itmWEB Research

An itmWEB Classic Whitepaper

The Ritual of Planning

Focus Area: Project Management for Systems Development

Author: Russ Finney

Year: 1999

Published: The Quality Observer

Have you ever heard any of these?

"Let's just get started and we will figure it out as we go."

"Why waste time with a plan when it will just change anyway?"

"I don't have enough time to create a plan."

"I really hate to commit to an approach which may turn out to be wrong."

"Planning, I've always gotten along fine without it!"

All of these attitudes have one thing in common - they show a lack of understanding in taking a disciplined approach to thinking through a work process. If someone is unwilling to clearly work through the process of building a system - the potential exists that this attitude could carry over to effect the rigor of the approach taken toward the definition and design of the system processes themselves.


  • Forces the creation of a baseline approach which can be latter modified.
  • Provides a high level day by day vision to the team.
  • Identifies bottlenecks, resource shortages, information requirements, and overlooked task omissions before the project even begins.

Who Should Create the Plan?

One important requirement that Patrick Haggerty emphasized during his time with Texas Instruments was that "those who implement the plans must make the plans". This is advice for the system builder which is worth taking to heart. The more involvement the team has in the initial plan development or the subsequent plan refinement, the greater the level of ownership and buy in the team will experience. Having each of the individual team members feel that they contributed toward creating their own destiny is important. Not only does it improve morale, but it raises the overall level of team commitment toward the objectives and approach encompassed within the plan.

During the early stages of plan development, only the key project team leaders will likely be involved. But as soon as the team begins to assemble, each new member should be given the opportunity to review the entire workplan as well as the steps he or she will be involved with. This will accomplish two important purposes:

  • First, it will allow the individual to get an overall "vision" of both the expected results and the anticipated task "flow" of the planned project effort.
  • Second, it opens the door for reviewer feedback to the team leader on the proposed methodological approach.

If the suggested changes represent genuine improvement, they should be adopted and put into the revised workplan. This increases the likelihood of acceptance and support from the entire team, especially if everyone is included in the evolution of the workplans. The plans should be viewed by the team leadership as the responsibility and property of the team as a whole.