The Necessity of Planning – and not following the Plan

Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential. – Winston Churchill

There it is. A quote. Obey the quote.

Well, don’t do that. In this age of memes the fact that is lost is that detail is important. Saying a single independent statement doesn’t mean anything without a structure, evidence, and an explanation of why that meme is something other than just a sequence of words.

I have done a lot of interviews for project management jobs. I have had discussions with many people in the project management field. People talking about planning and then staying on that plan. The importance of dates and hitting dates and finishing projects under budget and on time or early.

They all miss the point of planning. Planning in essence has two components. Estimating time and costs is one of those two. Estimating tied up with planning is where these problems are introduced about following the plan. The second core function of planning is understanding the major risks in a project and anticipating them.

I know, you are going to say “That’s risk management”. Yes, it is; however, long before you get to risk management there are major forks in a project that have to be addressed long before discussions of risk management. In addition, as with many parts of project management – Risk Management has to occur at the same time as planning.

Still, though, all of the above are just words strung in sequences. Let’s take a trip on the beginning of the first generation ship.  During the selection process Juno is the asteroid selected for this generation ship. It is chosen symbolically as well as for the physical characteristics – it was the generation ship in the series Eon by Greg Bear.

Sequence of Events – Version A

During the planning process it is outlined that remote drone diggers will be sent to Juno. These will work to hollow out the interior of the asteroid. Creating tubes from several points on the surface digging down to the center of Juno. Then, digging a sphere in the center outward for the volume for humans to live.

Sequence of Events Version B

During the early planning phase of the generation ship – many scientists are invited to consult on the steps in the project. During a brainstorming sessions one of the scientists raises the question – that Juno and many other larger asteroids that are relatively spherical in shape may have an iron or metal core.

An intense and lively debate is subsequent to this potential. A team is set up and an alternative plan is formed should the digger drone units run in to iron or any other metal in the core of Juno. Other possibilities are introduced that there might be streaks of metal in sections of Juno as well.

Additional drones are developed to melt metal that may not be required. However; since it is unknown if there is a metal core in Juno everything needs to be prepared if the drones run in to metal as they drill to the core of Juno or at the core.


In sequence A – if there is no metal core then all is well. In sequence B, if there is a metal core or not the plan will work either way. Melting units are sent – while causing additional costs – in preparation for the worse case scenario that the digger drones run in to metal. They do run in to metal – and instead of halting the project and incurring massive costs and time loss – the project is able to continue to hollow out Juno for use as a generation ship.

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