Short-term pain, long-term gain
“Why do so many professionals say they are project managing when what they are actually doing is fire fighting?” – Colin Bentley
It is all too common: rushing from meeting to meeting, constantly checking emails, and spending precious minutes putting out one fire after the next. On the surface, it may look like a lot is being achieved. However, when teams spend workdays having to tackle the newest challenge of the day, this can lead to significant consequences in the long term.
We see the fire fighting approach adopted in a few of the following scenarios:
- A lack of project management and planning skills
- Ignoring protocols to get the job done
- Short-term performance is rewarded over long-term performance
Instead of focusing on putting out fires, the goal should be to prevent them in the first place. This is where the power of project planning comes into play.
The power of project planning
“Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”- General Dwight D. Eisenhower
When teams dedicate time to planning and mapping out projects, several things happen:
- Clear expectations are defined
- Everyone is held accountable and takes responsibility
- Problem-solving is proactive versus reactive
When that happens, project teams see benefits such as:
Increasing the probability of success
No plan leads to an underprepared team and a disorganized system. Planning ensures that each team member understands their role and the project goal and has clearly defined responsibilities and expectations. Organized teams are much more effective in completing tasks and achieving project goals. Plans alone are not the sole panacea to success. However, planning does improve the odds of success significantly.
Reducing project risk
During the planning phase, adequate resources, dependencies, and constraints are accounted for. Planning prevents scope creep, creates predictability, removes the need for time-consuming re-work, and ensures commitment from your stakeholders. When you create a comprehensive plan, communication with your clients and stakeholders improves, instilling confidence and reducing project risk.
Improving reputation with consistent delivery
Having a plan in place allows your team to deliver on customer expectations. Over time, consistent successful project delivery improves the reputation of your organization. When delivery is consistent, your team proves to be reliable. This ultimately improves your reputation, increases client satisfaction, and can lead to future opportunities.
The Agile myth
It is a common myth that Agile teams operate in an unstable environment and don’t do any planning. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Planning is continually occurring for Agile teams. Agile methodology requires short-term planning for each increment and iteration, keeping teams focused and on track.
This ensures delivery consistency in alignment with long-term plans.
Experienced Agile practitioners create long-term plans through backlog items, product roadmaps, and constantly grooming and prioritizing their backlog. The product roadmap helps keep teams aligned to business goals while understanding how the project or the product will evolve.
Planning your project and setting up new processes can seem daunting. However, working with an experienced project manager can help better anticipate potential problem areas and improve company culture.
Regardless of your methodology— Agile or traditional waterfall, it will require commitment. Waterfall methodology is a linear approach, whereas Agile is an incremental and iterative approach. Because of this, Agile methodology is often much more flexible.
For project teams interested in the benefits of Agile while working within the scope, schedule and cost constraints of the traditional iron triangle, you can read more here.
To summarize, a fire fighting approach may appear to work in the short term, but ultimately it jeopardizes project success and your organization’s growth.
When done well, planning is a powerful tool for your team that can lead to:
- Project success
- Risk reduction
- Improved reputation
- Increased competitiveness
And so much more.
If you’re interested in increasing your project success rate, email firstname.lastname@example.org for a complimentary consultation.