June 4, 2011

Planning Ahead

So, for all of my highfalutin dreams of Keeping Ahead of the Curve, I find myself here with a little more than half an hour left in "today" and scrambling to type up a blog entry. This, after I've just spent the evening amongst friends I haven't seen in 1-3 years. So this seems as apt a time to talk about the merits of planning ahead!

So, I think we all know why we should plan ahead. It gives you wiggle room, it allows you to mitigate risk, it lets you have trump cards when your life is pelting lemons at you. And it lets you recognize when a metaphor is quickly unraveling even as it mixes, ha.

But planning ahead is so much more than just the anticipated. It's also the unanticipated. It's being asked, two weeks before your project plan indicated that you were to have your rough draft finished, that you need to take your research and outline back to square one. It's dealing with your grandmother's funeral even as you have to rush to finish a group business case worth 35% of your final grade. It's realizing that you've put two economics majors on a marketing plan and wondering why the ad looks, to your eyes, ugly as sin.

So how do we plan ahead adequately? The best planning ahead tool I've ever used is a critical path diagram, believe it or not. With its node-based plots, I was able to determine a critical path in my project, and focus my efforts in that.

Honestly, I think more business students need to take an operations class earlier on in their education. There's an adage that ruminates on how hard it is to break bad habits, but so very easy to learn them. When fresh-out-of-high-school students are thrown into multitudes of group projects -- as most business school curriculae are structured -- they quickly pick up bad habits and refine these to the best of their ability. We need to be teaching our business students that planning ahead also means being ready to focus the bulk of our attention on critical steps in the project process. Only recognizing these critical steps can we effectively manage project risk.

Huh, I guess I had a post after all.

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