We hear projects speak about left-to-right planning and right-to-left planning which fundamentally are different approaches based on whether we are planning for a specific end date. And there may be legitimate reasons why hitting a particular date is key such as a new construction project planned in time for a particular sports event.
But, in ERP deployments, it is rarely a good thing to plan right-to-left unless there is a burning platform that needs to be replaced. Sticking arbitrary dates in the plan is not going to drive good behaviour on the project in general.
Left-to-right planning defines a healthier direction as it makes us think, “it will take how long it take”, without feeling obliged to hit arbitrary dates imposed by executives who are disconnected from the detail. This helps us to protect quality which is not a bad thing when you consider how many failed ERP deployments there are around.
However, it also makes us plan in a manner of “what’s first?”, “then what?”
Planning in a purely chronologically sequential way is not good on either a small scale task or a large scale programme. How many times have you seen spreadsheets morph into a monstrosity because no one really planned what they wanted as an end result?
Columns keep getting added, and cells shaded, until no one can can easily understand the information being presented.
Stephen Covey told us: “Begin with the end in mind.”
This is particularly true for project planning where if we don’t know where we are trying to get to, the road is likely to be less than optimal. Instead, we should start our project plan by laying out the key building blocks on the journey with a clear view of what good likes like on arrival. To do that we need clearly defined deliverables and we should imagine ourselves doing a deliverable review at the end of the project – what would you want everyone to say about the deliverables we produce? Now, what are the building blocks we need to complete to achieve that desired result?
Planning then becomes an iterative cycle of building out the building blocks with more and more detail – never losing sight of what the end result of each building block looks like. We can only plan for what we know so if unsure, stick a stake in the ground and keep the building block high-level until more information is known.
Planning should not be so much left-to-right or right-to-left but should be more outside-in. Get the shell of the plan locked down early and build out the inner. Never loose sight of what good looks like at the end of the project. Begin with the end in mind.
To find out how Hitachi Solutions can help you manage projects more efficiently contact a member of the team.