Common Sense is Not Common Practice!

Planning before doing!Common sense says that, when working on a project where results really matter, the team should agree on a plan of how to achieve the goals, consider what might go wrong, and make sure everyone who needs to deliver results is committed to doing what needs to be done to make it happen. Here’s a bit of news about the real world of project management: Common sense isn’t common practice! If knowing how were enough we’d all be rich and thin. Projects routinely suffer from under-planning. (Given a choice about how much time to spend planning people will invariably either underplan or not plan at all . . . except for those suffering from analysis paralysis, of course, who prefer endless planning to action.) Executives seem incapable of imagining what might go wrong. Even teams that DO take the time to identify risk usually don’t lift a finger to prevent or mitigate it. (It’s the number one biggest mistake project teams make about risk . . . identifying it but not doing anything about it.) And abdication of responsibility is rampant. The fear of failure is assuaged by the complete absence of any firm commitment or any clear responsibility that could be tied back to the individual. You can easily do better than this! Even a smidge of planning, a pinch of risk mitigation and a dash of clear roles and responsibilities can put you head and shoulders above most project managers. Every hour of planning saves about a day of wasted time and effort. Stop! Think! THEN act! It’s simple, and yet . . . Instead of “Ready, Aim, Fire”, I see a lot of “Ready, Fire, Fire, Fire!!” I personally prefer “Ready, Aim, Fire, Steer” because, in the real world, there is always a need for course correction. Remember the carpenter’s rule “Measure twice, cut once.”


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4 thoughts on “Common Sense is Not Common Practice!”

  1. When dealing with people in General whether in a project or real-life situations, it is always “different Strokes for different Folks”. Common Sense is not usually common, it is your ability to understand and deal with a matter in a way that applies to almost everyone. I have also experienced that sometimes overconfidence can be an impediment to the application of Common sense.
    Finally, for me, common sense is a combination of decision-making and consequences arising from our actions. We develop common sense over time, no one is born with it.
    – Yetunde

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    I also share the similar story with Jade. One manager in my friend’s company always gives a reward, recognizes and acknowledges the employees who smudge things as if nothing had happened, rather than report the problems and solve them. This manager could not handle any problems and just freaked out when she heard about them.
    According to my friend, all meetings were meaningless, team members losing their interest and attention to their works, and just keeping good appearances by sweeping all dusts to under the carpets. Many team members also lost their trust to other team members who play this politics and eventually left the company.

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    I agree with John on the cost savings attributed to planning. As a guideline, I work towards a 5% ratio of planning effort vs total project effort. Seems minimal but it’s rarely achieved in many corporate environments. At post-mortem time, a simple tally of projects achieving this 5% threshold seems to correlate highly with success criteria (eg. on-time, on-scope…). Conversely, projects which fail to reach this threshold correlate highly to failure.

    This should be an easy metric to capture and utilize to help drive companies to commit to planning.


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    Some good thoughts on planning…
    Research says every hour of planning can prevent about 6-8 hours of re-work.
    Of course, the is indeed a point of diminishing return and we must get underway.
    My most recent project — an addition to my house — involved about 9 months of plannig for only 4 months of execution. We completed on time and on budget – miraculously enough!
    Project Management — and all the tools of the PMBOK — seems to me to be about 70% planning.


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