Can a Project be Overplanned?

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Josh Nankivel 6 years, 8 months ago.

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  • #153359

    Bill Brantley

    Good post on finding a balance between project planning and project execution.How much project planning is enough for a successful project?

    In my opinion, I don’t think you can overplan a project because of the iterative nature of project planning. Agree or disagree?

  • #153371

    Josh Nankivel

    I disagree. I think projects can be over planned.

    It’s probably semantics though Bill. I think your reference to iterative planning is sound, but I don’t see where “I don’t think you can overplan a project” follows.

    Primarily, overplanning occurs when trying to do a fairly detailed design or work packages for work months or even years out into the future. The more time that exists between now and when it’s to be done, the more likely it should be a high-level planning package. Spending time on detailed design before you know enough is pure muda (waste).

  • #153369

    Peter Sperry

    I thought over planning and over engineering projects was a statutory requirment in the Federal Government!!!! How else are we going to put new systems into production that are 2-3 generations behind what the user has in their home office? If we stop overplanning and over engineering, we run the grave risk of completing projects on time and within budget. This could spell disaster for the CIOs trying to justify their ever expanding empires. It is even possible the federal government could become more than a series of over budget, behind schedule DME projects that occaisonally deliver a few public services on the side. Please eliminate all thought of not over planning and over engineering projects from the public mind. The very idea threatens government as we know it. 🙂

  • #153367

    Josh Nankivel

    LOL, now that was fantastic Peter!

  • #153365

    Corey McCarren

    I believe so, flexibility is key to successful projects. I feel like if you overplan then it’s much more difficult to be flexible, since changing one thing can change so many others. Attention to detail is important, but what’s most important is accomplishing the goal, which is never going to go exactly as planned.

  • #153363

    Josh Nankivel

    I agree Corey, in my experience too over-planning yields a project environment where teams are resistant to change even if it’s clear the change is really the right thing to do.

    “In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

  • #153361

    Bill Brantley

    Asking about overplanning is a question I like to use in my project classes. Josh picked up on the part about semantics which is my point. The reason for a project is to create a solution to a problem and not the perfect project plan. I was going to use the Eisenhower quote but Josh beat me to it.

    A common mistake I see with beginning project managers is they spend a great deal of time trying to account for all eventualities in their project plan. They act as if once the project plan has been completed, it cannot be changed. I believe some of that is due to what they learned in Earned Value Management where you need a baseline so that you can accurately make the calculations. The project plan is a noun, an object that must be preserved in it’s original form.

    This is why I say you cannot overplan a project if you think of planning as a verb. You should constantly plan from the beginning of the project until you end the project. It is not possible to account for all possibilities when you start a project so your initial planning should be focused around fully defining the problem that the project will solve and what the customer considers success when you deliver the project solution.

    As you execute the project plan, you will constantly refine your budget, schedule, and tasks while maintaining scope (and even scope can change if you are working on an agile project). You will also have to constantly work your risk management plan especially if you have a long time-horizon. Think of it this way: your ultimate goal is to deliver the solution according the success criteria set by the customer. Your planning is your GPS to that destination but you should feel free to “recalculate” to keep you on course toward that successful solution.

    But, if you use project planning as Peter so humorously illustrates, you can easily overplan. In that case, project planning is a game of “Gotcha!” in which the project manager and the customer use the project plan as a weapon. The project manager screams “new change request” and demands more money because what the customer wants now isn’t in the requirements.The customer often supplies vague requirements that make it difficult for the contractor to determine what the success criteria is. In this case, project planning is more of a skirmish than a joint effort to collaboratively arrive a satisfactory project result.

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