Immediately, the day you start to execute the plan, you will find that your plan has flaws.  This is because your plan has become out-dated and incorrect as soon as it is put into play.

TRUTH:  In a living interactive world full of human interaction - everything is changing, with and sometimes without logic and no person has the ability to 100% totally predict the future - and this is a constant we live with and try to get things done as best as we can.

TRUTH: We can sometimes be arrogant with our plan and think it is SO good that there will be a "Single Optimal Future" that must be achieved. 

TRUTH: In the real world of a project, there will be "Multiple Possible Futures" and you will never know all the influencers, so you must be managing your project from start to finish and try to be a close as possible to your original plan.


So why do we get so stressed when things do no go according to plan? Why do we Curse the Plan?

ANSWER:  ha, ha, there is no single answer, and never will be, this is so complex and is essentially part of a journey - not a race!  

Continue to chip away and "Stay the Course". We must be able to manage our stress when we have to conduct "Decision making with levels of uncertainty".

The higher level of project risk that exists (e.g. complexity and uniqueness), the higher the level of unknowns.

Thus one should expect things to not go exactly to the plan.  But to continue to identify the multiple possible futures and multiple possible paths available to take us into the best future that we can estimate with the current information at hand.

One must find the path that best balances the objectives and available resources (e.g. people, time, money, equipment, materials, etc) and remember that each path will have a fork, and decisions must be made which fork in the road is to be taken.

This again is why it is so key to spend time up front, in early stages to really have the buy-in and support of the objectives and value that the project must produce.

4 Techniques to help manage this include:

1)  Include in your project lifecycle more phases/stages that occur early on (few people with few resources spent).  If following the PMI methodology, these would occur before "Initiation". In mature organizations it is common to have a:
- Concept Stage: identify the idea, identify value, talk through it and don't try to complicate or over analyze, 

then also include a
- Proposal Stage: talk about feasibility at a high level, is this real, do you think we could achieve it, this is where the amount of resources spent to conduct the feasibility plan or even pilot, will be highly based on the risk threshold of the organization

Then after those two stages are complete (ensure you have gates and deliverables to close the gate), the project can move into the standard PMI lifecycle stages/phases which include:

  • Initiating
  • Planning,
  • Executing,
  • Monitoring and Control,
  • Closing
Finally, it is key to remember, the earlier you bring in a PM, the better.

2)  Clearly know AND understand the different levels of objectives, from top executive sponsor role to the front line stakeholder and customer.  Also it is key that the objectives have a simple definition of the associated value that will be produced.

3)  When we face the unknowns we always have constraints (we will be limited in resources), thus decisions will have to involve "Trade-offs" and must always go back to the objectives.  Ensure the project does not stray too far into a future path that is not recognizable from when the project was started. 

4)  As soon as the idea is hatched, bring in a PM to start the coordination of flowing through the project in a structured manner.  Today we are so inter-connected, that there will be risks that simply cannot be foreseen.  A project manager too often is hired and focused on managing the budget, schedule, scope and quality.  But to truly get maximum value from a PM, enable them to focus on Integration and to coordinate the inter-connected variables that exist within the project - between all the diverse stakeholders.  And it is ever so key to do this right from the start.

PS:  just a quick reminder, don't think it is okay to throw the plan out the window, or minimize the importance of the plan.  We always must plan, do and circle back with a continuous check.  Follow as close as possible to the plan, and take corrective actions as needed.  AND ensure things get recorded (what did not go according to plan) and plan the time for proper lessons learned after the objectives are achieved.  

While in the midst of execution, emphasize working to achieve objectives, we need to change how we think about planning. There could be less emphasis about deliverables, since much of the scope will lack clarity and thus you are destined to not go according to the plan. But ensure if you have a collaborative, creative team, then know your journey and you will achieve your objectives (thinking about the solution, not the parts).