Diaries of a Project Manager – Project Planning

I was recently advised, by a fellow Program Manager, that project plans are a waste of time.  The Program Manager in this case was running a mid-sized program of work ($2-3m), with a very little by way of a plan.

My insistence that there should be a plan was the cause of much frustration.   Why was I wasting everyone’s time by asking them to confirm the scope and plan what needed to be done?

The memory of this conversation repeats on me, much like a rich stew.

Sadly, I’ve seen this several times through-out my career.  Further, this scenario always raises the same questions for me:

  • How can you forecast without a project plan?  How would you know how much resource is required and it’s value?
  • How do you keep track of achievement and variances?
  • How do you re-forecast if you don’t know the original forecast?
  • How does the team know when tasks are due and stay aligned with other deliverables and team members?
  • How can you be confident you know when you are done?
  • How do you steer the ship and keep it on course?

I consider it again for a moment…why do we need to plan…  This is normally followed by a perplexed shake of my head.  Is this the gold nugget I’ve been waiting for all my life?  Or a little brown nugget…like the ones my dog leaves on the patio?  I can’t believe I’m even considering it.

It is absolutely imperative to have a plan or in the case of Agile, a place where the user stories to be met are gathered, sorted and prioritized.  If you don’t have a plan, you’ll never know what done looks like and nor will your end-user and client.  When you have a plan, it means you have clarity on what needs to be delivered and what needs to be done to achieve your goal.  When you have a plan, and you deviate, which you most certainly will, having had a plan means you can remove the elements that need to change and keep the remainder of the project on schedule.  You will also be able to clearly articulate the variance between the original path and the revised with absolute clarity and transparency – in terms of time and money.  Project plans are not negotiable.

Thoughts From Our Principals

Mark Semmens

Mark is a Chartered Accountant with a wealth of experience in accounting and taxation. Mark is a Member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, the Tax Practitioners Board and the National Tax and Accountants Association.

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Daniela Semmens

Daniela Semmens is a Co-Director of Semmens & Co. and joined the company as General Manager in 2017. Daniela is an Affiliate Member of Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and also a Member of the Australian Institute of Project Management.

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