Running a Project: Project Plan Free

Project Plan Free_Project Management Planning

Did you know that there are people in your company right now that are ordering up their next project…project plan free?

That’s right, like sugar free, gluten free or carbohydrate free diet plans, people are looking to slim down the administrative weight of their next project, which has been deemed either too big, too small, too easy, or too complicated to need a project plan. Who are these people that want to achieve projects objectives sans a project plan? What are some of the reasons that someone would want a project done without a project plan? Below are a few reasons for your consideration:

They Say There is Not Enough Time

One of the first reasons given for not wanting to put a project plan together is that there is just not enough time. This project has to be done NOW and can’t wait for the project plan to be put together to lead the way. The client is knocking down the door with impatience and the sooner the project gets underway the better. Or, there may be internal pressures or a changing marketplace that will push someone to say that putting a plan together is a waste of time.

They Want To Change a Whole Lot Later

This is a classic reason why people want a project to run project plan free. They know that they are going to be making a whole lot of changes later. They don’t want an audit trail or some sort of documentation that is going to hold them down to their original ideas, thoughts, and direction. This is a very frustrating situation but also very real. They don’t quite have all the details figured out and want to get things underway nonetheless.

They Have Something to Hide

This is even a bit more of an insidious reason than the one above. Someone may be deliberately not wanting to have their project documented with a plan because it started late, was not correctly implemented, or a number of other reasons that would make this person look bad if discovered.

They May Be New to the Position

A more innocuous reason may be that the person is just brand new to the position and is not familiar with how projects run. They may not be aware of all the moving parts, need for coordination, and planning that is necessary for something to get done effectively. As such, they too may feel that an initiative that is project plan free is just fine.

What’s the Result of Project Plan Free Projects?

With every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This holds true for running a project without a plan. The following are some “reactions” that may occur if you decide to run a project without a plan:

  • No accountability

    Running a project without a plan means that everyone and no-one is responsible for getting something done. If there is not a clear owner for a particular task, deliverable, initiative, or date to be met then you can almost be assured it won’t happen. This puts extra strain on you as the project manager as you scramble to find someone who can pick up the pieces at the last minute.

  • No coordination of efforts

    One of the biggest benefits of having a project plan is that everyone is literally working from the same page. hand-offs are clear. Timing is understood. Dates can be met. Removing a project plan introduces confusion into the mix. People aren’t sure who works on what next. Deliverables may be complete and just sitting on a shelf somewhere. This is precious time wasted that could be used to move a project toward completion.

  • No economies of scale

    If it is decided to run a project in a manner that is project plan free, then you will also lose opportunities to leverage efforts that may be underway for other projects. There may be a certain technology that is being implemented that could be used for this project or a process that would help speed things up. This project will lose out on some of the benefits that could have been realized since it’s running under the radar.

What Somebody May Be Saying When They Don’t Want a Project Plan

We all come from various business and corporate backgrounds. What may be one person’s back of a napkin may be another person’s project plan. It could be that their definition of a project plan is what is causing the problem. Their experience with project managers in the past may be one of oppression, interrogation, and unfortunately procrastination.

As project manager it’s up to us to convince them otherwise. How can you do this? First explore their definition of a project plan to make sure it is in sync with your definition. Next, offer them some options depending upon the size of the project:

  • Small project, a couple of weeks with a few people

    Let them know you are proficient at managing this type of project behind the scenes. It doesn’t mean that you don’t have a project plan of some type up and running, but it does mean that the stakeholders of the project will get brief emails and updates about what’s been done, what’s next, and what’s in the way. There’s no need to drag everyone into an inordinate amount of details and extended meetings for such a small project. This may appease the person that feels something should be run project plan free…and truthfully, it’s all that really needs to be done for small projects anyway.

  • Medium project, a couple of months with around a dozen people

    This type of project will require more effort on your part and it would make sense to pull a project plan together that will be shared with everyone. This plan can be reviewed at brief project meetings to make sure everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing. It should be accessible on a shared drive or via the internet for everyone to review on their own time. The same principle applies as above, keep the administrative overhead to a minimum.

  • Large project, 6+ months with scores of people

    This one should never be run project plan free and don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. There is too much complexity and potential for things to go wrong on such an undertaking. Stand your ground about your project plan and run this project to the very best of your ability, meetings and all.

Just like you can buy items that are sugar-free, caffeine-free, and gluten-free, you can (in certain small project situations) run a project that is project plan free. Even that may not be entirely accurate, as by default you’ll be applying the project management principles you have learned over the years to this project anyway. The thing to keep in mind is to keep the amount of planning commensurate with the complexity of the project. In doing so you’ll find that your projects will run leaner,  because like  good food project management tools, project planning templates and project management software can all boost the performance of your project. Try ProjectPlan.com FREE for 30 days and enjoy a full-featured version of our project planning software that will work for project of all types and sizes.

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