Plan Hard – Work Easy



Last class we practiced project management from the exercise of building tall structure from marshmallows and spaghetti noodles. It was a great practice involving management of Time, Cost & performance. We also discussed the planning activity of each group and how that went through the exercise. This activity shows exactly why planning is the most important activity in any project.

I will analyze here a construction project in my workplace. This type of projects begin with a long planning exercise, it includes setting the layout drawings and listing the resources required. Second activity is scheduling the whole tasks of building with start and end dates. After that the project will begin on site and the controlling activity will take place. Project manager will monitor the process, take actions and revise plans if necessary.
In this type of projects managers spend 30-40% of the time on planning phase because if the planning were perfect the scheduling and controlling will be much easier. Some project managers request a well-known consultant to prepare the planning draft to ensure the quality of their plan.
Time of every phase:
Planning: 6 months (complete drawings, project chart)
Scheduling: 1 month
Controlling: 9 months (construction period)

In conclusion, I totally agree that “the harder you plan the better you will perform”.

From the example given and the exercise in class, in which phase should project managers spend their time most (Planning, Scheduling or controlling)?

5 thoughts on “Plan Hard – Work Easy

  1. Brilliant topic Ahmed.

    In my point view, planning shall take a major part in any project. However, it depends on the type of the project. Some projects would require long planning and each step should be very critical and very well planned to avoid any errors.

    However we need to take into consideration the time frame available to complete the project. Do not concentrate on planning in order not to overlap other stages.

  2. Great post Ahmed.

    I agree with you, Solid project planning is a prerequisite for project success. Poor planning, meanwhile, can lead to missed deadlines, budget overruns, poor quality deliverables, frustrated project teams and even project failure. Planning is a very important step of any project. It promotes team building and a spirit of cooperation. When the plan is completed and communicated to members of the organization, everyone knows what their responsibilities are, and how other areas of the organization need their assistance and expertise in order to complete assigned tasks. Also, how their work contributes to the success of the organization as a whole and can take pride in their contributions. The time to be spent depends on the type of project. If planning is done meticulously and with realistic targets execution can be more smooth and easy. However too much time spent on planning can also lead to delay in execution of the tasks. Hence a balanced approach is necessary.

  3. Great post Ahmed.

    I agree that the more solid the plan is the less trouble you might face during the execution. However it is also important to highlight that a 100% perfect plan does not exist in reality. As a practice, most of the companies that follow Project Management guidelines, usually have an agreed pre-set plan deviation range, in which if the execution deviated from the plan within the defined range, it is still acceptable.

    Do I sound like a Project Management freak?? I hope not πŸ™‚

  4. I was reminded that in our class project of building a tall structure from marshmallows and spaghetti noodles, we didn’t spend so much time in planning. However, in the controlling phase we rivised our planning many times, and the end we won the challenge.

  5. Ahmed,

    I think you touched on very important points in project management. A detailed plan is the key for a successful project. However, it does not guarantee “easy work” during construction stage in real world. Unfortunately, there many other issues can come up during all stages. Therefore, it is important to have a project manager who can lead group and make changes when necessary in timely basis.

    The exercise in class helped me to understand that you need to be very efficient when there are limited resources and strict deadlines. You need to prioritize. For example, we knew that we had only twenty minutes to build a skyscraper that should be able to hold a stack of paper. Therefore, we decided to build a very strong base for our skyscraper. Using a lot of spaghetti (which also was the cheapest resource) secured a strong base for our skyscraper. Sticky marshmallows proudly held skyscraper’s top and base. Having a plan allowed us to have easy construction. Prioritization allowed us to finish the project on time.


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