The more you “Plan”, the more difficult it gets to “Execute”!

Plans sell in the project management world.

Clients become very happy when they see beautiful gannt charts. You take them to a little tour in their mind when you demonstrate your gannt charts from start to end for the next 12 months with all the tasks fleshed out with all the individual names assigned to them. I like the moment and vibe in board room when clients feel as if that project is half done by only looking at the impeccable project plan toward the end of the meeting. It is always a great moment to receive endorsement, get the contract and funded for a few to several months to a project.

On my way back, I always have this uneasiness – how we can really execute the plan. Yes, we perfected the plan. Yes, we planned pessimistically to take risks into consideration. Yes, I talked to myself that the plan should work if the assumptions/the current business climate continues… which we know never will.

The project plan is in its best shape when it is presented to the clients. It starts to deteriorate and deviate from the real world soon after. We may even feel guilty that we made our clients make a big investment decision based on the plan we presented which was relatively good then but no longer when it comes to execution.

Plans sell in the project management world and it is still highly welcome in large organizations in Japan where they execute initiatives in a traditional waterfall model.

Are we doing the right thing by selling those fancy plans to win contracts? What they want is just assurance to their business objectives, not the plans. Plans have no values in themselves.  It is just a map leading them to values as long as they are accurate….

The more detail the plan is, the  more challenging it gets to follow them. We cannot start/end every single task with 100% precision. We do not know whether Mike or Tom is  able to start such and such tasks in 6 months down the road. No human is able to forecast the future with that level of precision.

Whether agile can rescue this by delivering something in a smaller PDCA cycle and adjust plans to keep up with the changing world? I do not know. Using the velocity to fleshing out the future plan may not even be feasible if the domain and solution are altered in a unknown-unknown situation.

One thing I know and want to avoid is to trying to sell beautiful WBS to win business from clients as it risks maintaining trustworthy partnership with clients.

Once Dwight Eisenhower said “Plan is nothing. Planning is everything”.



We should tell our clients that the plan is based on the current situation and it is going to change 100%, and that we are going to replan and share them continuously to help them make the right decisions about their future.

Plan indeed sells, but re-planning and transparency should be marketed.