Too Much Planning as Problematic as Too Little


How you think is how you plan is how you execute.

“A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.”

Interesting, yet sometimes flawed, belief. What if…the plan is not “good?”

Too Much Planning as Problematic as Too Little

Too Much Planning as Problematic as Too Little

In most (not all) contexts, what’s the worst that can happen if a plan incurred marginally extra planning that resulted in marginal additional quality? What’s the affect on the outcome? One could argue that the extra degree of planning wasn’t worth the extra degree of quality…which would mean a minor reduction in the effort’s ROI.

But another possibility is far more pernicious.

A hastily-constructed (as well as a too-too ponderous) bad plan today is not only not good tomorrow…it results in negative value: frequently in excess of 100% of the total planning plus execution investment.

Why? Because the cost of a bad plan isn’t limited to squandering the planning investment.

For you see, unlike the prior example, there is no limit to losses from a bad plan.

  • For example, in the IT Sector—where (according to the Standish Group) the track-record of outright failed project is ~1/3rd—the losses extend to the entire investment…AND BEYOND! These kinds of losses negatively affect the entire organization (e.g., lost customers, opportunity costs, dwindling marketshare), as well as personally (e.g., loss of reputation).

To illustrate, take a moment and reflect on two somewhat hypothetical planning scenarios:


  • Rationale vaguely defined
  • Leadership by committee (of busy executives…never all present at same time)
  • Intensely political…everyone involved claiming they “get it”
  • Rushing to execution and rushing to completion
  • Assumptions unstated…status unknown
  • Partial list of “In-scope” declarations
  • Approach “same as last effort” (except the project team didn’t work on that effort and, at the start, didn’t know each other)
  • Success measures were “obvious, everyone knows” (so “obvious” they were unstated…and (surprise!) never met)
  • Unknown degree of definitiveness in Deliverables list
  • Project Manager responsible for everything: value, product, project


  • Defined Context
  • Clear, unequivocal:
    • Value Design Responsibility
    • Product Design Responsibility
    • Project Design Responsibility
    • Rationale defined—balance of investments & returns
  • Defined:
    • Goal
    • Objectives
    • Scope (including out-of-scope)
    • Deliverables
    • Quality
    • Assumptions (confirmed and refuted)
  • Approach selected because it is appropriate for effort
  • Emphasis on preparation

What Do You Think?

As you examine the two scenarios, consider the thinking that went into each. Organized? Hasty? Reactive? Purposeful? Based only on your assessment of the thinking that went into the two scenarios, what’s your prediction? How did execution fare? Could excellence in execution overcome a bad plan? Which scenario do you forecast came closer to completing on-schedule, on-budget and meeting expectations?

  • Do you agree there is a causally significant relationship among thinking, planning and executing?

Punchline: Scenario One describes a project that was cancelled after expending nearly USD$1.3 million and a year’s effort of ~eight professionals…yet produced nothing more than voluminous planning documents. Scenario Two—undertaken after the cancellation of Scenario One (i.e., both scenarios are for the same project)—was completed in less than 30 days and the entire effort (~USD$750k) was delivered in ~five months. Which would you rather experience?

In the Next Post

In the next post…Over-Budget? Or, Under-Estimated? Where’s the Failure?” To paraphrase the famous statistician, Professor George Box, “…all estimates are wrong…some are useful.” To which we add “…but some are dangerous.”

Whether you are a well-seasoned PMI PMP—or a Project Management newbie—gain, and use, a key insight into the fundamental basis of all estimates as you Get Going, Get Done and Get Results with the Plan On a Page.

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