Planning takes too long, let’s just get started.


I use OmniPlan for the Mac for my project planning

When we start coaching a new church to implement a change, we make a plan. Usually this is a pretty detailed plan with lots of tasks, dependencies, dates…the whole bit. We often get feedback that this planning process takes too long and they just want to get started. In my mind, planning equals speed. I know that sounds contradictory, but the key is whether you are in a hurry to start, or to finish.

What’s the Hurry?

If you are in a hurry to start a project, then planning is indeed a waste and should be ignored. However, let’s first ask what is driving us to be in a hurry. Here are some common reasons that we hear:

  • I have to show ____ I am making progress.
  • If we have a plan, we will be forced to follow it and I want to be more flexible.
  • I am new here and I need to show them I know what I am doing.
  • You just can’t plan this type of work.
  • I am an action-oriented person. All this talking just wears me out.

None of those hold water in my mind, they are excuses. When exploring a brand new thing nobody has ever done, the plans are a lot more vague and loose. In fact, sometimes projects are entering into such an unknown territory there is no way to make a meaningful plan – so don’t waste a lot of your time. However, if you are motivated by the end of the project, the results part, then planning that project out really increases speed to finish.

How Does Planning Make us Faster?

Below are four key benefits to a solid plan.

  • A good planning process clarifies the direction, the scope, and the value of a project before you begin. How many times have you started a project that seemed like a good idea, then realized half way through you can’t even remember what you were trying to accomplish? Planning allows you to firm up those reasons and success criteria early. Sometimes creating a plan helps you to realize the project isn’t even worth doing….before you started working in earnest. Great savings. The last thing any of us need in our busy lives is a project we shouldn’t be doing.
  • My personal favorite, a good plan helps us to stay focused. I get so easily distracted, I need tools to help me only think about what is relevant right now. Back to the house: spending days working on the color of the curtains is not time well spent while trying to rough-in the plumbing and electrical. Stay focused on the work at hand, and know that other thing is in the plan and will come up at just the right time.
  • A good plan helps us to avoid rework. “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing over again.” While I have always enjoyed that adage, It bothers me that we behave that way so frequently. Think of the time and costs associated with having to go back and redo something…that time could have been saved with a good plan. The more we do work in the “right” order, then the dependencies flow nicely and we don’t have to go back and fix things. Think of building your new house: pouring the foundation before you have decided where the bedrooms go would be a real mistake. You would have to tear it out and pour more concrete later when you really had a design.
  • A good plan shows us progress. A plan with some milestones in it allows us to track our progress. That progress status is used for three things that tends to increase motivation, resources, and speed.
    1. Communicate with the organization. “We are 30% done on this and we estimate being complete in October”. This builds clarity and reminds others you are still working and progressing.
    2. Celebrate. “Yahoo…we reached the end of the design phase!” This helps to lift spirits and keep the motivation to focus on the work.
    3. Compete. “We still need Bob on our team. Look at all he has done and what other tasks are assigned to him.” In this world of limited time and resources, we often have to fight to keep the resources we secured at the beginning of the project.

Your Next Move

Be willing to focus on the outcome you want before starting. Think of that project you are hesitating to start. Make a quick plan… at least enough to get started.