To have the best chance of success in the new year, my resolution is to focus more on planning. Planning is one of those tasks for which many people (myself included) struggle to find time. I believe part of the reason we shy away from planning is the lack of a functional deliverable at the end of a plan. No one comes and gives you a reward or an “atta girl” for building an amazing plan. Even if they do support the plan and admire the work done, the next comment is always,”so when will we have that by?” Often, I have found myself wondering why I bothered developing the plan rather than just starting the work and getting closer to the finish line.
I know I’m not the only one thinking this, so I wanted to share how my perspective of planning has changed. My Aha! moment came with the simple recognition that the purpose of planning is to improve speed to value, not hinder it.
Planning gets a bad reputation when the process slows down speed to value, resulting in the “why bother planning” way of thinking. Therefore, understanding the factors associated with planning that slow down speed to value is crucial. There are two main groups of factors to consider: the strategic components related to the building of the plan and the tactical components related to delivering or executing the plan.
Most common mistakes from a strategic perspective:
- Disconnect between planning at different levels in the organization
- Ambiguous value statement, deliverable definition, and process
- Improper estimation and evaluation (or skipping this altogether)
- Scattered request documentation
- Absence of a validation/ testing plan or success criteria
Most common mistakes from a tactical perspective:
- Deviation from the plan
- Overly cumbersome or overly simple process
- Lack of defense (inability to say “no”)
- Lack of communication and transparency
If done properly, planning will result in higher quality deliverables, decreased overall expenses, optimized overall processes/operations, and increased communication and transparency throughout. This is the recipe for optimal speed to value. Many, however, continue to question the investment in a planning phase because planning hasn’t been successfully deployed throughout their organization or department. I encourage you not to write it off altogether. I’m not promising the transition to successful planning will be easy, but if you ever find yourself struggling to justify the expense of planning, ask yourself “How does the expense of planning compare to the expense of not planning?