Every Project Needs a Plan

Post By Taras Danylak. Reading time 8 minutes (1,418 words)

In my opinion, there can be no argument about this statement: Every project needs a plan. Absolutely no argument will suffice and no one can convince me otherwise.This is probably the most absolute and definite statement that I can make without ever worrying about being wrong.


Many people will probably agree with me, because logically it makes sense. No matter how little the project is or how big, a proper plan is necessary to bring that project to a successful completion.

Let's say you are planning to do some work in the back yard. You have a choice. You can brainstorm before you do any work and just go for it. Or you can spend five to ten minutes going over the things you need to accomplish, the order that you are going to accomplish them and then go ahead and do it.

So, lets say you decide to skip the planning process and begin working in the back yard. You know that you have to cut the grass, rake the leaves in the flower bed, collect fallen branches and tidy up whatever other things lying around. You begin by taking the lawn mower out and proceed with grass cutting. Half way through the process the mower spews and sputters for a few revolutions and grinds to a halt. You spend the next couple of minutes pulling the cord, in frustration trying to get the damn thing started by sheer willpower. It's not working so you decide to check if there is enough fuel. There is. You wonder what else could have gone wrong. Vaguely, you remember that you haven't filled up the lawn mower with oil since last year. You check the oil and it's empty. Great, now you have to go get the oil. You get into you car, drive to local hardware store, pickup some WD40 goodness, drive back, fill up the mower and half hour later you begin anew.

A hour later the mowing is done and because the lawn mower is the mulching type, you don't really need to rake the cut grass. So, you continue to your next task, raking the leaves. You take the rake out of the shed, go to the flower bed and begin raking. It's going pretty quick and in an hour you have a few piles of dead and rotting leaves ready to be put into yard waste bags. Two minutes spent looking for the bags in the shed raise a suspicion that you have no bags at all. Not ready to give, you go to the garage and that suspicion becomes a reality. A thought occurs in your mind, you should have picked up some yard waste bags while you were getting the oil. Well, life isn't fair, so you get into the car, drive to the hardware store, get the bags, and while you there pick up some twine to tie up the fallen branches. You pat yourself on the back for being smart and drive back. Forty minutes of your time gone.

Finally, you have collected the leaves, picked up and tied up all fallen branches. You feel like you have accomplished a lot. To see if there is anything else you can do, you decide to do a once-over of the whole back yard. On the walkabout you notice the bushes next to your fence need to be trimmed. It's a quick job if you have the trimmer and you recall thinking about getting a trimmer a few months back. Cursing, you are faced with the choice of driving back to the store, getting the trimmer and trimming the bushes or you leaving that job for another day. Since it's a nice day out and you still have plenty of day light left, you decide to go to the store and get the trimmer. Half an hour later you're happily trimming away.

The trimming is done, time to pick up the trimmings and any other yard waste laying around. You go to the shed to get the yard waste bag only to realize that you used them all up for leaves and fallen branches. You swear out loud, get into your car and for the fourth time that day you drive to the hardware store. You pick up three times as many bags as you need, pay the cashier, who, this time, greets you by name since you've already been there three times, and drive home to finish the job.

Another half hour, you hope the last, and you get home. You go to the backyard, pick up all the waste and definitively decide not to do anything else in your backyard that day. The end.

What I've described is not a typical day in the lay of anyone wanting to do some yard work, I hope. But, I bet you've driven at least once and in many cases twice to the hardware store on one Saturday. There is always something missing, a tool that's broken, more bags needed, etc.

Compare and contrast this unplanned project with a planned one.

You begin your day by deciding what you would like to accomplish that day. The best way to do that is to write it down on paper. This forms a sort of a contract you make with yourself. These goals are what I going to accomplish today, you write on a sheet of paper, which we will call your project plan.

Next, you perform a preliminary assessment. Based on your goals, you do a walkabout around the yard noting what needs to be done, you notice that the bushes need trimming for example. You add that to the goal list.

Now you need to decide what tools or resources in project management speak, you will need. Cutting the grass requires a working lawn mower, raking leaves requires a good rake and paper bags to collect them, fallen branches will need bags and/or some twine to tie them up, and finally the bushes will need a trimmer to trim them and yard waste bags to collect the trimmings.

You write these things down on you project planning sheet of paper, below your goals. To ensure that you have all you need you check the lawn mower, gas and oil, check if you have any yard waste bags and twine. You know that you don't have a trimmer so you make a decision to buy it. You calculate the number of bags you're going to need and write it down. Total time to get this plan ready, no more then ten minutes.

Looking over your plan, you probably feel like you've already accomplished a lot. The next step is to drive to the store, get all of the things you need and drive back. Forty minutes later, you're back and ready to go.

The project is completed with time to spare, no time wasted driving back and forth to the hardware store, you save gas, your frustration level is non-existent and you feel like you've accomplished a lot today. You deserve a nice cold beer.

As you can tell, every project needs a plan. Even a small, one-day yard clean up project described above. Planning it out in advance saves you time, money and frustration. It also goes without saying that big projects need much more detailed planning in order to make sure they are completed successfully.

I personally try my best to follow the following six Ps, whenever I do anything. Here they are:

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance

This saying is not mine, I appropriated it for my own use from Brian Tracy. It is one of the best pieces of advice I've ever received. Brian Tracy also supports these six Ps by saying well begun is half done.

To leave you with a bit of my own advice, here are my 5 quick steps to help you plan any project, no matter how big or small:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Review your resources/tools
  3. Prioritize your goals
  4. Write out a plan, step by step
  5. Follow the plan

If you just do these five things, you will double the chances of your project being successfully done on time.

Remember, bigger projects need much more detailed planning, but you can always start with these five steps.

Failure to plan is planning for failure