects are normally bound by resources and time. When a project team starts to work without clear knowledge of just how much they can spend on a project and when they should deliver, things can spiral out of control. There would be instances where the company would have to spend more money adding resources just to meet their deadline. Or stretch their deadline just to meet their goals. This is often due to poor planning on the side of project management.

It’s important that before any project starts, a clear assessment of how much resources and time is needed to complete the project is done. Having that upfront planning in place can significantly lower the possibility of spending over your budget or missing your deadline. Or better yet, it can save you from committing these mistakes ultimately.

Poor Scope Control

While some degree of scope change can and will happen within a project, it’s important to establish acceptable coverage. That’s why having a defined and agreed upon high-level scope at the start of any project can help you gain a better hold of what scope changes you can and cannot accommodate. If you don’t establish a high-level scope, then you can expect change requests coming left and right. This will inevitably affect your budget, timelines, and the morale of your team.

Why Planning is Important

Planning sets the tone for any project and affects every aspect of it. A good project plan would tell you who is responsible for what, when deliverables should be completed, and how to effectively execute the project. Your planning methodology will also be your basis in monitoring your progress and evaluating whether your project is successful or not.

Don’t let poor planning be the downfall of your project. Spend time and effort defining your project objectives, scope, risks, budget, priorities, team responsibilities, project execution methodology, and change management procedures. With this upfront planning, you’ll be more prepared to tackle issues as you go along the project and not end up firefighting all the time.

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