“Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite – getting something down.” – Julia Cameron
You have heard it said that project management is both an art and a science. The above quote helps reinforce this, or at least to me it does.
It reminds me of planning. Sometimes planning is about getting something down.
There are those who will not move forward until every detail of the project is planned. There are those who move forward with no plan. The right person can make a strong case for either approach. It is not easy to make a convincing case for no planning. It is also not easy to make a case for knowing every single detail before you begin to execute your plans. But to those of you who help plan open-heart surgery and nuclear reactors and airplanes, thank you for having detailed enough plans so that the rest of us may live to enjoy your work.
For many of us the plans we make at the beginning of our projects will change. That does not mean that we do not try to create meaningful plans. It means we create plans that provide enough information in order to determine whether or not we can meet project objectives and map out an achievable approach to meeting those objectives. When I am teaching a class I like to remind everyone that good planning does help to save time, money and reduce errors. But if plans did not change, we would not have project managers and project management courses. We would have planners and courses on creating the perfect plan. Then we would be done, because nothing would change.
That’s not how it works. Good planning is about getting something down. (Did you wonder when I was going to come back to our quote and the comparison to art?) We do the best that we can with the information we have on hand at the time. We do our research and we confirm as much as possible and we get it down in our plan. Then when things change (and they will), it is not about lamenting the change. It is about looking at the plan and the whole plan and understanding how the change impacts our ability to meet project objectives. We update our plan and artfully move on. This week, be artful.