Sunday, September 6, 2020

Plan v Objective

"In war [projects] nothing goes according to plan, but always remember your objective"
Israeli general
Good advice.
And, of course, your objective always is -- or always should be:
Apply your resources to maximize their value added while taking the least risk to do so.
But our general's admonition begs the question:
Is "nothing goes according to plan" the same as there's "no value in planning"? And, if so, why plan in the first place? Why not maximize agility?

Or, why not be Bayesian about it: Make an educated guess to begin, and then replan with new information or circumstances?

The usual answer
The usual answer to those questions is that the value of the plan is in the planning, that is: discovering one or more paths to victory! One or more ways to accomplish the objective.

And, if there is more than one way to get there, then whatever plan is adopted is not totally fragile; an alternative is available if things go really wrong.

That all said, planning is about doing these tasks and investing intellectually in their development:
  • Establishing the scope detail that fills out the objective .... or narrative
  • Anticipating the risks and devising mitigations .... or not (some risks can be ignored)
  • Assembling resources; training staff and robots [AI is in the training frame these days]
  • Establishing a sequence for doing the work
Such that, when the plan goes awry, it can be reconfigured -- perhaps on the fly -- and re-baselined, always with the most strategic objective in mind.

And, did I mention that the foregoing is Bayes-style planning methodology: always update your first estimate with new information, even it makes the first estimate look a bit foolish or optimistic

Yogi said:
Yogi said a lot of things, but he said this that seems to apply:
"If you don't know where you are going, you may be disappointed when you get there."

In our business, you might write it thus:
"If you don't [or won't] plan what you are going to do, you may be disappointed in what you wind up doing"
And, you might miss the objective altogether. You spent all the money -- presumably other people's money [OPM] and you didn't do the job! [That's usually a challenge to your career]

Buy them at any online book retailer!