Plan to Change

April 10, 2013

How many of you have a personal 5-year plan?

Ok, I see a few hands raised.

How many of you have a plan for the project you are on right now?

Ok, lots of raised hands again.

Now, how many of you have feared changes to your plans?

Come on, be honest… Yep, most of us raised our hands again.

Don’t fear changes.

This applies whether we’re talking personal plans (“What do I want to be when I grow up?”) or professional plans (“This piece of functionality is an absolute must-have!”). There is a great quote from the 19th century, “no plan survives contact with the enemy” (Helmuth Karl Bernhard Graf von Moltke). Plans are always made with imperfect information. We should not fear to adjust them when we know more.

Don’t not plan.

Many of us have run into times where we see a series of plans that wind up getting changed over and over. It is easy to start to wonder why we should bother with planning in the first place. Be wary of that trap. Not planning at all can be even worse than holding on to a plan when you should let it go.

Plan to change.

Often times we fear changes to our plans because we’ve made promises to others based on those plans (“I’ll show up at 8:00” or “We’ll have this to you by Friday”). If those plans assume everything goes perfectly, it is easy to fail on our promises. How can our plans take that into account? By buffering for contingencies (either for specific identified risks or for generic unplanned events). Just make sure that the appropriate people know you’ve buffered for risks.