Strategic Project Management Made Simple–6 Dangerous Planning Mistakes


This is a series of notes on Terry Schmidt’s book Strategic Project Management Made Simple, which adds the Logical Framework Approach to traditional project management in order to facilitate strategic planning.    The first chapter of his book is Thinking Outside The Bar Chart, and introduces the reasons why strategic planning is important.

As mentioned in the last post, NASA Rule #15 states

A review of most failed project problems indicates that the disasters were well-planned to happen from the start.  The seeds of problems are laid down early.  Initial planning is the most vital part of a project.

What are some of the specific planning mistakes that can create disasters on a project?    The following chart describes six dangerous planning mistakes, and gives some concepts for solutions to these mistakes.

Planning Mistake Explanation Solution Concepts
1. Tolerating VagueObjectives In rush to implement, not enough serious, upfront thinking goes into clarifying Objectives, Measures, and their interconnections.
  • Make objectives clear and measurable
  • Identify logical levels and If-Then links
  • Define your strategic hypothese
  • Define why before what and how
2. Ignoring Environmental Context People sometimes ignore how risk factors outside their project boundaries might affect them.
  • Scan the environment for circumstances
  • Understand internal and external context
  • Identify risk elements
  • Make, test, manage, and monitor Assumptions
3. Poor Planning Tools and Process Tools are best used when it comes time to start breaking down tasks, not during the “fuzzy front end” when you are still firming up Objectives.
  • Choose common planning model and language
  • Plan top-down, test bottom-up
  • Plan for the plan
  • Use the Logical Framework as a central planning tool
4. Neglecting Stakeholder Interests Without the buy-in from stakeholders involved in or affected by the project, projects suffer.
  • Remember—people support what they help create
  • Involve people who matter
  • Understand the perspectives of others
  • Build consensus and commitment
5. One-Shot Planning Project plans must be updated to reflect new learning and progress.
  • Treat project documents as living plans, organic in nature
  • Be “cycle logical”—think, plan, act, and assess
  • Iterate and update in predetermined learning cycles
  • Constantly refine the strategic hypothesis
6. Mismanaging People Dynamics Some project managers run roughshod over their team.
  • Build in payoffs (fun, learning, rewards)
  • Grow the team while growing the plan
  • Sharpen the who-when-what-how
  • Manage with emotional intelligence

It is Terry Schmidt’s contention that the Logical Framework Approach will provide solutions which will help you avoid all of these dangerous planning mistakes.   How?   By helping you create a strong project backbone which has the strength to carry the planning load, but at the same time has enough flexibility to change when new information comes to light.

The principles of creating that strong project background are covered in the next chapter, Chapter 2:   “Building Strong Project Backbones,” which will be covered in the next few posts.

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