Plans are useless. Planning is essential!

I do lot of cooking, and I was taught to prepare everything ahead of time, and put everything in its place – something called “Mise en Place”. I chop everything and put it in little bowls, measure out the spices, lay out all of the pots and pans and so on, all before I turn on the oven or stove. It forces me to plan, and to be ready to put everything together so that it all comes out at once.

IT projects are like that. If you take your time to plan things out, prepare the software and hardware, arrange the steps and so on, things go well.

But that isn’t to say they go according to plan. Unlike cooking, an IT project can take dramatic changes based on conditions. OK, cooking can do that too, but it normally doesn’t! I don’t get too bent out of shape when an IT project veers from the plan, if it’s for a good reason. I just alter the plan and keep going. I had to do this recently, and it really rattled the team I was working with. They thought that we should stick to the plan regardless – which isn’t always needed. They protested that they had spent so much time planning, they didn’t want to throw that work away.

But it isn’t really “throwing the work away” if you have to change your plan – again, if it’s for a good reason. The original plan helps you understand what the goals are at that time, and how to reach them. Changing the plan to reach that goal based on the decisions is a wise thing to do. As I learned in the military, “no plan survives first contact.”

So while the plan might be useless, the discipline of planning is essential to help you get where you need to go.

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