OPEN Module 2: Project Planning

Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

Abraham Lincoln

In project management, we sometimes refer to the triple constraints as a trilemma – kind of a three-way dilemma – for it is often said that given stakeholder expectations of fast delivery (time), low cost, and every possible feature (scope), you can only ever realistically expect to achieve two out of three.

And even that is often ambitious!

Whether or not you can meet or manage these expectations comes down to the quality of your project plan and its associated consideration of risk.

The science of planning is what truly distinguishes project management as a profession from traditional forms of management.

It is simultaneously complex and simple: a comprehensive project management plan can run for hundreds of pages, with the schedule stretching several meters when viewed end-to-end. That said, the theory that underpins its preparation is almost embarrassingly simple.

Yet many project managers do themselves a disservice by going straight to the complex, using past project plans as templates (and compounding the mistakes of their predecessors), without ever understanding the ‘why’.

In this Module, we introduce you to the theory of project planning using quite simple, illustrative examples. Yet, as we shall see, no plan is perfect, and how you anticipate and manage uncertainty – or risk – is equally critical to project success.

The lessons learned here are as relevant to planning the company picnic as they are to planning a manned mission to Mars – the only difference is one of scale.