Project Management – Planning Forward

A perfect schedule for Thanksgiving Dinner – a good example of planning backwards from the anticipate time of dinner

We had a great Thanksgiving again this year, I hope you did as well. The meal was cooked and timed to perfection. Several days before Thanksgiving we determined the time of the meal and then working backwards, developed a time line for food preparation.  Years of experience allowed us to time it to perfection.  A masterpiece of planning.

This is the most common type of successful planning done by goal oriented managers and leaders. It works well in relatively straight forward projects where the planners have intimate knowledge of the steps involved and control over the necessary resources.

After using this type of planning successfully for smaller projects, managers and leaders are often surprised when the approach does not work for larger more complex endeavors.  The manager simply does not have the intimate knowledge necessary to understand all the steps involved and furthermore, tends to provide an overly optimistic estimate of the time required.

For large complex projects, experienced leaders define the vision, describe the future state and then bring together knowledge experts to define the steps and estimate the effort needed to achieve it.  These experts include Project Managers who understand the basic tasks necessary for every project and are experts at helping knowledge experts to precisely define the tasks and the necessary resources.

Using this approach, the time line is built forward on the identified tasks.  Project completion date is then dependent on the tasks involved rather than an arbitrary date optimistically floated by management.

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