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Convincing people to plan

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Ed Fish
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Does anyone out there have any tips on how to get people to plan. I don’t mean the mechanics, I mean the sitting down and drawing up a list of work to do and putting some dates to it.

I’ve got 2 small commercial projects, where the sub-contractors won’t go past the "we can do that all in the time available" and another where they just dodge the whole issue. I’ve also got a charity project where they seem to be waiting for everything to overwhelm them.

I know the old "failing to plan...." and much more besides.

I am just a lowly "project manager" [no authority as usual, the project sponsor couldn’t give up that much power] and would love any "proven" methods for shocking people into planning.

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James Griffiths
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No, No, No, Ed. You’ve got it wrong. YOU are supposed to be the idiot and drive everyone else to distraction, road-rage and general levels of subservience to your own whimsical style of driving whilst talking on the mobile, reading a map and scoffing your lunch!! Vengeance will be YOURS.

James.
Ed Fish
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James and James,

I ain’t perfect, like most engineers my social skills are not my strong suit, so I happily accept hints at ways of improving myself, especially if it’s going to make work easier.

So, now that I am going to be a van driver all I’ve got to work out is how to stop all those people on the roads to stop being idiots and plan what they’re doing.... ;P
James Griffiths
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Ed - the answer is........Become a Van Driver.

James.
Ed Fish
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James,

Trust, respect, team building excercises, hokey motivational stuff is all at the centre of it. I’ve found myself at loggerheads with several "senior managers" for too much chatting (I like to think of it as ’management by walking about’, which is the vogue phrase for talking to people who work for you.) This is the only way I know to build trust in me and my trust in them.

Maybe I’m daft, but I like to assume that I should respect the ’experts’ that work for me, planner to metal basher. If you’re cr*p I’ll find out soon enough and you’re out. I’ve made it my specialisation to be a generalist, so I know enough of everybody’s job not to be "blagged", although I usually let people dig a hole first before I push them in - I’m evil like that. By the same token I’m the first to help someone that needs it.

I am trying to avoid launching off in to a deep spiritual/moral/ethical discussion about human nature and how we should all realise that we are in this together and cooperation will benefit us all. Sadly, I believe this is the heart of the matter and despite too many years of study and practice I do not have the magic formula - and my key to untold wealth!!!!!!! What is needed is a sea change in the broad social culture, until then I’ll have to stick to the kicking a football about (I not that keen either) and generally letting the project team know my head and my a#*e are in the same place as their’s, and I know it.

When this all started I was hoping that some inspirational philosopher might read it and help me have an easier life. I know at the time I was depressed with the planning on the projects I was on because I was keeping things "on target" by sheer force of personality and although some PM’s like to use that to inflate their egos personally I like to turn up to work and have a "boring day" were everything that needed doing got done.

You can understand why the Chinese consider, "May you live in interesting times" to be a harsh insult.

The quote book is back - time to go.
James Barnes
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Ed,

I’m not sure we’re off topic at all actually, I think you’ve hit the nub of the issue, or at least one of the major points. Trust and the team.

The industry usually forms a new team for each project. By team, I mean everyone, from the client’s rep to the contractors. Even within each camp (client, engineer, contractor, etc) the teams are often constantly shifting. Thus we all start a new job not knowing each other. If we don’t know each other, there’s little chance we can trust each other and planning (or the acceptance of planning) requires trust. So, how do we build trust? First answer is go find a philosopher, they’ve been pondering it for centuries :P

wrt to rolling your sleeves up, This is certainly a good way, particularly to demonstrate that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re don’t consider yourself "above" the task. Sometimes this isn’t very practical (for example, I would need extensive additional safety training to work alongside some of the guys on my current projects, even if the task is a relatively simple one, the working conditions are not) One coporate answer is "team building" events, which I suppose are better than nothing, but tend to be treated as a hokey excuse for a free lunch. I would think one good way is to quietly foster out of office team building using the existing interests within the team. Team building weekends based around "lets all co canoeing, that’ll be great" are illconceived imo, especially when no-one asked forst "who here can swim?"

Our last project the contractors were all Italians, so there were 3 or 4 ad-hok football teams sprung up. I was invited to join them and really should have gone, but I bloody hate the game. My Bad. Here in Belgium everyone rides a bike so there’s an opportunity. It’s all pretty standard motivational stuff and much of it very hokey, but it can be useful I guess.

I’ve rambled off again, in essence I think that when you start a project with a new team of people who do not know each other, you cannot expect any level of trust to spring into existence. As the planner takes data from all areas of teh job and juggles it together using his experience and imagination to produce a feasible plan, he needs the trust of those that he gets the data from, or he must generate it himself. If he generates it himself, those who need to follow the plan will not feel responsible for it and will find 3 things wrong (and tehre will always be at least 3 things wrong with any complex plan) and use this as an excuse to abandon it.

As a PM, I’d say support the work of your planner (of course) but make it clear to all that the plan being generated is a collage of everyones ideas, needs and responsibilities, not one man’s idea of how a project should be run (The PM or planner’s)

Then go play football and/or get drunk with them.
Ed Fish
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Sticking with the drift off topic(?) - A lot of it comes down to respect and that works both ways. Most of the guys on the "shop floor" feel there are too many smart Alec guys in suits that want to tell them how to do their job. I know that on a couple of jobs the level of cooperation changed when I rolled up my sleeves got out some spanners and was nipping up bolts. Not such an altruistic action because as PM my butt was going to get kicked if things weren’t working. However, the respect came because they saw; a) I really knew how to use a spanner, b) I was prepared to be their monkey and let them tell me how to do the job (getting a bit spiritual here - to be a king you must be a servant) and c) they saw I was prepared to put the graft in and didn’t expect them to drag me out of the brown stuff and then take the glory.

I know these things are a team game, but usually the time it takes to get everyone on side means the planning quality is severely reduced because people have committed to their own way and the maximum benefit of cooperation is missed and usually things are already in a mess (oh, bitter experience!)

I know this respect thing is pivotal because on a few small jobs we have managed to move the same team (including the subcontractors) on with us and the planning and execution were smoother on each subsequent job. This was in part down to the respect each contractor had in the others’ ability to do their job and thus be able to make some trade offs for the overall benefit of the job.

And back to the core question - How do we get people in to that state of mind from the beginning of the first job?

It’s all about people.

If you want to look good surround yourself with geniuses.

Stop me now I’ve swallowed a book of quotes.........
James Barnes
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Fair enough, you obviously don’t need me (or anyone else) to tell you how to run your staff.

The silver bullet though, is a toughie.

I moved over to petrochem a couple of years ago and they really do out a lot of effort into planning here compared to commercial development or even civils. I don’t say they’re perfect, but they certainly recognise that jobs don’t plan themselves and that planning properly is a complex exercise. Our company guidelines for planning a complex stop (>15M Euro or 200k MH) start 3 years before the stop itself, with full team involvement 18-24 months prior to execution. It’s easy for the managers here to appreciate why they shuold commit the resources for this up front; the unit we shut down in March makes 500,000 Euro profit per day when it’s operating or more to the point, fails to make 500,000 a day while it’s down.

A realistic estimate of the actual costs+lost opportunity per day or week created by a late project should be enough to convince the money men that planning is worthwhile. I’ll leave you’re own people to you, use your spanner on them!
James Barnes
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Thanks for the compliment Ed

for point e, it’s the impression that others carry which dictates their attitude towards you. this is not necessarily in line with the facts.

I am also pretty handy with a spanner, but without the evidence of seeing me use one, I would forgive others for defaulting to a "he doesn’t know owt" approach. Plus there’s a difference between me building a bike and 4 fitters stripping an exchanger, something that I think a lot of people forget. There’s nothing like a site guy who thinks that you think his job is easy for lack of co-operation.

When working "down the line" I think the appreciation of individual skills is important. I have a fairly broad base in construction and can usually convince someone that I know a little of what I am talking about without making them think I can do their job better than they can. Even if I could it wouldn’t be relevant, coz I’m not going to do it, otherwise no-one would be doing the planning. That way we can begin to talk on even terms. Doesn’t always work of course.

As for war, I would categorise a project more like a seige than a war but I take your point. There’s an old army phrase; "the first casualty of war is the plan". This adage highlights that plans usually cannot keep up with changes on the ground and so fall into irrelevance very quickly. Of course if some have agendas counter to the very existence of the plan, then it can be nudged that way too. Flexibility in planning isn’t the debate here though, the will to plan is.

I’ve honestly never met a PM who would claim that planning is a *complete* waste of time. How much planning they think is appropriate is a different matter. Where the PM differs from the planner probably comes down to resource commitment to the production of the plan, pure and simple. It’s viewed as an overhead and thus dirty money.

when I have some real answers, I’ll post them (or publish them and make millions)

bah, I rambled
Ed Fish
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Fantastic summary of things, thanks for your words of wisdom James.

I think every planner (and pro planning project manager) can relate to every point (although point e just applies to project managers even if we don’t do any planning - although I am pretty good with spanners!)

Just looking at this as a need for cultural change to get over the points you raise then we need to consider how to make people change. At this point I can only leap in to my experience of "change management". People will only change when they feel the risk of changing is less than the risk of staying the same. As most people overestimate the risk of change and underestimate the risk/pain associated with the current situation the drive for change usually comes too late (i.e. after one unplanned project goes horribly wrong). Even at that point people need to associate the cure with better planning, but more commonly they see the need for better contracts with time penalties and liquidated damages.

Every project is like a war. Without a plan I don’t now where to send my troops to get to the final victory. The plan let’s you know which battles you can lose to win the war.

Before I go way off on a rant I come back to what started this in the first place:
How do I get the other people to think like me - planning is a good idea?
James Barnes
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quite a deep and emotive subject...

One problem is that the planning exercise is quite easy to undermine, relying as it does on infomation and commitment from everyone in the organisation, from top level to tools (or at least to site foreman level)

I believe that most people don’t like to plan because

a. they see that it takes time away from "actually doing the job" - at least this is the justification.
b. They fear that their input and commitments will be used as a stick to beat them with.
c. They resent that the planning process causes (in fact aims to) consider the needs of all parties involved in executing a project, not just their own.
d. The contractually minded don’t like the fact that a well written plan will render transparent things that they could otherwise use to cover their own liabilities or base claims against others on. What they fail to see is that with every line that exposes their liability there is another that protects them from all the others who are thinking the same way.
e. They don’t feel that it is their plan, but some spotty computer geek who works 8 hours a day and drives home in a nicer car than them and has never turned a spanner in his life (erm, that’s us)

My last project the contractor successfuly undermined the planning process by delaying infomation supply and process until it was all too late to combine it properly. This was my fault for not being more insistent and creative with them. To my own credit, I did manage to scrape enough together (with the rest of the team of course) to at least maintain a long reign on the job and it was generally considered a success, with a major lesson learned that we should staff our own team more appropriately next time, instead of relying on contractual commitments from the contractors to supply planning resources, who’s commitments are later denied and who are anyway often diverted to writing permit applications and making coffee.

It’s a terrible american phrase, but I struggle to find a better way to say it. Those that will follow the plan need to buy into it and feel some ownership of it. This doesn’t mean they sign a piece of paper to say they accept the thing, but they are actually involved in its creation, take part in the progressing of it and see their own decisions and actions reflected in it. That, of course, presumes that you have support from above for the planning process. Without that you are on a non-starter imo.

my 2p ran out
Ed Fish
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I’d forgotten about this little chestnut, but despite the watre under the bridge I find myself many projects on and still facing the same battle (sort of).

Perhaps the tone has changed a little. People doing the doing want to be left alone and don’t want to contribute to the planning process, but without their "buy in" to the details the plan is limited in value. The "senior management" think planning is a great idea, but work in either "next week" of "6 months from now mode".

This is a thorny culture change question and I keep planning as best I can and hope that slowly people see the value to planning from the "better" experience they have on a planned project.

I won’t even go in to the "MS-Project" is planning debate.

And yes, those 6 P’s get fat and pop all to often.

Enjoy the planning experience
David Barker
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Well there were these six peas in a pod and all through the summer they grew fatter and fatter until one day they were ejected with aloud bang all because proper planning prevents piss poor performance!
Ernesto Puyana
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6p’s? please enlighten me and excuse my ignorance.
David Barker
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Dont forget the story of the 6 P’s
Ernesto Puyana
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Sure something is better than nothing. But I don´t think that´s the point. A crude bar chart won´t let you but check milestones, once they are due and late. There´s no way to generate a realistic percent complete that way; much less make estimates to completion.

A simple bar chart summing up information generated from a real program is a different thing. A real, comprehensive program does not necesarilly mean tons of paper.
Alex Wong
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I think a simple plan is far better than no plan at all.

Start off with something easy - especially with senior management. They only have 5 or 10 min, if you can at least force than to plan a high level plan, it is a success.
Ernesto Puyana
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How do you control or update a contruction project planned by means of a few bars drawn in powerpoint?
Guy Hindley
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Seems like another common thread among Planners. I find that most people don’t want to plan, regardless of where thay sit in an organisation. Somehow one has to convince them that Planning is worthwhile and beneficial.

I find that the hardest to convince are the more senior people who think you can produce a plan in seconds, its all very easy. Forget our debates about MSP versus P3, etc. To many Powerpoint is the ideal tool! Can draw bars in seconds, no need for baselines, resources, costs, etc! The need top sell the benefits of effective Planning is key. As you rightly say such a desire must come from the top of an organisation.
Ernesto,
if top management is convinced that PM is worth implementing then it is necessary to develop corporate project management standards that are mandatory to use in any project. If this is not achieved then you will start from the very beginning every time and besides will not be able to manage project portfolio. Top management should be supplied with reports not only on projects but also on project management implementation process and at least once in a month a special meeting with the top management participation should be devoted to the project management implementation. Try to involve top management in the PM implementation. Personnel resistance to changes will be lower if everybody will know that the process of PM implementation is monitored and supported from the top and all problems will be reported.
PM makes projects highly visible and many people are not interested in this visibility.
Vladimir
Ernesto Puyana
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You are right. I’ve been in that position. Being part ot top management, I’ve implemented the whole control process and design reports field profesional are supposed to produce. Most of them percive them as an additional task imposed on them, instead of an analitycal tool to improve their own performance and their success.
I don´t say it´s imposible to make them undestand, but it does take time; and time we have not. furthermore, It’s not easy to get continuity from one project to the next, so we have to start all over again.
Ernesto,
implementing project management (not only scheduling) we always begin from the top. Top managers (and preferably owners of the business) are the real interested parties. If they are not involved, if they don’t require proper planning and regular reports then you will meet opposition that is hard to overcome.
So start with the highest possible level. If they become your allies then PM implementation has good chances for success. Without management support you will have many problems and your chances to be successful are low.
Ernesto Puyana
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That´s a good one. I´ve been sort of a pioneer in this field in my city and have several examples that ratify all your points: A 14 months sports arena built in 12. A 23,000 sq-mt shopping mall opened in 6 months with no delay. But the hardest point in all cases was to get the rest of the team, specially field people to commit in the same terms I was. Their motto is always "that can wait".

Scheduling software boxes should include a whip.
Jaco Stadler
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I think you should inform them of the advantages of a Planning.

1) Time is Money

2) A "plan" main objective is to ensure that you will complete the work on time. (See point 1)

3) It will identify if it is possible to save time. (See point 1)

4) If you plan propper you would notice that their will not be stoppages due to poor planning. (See point 1)

5) It will also assist you with extension of time / Delay claims. (See point 1)

6) etc. See point 1

In short propper planning will save you money.

How do you think Bill Gates did it. I am convinced he had a good plan and even a better planner.
Ernesto Puyana
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I know what you are trying to say. I don´t have the answer. If you think it is hard to get people to plan, try getting them to work on a schedule you have prepared, and even worse, get them to report on work done.
Ed Fish
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Folks,

First confession - I am generally the ’project manager’, but the jobs are too small or the people that employ me won’t employ a dog/planner, so I have to bark myself. [I am one of those pro planning project managers, or why else would I be on this forum?]

With a lot of the development projects I work on planning can be tricky, but they are not what I’m questioning here.

To put the question in a little context:

Scenario 1 - I was ’project manager’, but the staff ’project engineer’ had all the budgetary control and was free to alter the schedule as he saw fit. I had no authority to beat him, as I was only the hired help, but believe me the top brass in that company new who to kick when the weren’t happy {ouch}, because despite the politics I did make things happen - according to my plan! This one I think got lost in internal politics, a sea that can swamp any project.

Scenario 2 - Current project where I am just doing some design engineering (we all have to earn a crust some days) and the ’project manager’ can’t tell his a&#e from his elbow, but wanted the project manager’s role. I am trying to do my day job and when I do see him, teach him how to manage a project, not least of which would be to get a plan out.

Scenario 3 - I am helping with a church building extension, gratis. The architect, etc. who are getting paid are happy to draw up their plans, but the church doesn’t seem to want to plan the detail at all. Maybe this is just down to the fact that they are all big picture thinkers.

I do like the catching a plane/alarm clock analogy. Maybe that will get a few brain cells twitching.

Thanks for the comments so far.
Raj Maurya
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Ed
This is real planning challenge if a plaaner convince stakeholders as well as project manager the value of planning and scheduling work. Lots of people thinks planning do not contribute projects +vely. But being a planner we should convince them to show their personal life where each one manage their personal work schedule,meeting and important dates to remember. If some one needs to catch flight or so, early in the morning he put his alarm on, why? Why they make a plan for own life’s work while it is single handed. In case of project lots of people working with various jobs that requires a plan to guide all stakeholders what they have to do and when. There is no value of even an excellant work if it is not done at the time of need(except some cases where time is not bound).
As Alex said, in some cases project manager doesn’t give value to the planning activity. I think it is because they don’t want planning expert to involve much in project activities so that they easily can hide their shortcomings with top management while project is progressing. In this situation depending on your responcibility in company/project you can take the issue at different forum to solve.

Raj
Brennan Westworth
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Ultimately it is the project managers call, but here we have a project manager who is pro planning and is trying to get the other project stakeholders to plan also

I think Marc Borburgh was on the right track when he suggested that you need to lead the charge. Perhaps you should hold a regular (fortnightly or monthly) project coordination meeting where each of the stakeholders discusses what they have achieved since the last meeting and outlines what they plan to achieve during the next period, as well as forecasting dates for project milestones.

Document these discussions and issue them after the meetings either in a bar chart or simply as dot points with dates against them.

Group psychology dictates that people will prefer to live up to written commitments rather than face the embarrassment of not achieving them


out of interest, what is the project you are managing. no need to be specific, but it would help to understand the context
Alex Wong
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Of course in a client and contractor position. It is easy to ask people to plan. How about within the same team? Sometime team members are just not good @ planning. How to motivate them to plan.

Especailly if you have a project manager that do not value planning activity. HOW??
Ed Fish
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Guys,

All good clean suggestions. Somehow it doesn’t reflect real life. There are some people who seem to thrive on the chaos of not planning. I’ve used most of these suggestions with varying degrees of success.

The problem with the contract approach is that when you are helping a charity on a voluntary basis and their contractors are looking for a plan and all they are getting is a few dates, there are no contract to hit them with. The power of being the client ;-)

Maybe I am trying to find an insight into those who have not yet seen the light of planning. I think many people that don’t do a lot of projects do one that doesn’t go to plan and they feel that planning is a waste of time. They don’t look at the plan as a means of control, so you can see where things are going to pot.

Keep any ideas flowing and be sure that if I find a magic formula I will be posting it.
Bernard Ertl
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If you do manage to get your contractors to produce a schedule, be sure that it is resource loaded. Otherwise, it really does not mean anything IMHO - it will be missing the context necessary to understand/analyze it.

Bernard Ertl
InterPlan Systems - ATC Professional Shutdown / Turnaround Management System
Marc Borburgh
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Stuart is right, CONTRACTS is the key word. At first, if they don’t want to plan, MAKE them plan and hit them with a contract that tells them to plan.

Besides that, if they don’t want to plan and they don’t have to contractualy (is that English ? ) then the keyword is COMMUNICATE. Make a schedule yourself (you can use the Prod-Rates on this site) and make a guestimate plan. Then tell your contractors that "this should be it" and have them coment on the plan. Trust me, 90% of them will comment and before you know it, you will have more information about the work to the done than you would have ever imagined.

As a final step, you can (maybe) trick them in to complying to your plan with there input for execution.

COMMUNICATION and INPUT is the key.

"Failing to plan is planning to fail" I use that all the time, one of my favourits :-D
Stuart Ness
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Ed,
The requirement to provide Contract Programmes and updated schedules should always be enshrined in the Contract or Subcontract documents (if not then those drafting the Contracts/Subcontracts are idiots!). It is then a matter of enforcing the Subbies etc. to comply with the Contract terms (or they won’t get paid....?)

In the alternative, ask them how they will manage to claim for lost time and additional costs without a proper and updated schedule!

Cheers,
Stuart

www.rosmartin.com