The Imaginary Planning Trap

All projects exist in order to achieve certain objectives. In order to accomplish these objectives, the project’s plan has to take into account constraints and existing resources. At the same time, the early planning or idea stages are often plagued by a lack of information that limits the ability to plan the project with certainty. Therefore, the project planning process begins with a preliminary planning phase based on a macro view and rough estimates and continues with ever more detailed planning as the certainty level and the willingness to invest in the project increases.

Thorough preliminary planning is crucial in order to ensure that the right choice is made when deciding whether to approve the project or not. It will also form the basis for the detailed planning of the new project. As such, it is one of the most important stages of project execution; it ensures not only that we set out on the right foot but also that we set out in the right direction. At this stage, it is crucial to learn the lessons from similar projects previously undertaken in order to avoid as much as possible any mistakes made in the past and to base planning the current project on proven experience.

It is important to shed the ‘Wasted Time Illusion’, which maintains that planning wastes precious time, and to avoid the ‘Imaginary Planning Trap’, which maintains that a cursory plan is sufficient for successfully meeting the project’s objectives. Investing time and effort in thoroughly planning the project ahead of time will yield significant returns as long as it is done at the right time and to the right extent.

The ‘Imaginary Planning Trap’ is a direct result of the ‘Wasted Time Illusion’ which maintains that a delay in actual project execution for planning purposes is a waste of time. This illusion leads to abandoning the planning process too soon, before enough resources are invested in a quality preliminary project plan.