• James

Why the key to execution is in the planning



“Measure twice, cut once” and “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail” are two common quotes used to emphasise the need to plan and prepare ahead of diving into execution. My personal favourite is Abraham Lincoln’s interpretation of the same message; “give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.


When delivering a project or anything that disrupts the current way of doing things it is imperative to prepare and plan in order to execute successfully.


I’ve written previously about the need to manage external dependencies (click here for the previous post) but there are other factors at play in making sure a robust plan is in place. The below are what I consider when planning a project:


  1. Why are we doing this? This is the first question I ask as the answer often informs the timelines and priorities for delivery. Change doesn’t happen in a vacuum and there will always be competing business priorities. For a project to be successful there needs to be a positive output at the end of it; it’s this that will galvanise all involved.

  2. Buy-in is key. Linked to the point above, unless those that are owning or delivering the project are fully bought in, then the pace of change will be slow or at worst non-existent. Ensuring there is buy-in across stakeholders leads to a better rate of success.

  3. Request detailed feedback at the start. It’s often unlikely that the individual putting the plan together is the expert across all aspects of it. Plans work best when they’re debated and reiterated during the planning phase – a plan that hasn’t received feedback, often hasn’t been reviewed. When this happens there are going to be missing items that materialise once you’re deep into delivery and risk throwing the whole project off track.

  4. Consult, consult, consult. The three C’s are fundamental to the success of a project, if there are areas of uncertainty, then reach out to those that can inform you on how to proceed, this could be a subject matter expert or it could be someone particularly adept at running Gant charts. In short, if you don’t know – speak to someone who does.

  5. Be prepared to step beyond project management. I’ve yet to meet an effective project manager who can’t step beyond the safety or RAG statuses and Gant charts. When planning a project you need to accept that there will be times that in order to keep the project on track you will need to be involved in a greater level of detail than weekly check-in meetings. Whilst you shouldn’t include yourself as a delivery resource you should seek to contribute either at a technical level or in supporting the delivery of milestones.

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