“Planning is useless!” is something I have heard myself say on a few occasions. But let’s make things clear. Planning is not useless. What is useless is doing any of the following things:

  • Planning without detail: a task like Organising a conference day is not a task, but a stage. And it needs to be broken down in greater detail. If it is not broken down into indivisible tasks we cannot call it planning, and therefore it is useless.
  • Not following the plan: if we have a plan but don’t follow it (because we don’t trust it, because it is not realistic, etc.), it is useless. Furthermore, it is counterproductive.
  • Not monitoring the plan while it is progressing: as opposed to the above, executing a plan and not monitoring it to find deviations, risks (which are materialising) and opportunities to improve efficiency, makes it useless.

So, strangely enough, what is useless is exactly what those who claim that “planning is useless” do. Not planning in detail, not following the plan or not monitoring it causes all the problems that these people associate with planning, when the truth is that they are caused by bad planning.

It is therefore necessary to make our plans closer to reality (this means planning more carefully and in greater detail), so we can progress according to the plan in the most reliable way possible (a plan is typically an optimistic vision of a future reality, so its purpose is to force us to implement it in an “ideal” way; the closer we are to it, the better), and establish monitoring patterns that allow us to react to unforeseen and unforeseeable events.

Time is up for excuses and avoiding the issue. Planning is useful, but only to those who commit to it.


Marc Ambit – Consultant and teacher at TBS Barcelona Campus

Tags: planning|project management

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