Project plans outline a path into an unknown future.
They help us define tasks, assign work and specify timeframes. In a perfect world we’d be able to create a detailed project plan and then follow it precisely. We’d be able to determine all the details of the project with a high degree of accuracy because there are so few unknowns.
Unfortunately, the real world is not so simple and most projects are undertaken in a complex and highly uncertain environment. Evolving requirements, changing business needs, known-unknowns as well as unknown-unknowns are constantly destabilizing the project. Developing a detailed project plan in this situation wastes effort and assumes a degree of accuracy that simply does not exist. In this case a dynamic planning approach where a general plan is progressively elaborated is a better solution.
This is not to say that an overall approach should not be adhered to. Following a standard methodology and reviewing past plans is critical to ensuring that key tasks and risk factors are not missed. It’s just that creating a detailed plan when there are too many unknowns is simply “planning for planning’s sake”.
Stakeholder management is important all the time but it is especially critical to the success of a dynamic approach. Not only do stakeholders need to clearly understand the objectives of the project but they also need to have bought into the approach being undertaken. They need to be shown that the end goal of the project is very clear & stable, it’s just that the path taken to achieve that goal may need to change.
To put dynamic planning into action, project managers need to have a clear project charter that has been agreed by all stakeholders and will be used to guide the project. He or she should then maintain regular checkpoints to validate the work done and set in place a series of trigger points to determine when a future work area should undergo detailed project planning. This needs to be done just far enough in advance to ensure the smooth running of the project is maintained. The plan is then updated and the project continues to move forward.
The Intellilink Team