What is a plan?

13 March 2017

antoine

A plan is a compromise. With whom? With ourselves. It is the promise that we have made with ourselves to work well, effectively, efficiently… It is not yet another document that gets done because it needs to be done, because I have been asked to do it or because doing it makes me look good. It is a work tool that, like any tool, when used wisely makes your work easier or just simply allows you to do it.

I still remember my first time, when I was very young, gullible and innocent, I wanted to offer my services as a trainer on OpenProj (a powerful project planning tool) to an entrepreneur in the construction industry. I began by telling him about all the aspects of the syllabus that I thought he needed and, of course, that I had at least a dozen more points to discuss during the training. My passion was only equalled by my innocence.

After a few minutes ranting about the potential course contents (how to plan at nearly zero cost, how to balance resource loads, how to be more efficient, how to fix bottlenecks, etc.), the businessman stopped me and said: “Wait, wait, wait… wait a second. Look, all I need from you is to teach me how to make a nice Gantt chart so that I can copy it into my project proposal. I will do the project the way I want to, the way I have always done throughout my life.” My world came crashing down (and I had sold the course, my first course!). This construction entrepreneur did not care about planning, he simply cared about making it look like he planned. That was all!

A plan is not an aesthetic operation, it is not only for show. A plan involves foresight, anticipation, not letting life (which usually conspires against us) hit us too often or too hard. We seek to lay the foundations so that the implementation phase doesn’t have to be a living hell, or a daily adventure where you wake up not knowing where the surprises, inconveniences, problems or fires to put will be coming from.

Ironically (or not, perhaps it is simply poetic justice), people who do not plan usually complain about their bad luck, how bad things are, how wicked other people are (who do not do their work well, do not worry about the project, who want to blow it up). People who do not plan always have an excuse, but they never have results. They do not understand the difference between unforeseen and unforeseeable. They are the ones who, at the end of the day, deliver their projects late, go over budget or simply fall short of their targets.

Because, let’s be honest, wanting something badly does not mean that it will come true. It takes more than that. You need a plan. Because a plan, ultimately, is all that separates us from fulfilling our dreams.

 

Marc Ambit – Consultant and trainer

 

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