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Project Planning Is Unnecessary, Boring, Dangerous…
By The Grumpy Project Manager

Plans are not needed in projects. A simpler and more usual method is to do projects twice or go on doing them till it is politically suitable to stop. Here I’m talking about IT or R&D projects. In building projects this would not be accepted. ‘We made this house once. It didn’t come out like planned, but now we know how it should be made. We just tear this one down now and build it again.’ Program code is easier to get rid of and forget than big pieces of hard concrete and steel, so we can use the Do-It-Twice technique in IT projects. Of course in IT projects we don’t necessarily do the whole thing once and then again, but small things inside projects – We do the foundations, but as the foundation guy didn’t know that 10 floors will be built on top of the foundations, he will have to redo or strengthen the foundations.

Plans can go wrong

There are many things voting against planning. If we have plans, then things can go wrong. People can say that ‘this – result, time, money – is not according to the plan’ only if we have the plan. Things cannot go wrong if nobody knows what is right. And we do usually get something out in IT and R&D projects. We could just decide that this is what we wanted to do, and that the project was a success. What about costs, someone may ask. Well, we’ll do like many companies do; decide that our IT costs must be about the same industry average IT costs are, and don’t unnecessarily bind costs with content.

Planning is boring

Planning requires work and that is not fun. Making the overall plans – visioning – may be fun, but the detailed planning is boring. You would have to specify each task and build relations between those. And it is not only boring, but it restricts people’s freedom. Carpe diem, say I. Seize the moment. Live for today. Do what you like. Make work you hobby. What is that flying out the window; is it a bird, is it a plan.

Maybe, just maybe, plans could be make if they could be kept, but no. There are always changes in the plan during the execution of a project. When we have a plan we must manage changes. If we don’t have a plan then changes are not really changes but simply fun events bringing welcome stimulation to daily routines.

Plans are killers

Plans also reveal the truth, beforehand, which is not nice. By making a proper plan it is possible to estimate the costs of the project. If it is also possible to evaluate the benefits of doing the projects, then project costs and benefits could be compared. This would tell whether it makes sense to do the project or not. This is not nice, as then many projects would not be started, but killed on the starting line, even if they were proposed by neat or important persons we want to please.

Plans are dangerous

Project plans can actually be used in organizational politics. Estimates can be exaggerated or too modest according to whether we want to make this project or not. This political aspect of project plans makes them dangerous. This would actually mean that, in order to minimize politics and maximize reliability, objective professionals should make project plans, as well as related return on investments s and payback time calculations. Projects would be selected and prioritized based on these objective plans, and not on fancy power point presentations and marketing abilities of individuals. Who would want that?

So what do we have here: project plans should be made by objective professionals, be detailed enough to be reliable, show the needed time, human resources, costs, relations between tasks and return on investment calculations. Starts to look like project planning is actually a project itself and has to be based on a standard procedure to be efficient. Furthermore, plans should be followed and necessary changes taken into account during the execution. Who has time for that kind of nonsense?

Plans cause grumpiness

Let’s just do projects without plans and be free! Furthermore, let’s not call projects projects if they are not real projects with a start and an end and a plan. Let’s call them ‘activities’ or ‘hiking trips’ in which everybody can take just the hike they want to. Project managers would be tour guides asking people to take a hike. Let’s orientate and sail without a compass. Let’s turn off all those guiding meters in aero planes. Fly, project, fly, be free!

Planning is unnecessary

Many organizations and persons find project plans unnecessary, because ‘they know what they are doing’. Plans really are unnecessary if all persons involved in a project understand and accept the objectives of the project, as well as the necessary tasks to be performed and their interrelationship. If not, then it is good to have a plan and a project manager. Even a grumpy one.

The Grumpy Project Manager is a program manager in an international corporation and has over ten years of experience in managing R&D, IT and business development projects. You can read more from the Grumpy PM on his (or her?) blog. S/he can be contacted by email at

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