In the world of business, the saying, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” frequently holds. For programme managers, the challenge is not just in laying out the plans but ensuring their feasibility and flexibility as projects progress. This is where the iterative approach to building programme plans comes into play.
The Perils of Over-Planning Early On
Traditional wisdom might suggest that the more detailed a plan, the better. This is especially true when stakes are high, resources are substantial, and timelines are tight. However, there’s a caveat: in the early phases of programmes, diving too deep into the specifics can be counterproductive. Why?
Unpredictability: No matter how thorough you are, it’s nearly impossible to predict every obstacle or opportunity that might arise during the execution of a project.
Wasted Resources: Time spent trying to pinpoint granular details and dates at the outset might be better used focusing on the larger objectives or immediate activities.
Lack of Flexibility: An overly detailed plan from the onset can lead to resistance when changes are necessary, creating unnecessary hurdles down the road.
The Value of Iterative Planning
1. Detailing Immediate Activities
Start with what’s right in front of you. What needs to happen now? By focusing on the immediate activities, teams can concentrate on achieving short-term objectives that drive momentum. This approach ensures that the early stages of the programme are actionable and grounded in the current reality.
2. Aligning on Critical Milestones
Instead of detailing every step of the journey, identify the significant milestones that the programme must achieve. These are non-negotiable touchpoints that provide direction and structure, without getting bogged down in daily or weekly specifics. For example, if you’re launching a new product, a milestone might be the completion of a prototype or the first user test. By having these milestones as guiding posts, the team can work towards tangible goals with flexibility on how to get there.
3. Continuous Planning Process
Perhaps the most crucial aspect of an iterative approach is understanding that planning is continuous. As the programme progresses, the plan evolves. This continuous revision ensures that the programme adapts to new information, challenges, and opportunities that arise. Instead of having a static plan that becomes outdated quickly, a continuously updated plan remains relevant and actionable.
Moreover, regular check-ins and reviews become essential. Teams should be encouraged to frequently assess progress, gather feedback, and adjust the plan accordingly. This process ensures that everyone remains aligned and informed, fostering collaboration and flexibility.
Embracing the Iterative Mindset
Shifting from a detailed upfront planning mindset to an iterative one requires a cultural change. Teams should be encouraged to embrace change, see the value in flexibility, and understand that a plan is a living document, not a rigid set of commands.
To facilitate this, leaders must lead by example. Celebrating adaptability, rewarding problem-solving, and emphasizing the importance of meeting milestones over following a rigid path can help instill this mindset throughout the organization.
While the allure of a detailed, foolproof plan is undeniable, the realities of programme execution necessitate a different approach. Embracing iterative planning ensures that programmes remain agile, teams stay engaged, and projects can adapt to the ever-changing landscape of business challenges and opportunities. In the end, the journey might look different from the initial blueprint, but with an iterative approach, the destination remains clear and achievable.