How planning differs across professional occupations

Longstreet

Registered
I watched a video again of David Allen describing how he decides what he is going to do moment to moment. While it is good and very informative, one thing he said struck me. And I paraphrase: "I plan as little as I can get by with". I understand this, but for some professional occupations, this approach does not work so well. For me with major NIH grants that span over 5-year periods, I have to do an extensive amount of planning of projects, resources, personnel, etc. with built in milestones, quarterly status reports to NIH, and on and on. I AM an avid user of GTD of course and I do embrace the natural planning model. But it is evident that I cannot approach my work and my GTD practice like David teaches. I HAVE to plan carefully, and of course have contingency plans in case things go unforseen directions. And I have to timeblock to ensure adequate focus and protected time on multiple projects since I am the overseer of the entire research group.

How do those of you that have similar needs plan? Can you get by with as little planning as possible?
 

Cpu_Modern

Registered
Just because your required amount of planning is a lot, it doesn't mean you don't do get by with as little planning as possible.

In terms of formats of plans, other than a classic Natural Planning Model document, I have found a certain table to be good for both mono and team.

With that format a simple table is used. The title column at the left gets filled with every relevant area of the subject to be planned. (We could call these "area of focus of that project or objective" between us.) Now, in a team approach this works wonders to get to completion. It then seems to dawn on people how much they really took on; a little GTD pill under the counter.

The title bar at the top then gets filled with every relevant deadline date. Or review time. So for instance, when I plan a project like that for myself that way, I just put the next 90 days milestone and the end year result up there.

The the cells get filled in with the goals: what do we want to achieve in each area up to that specific date?

Those then become gtd projects or next actions, depending on the scope of the whole thing.
 

Oogiem

Registered
I paraphrase: "I plan as little as I can get by with". I understand this, but for some professional occupations, this approach does not work so well. For me with major NIH grants that span over 5-year periods, I have to do an extensive amount of planning of projects, resources, personnel, etc. with built in milestones, quarterly status reports to NIH, and on and on.
Isn't that just planning as little as possible for that type of project? I don't get the difference.

I have some projects that have had planning done years ago. Got started then mothballed and are being picked up again. I cna usually just dust off hte plans, make a few minor changes to accommodate new inputs and keep on rolling.
 

Longstreet

Registered
Isn't that just planning as little as possible for that type of project? I don't get the difference.

I have some projects that have had planning done years ago. Got started then mothballed and are being picked up again. I cna usually just dust off hte plans, make a few minor changes to accommodate new inputs and keep on rolling.
It is - for some reason, I did not see this. Thanks to you and all for clarifying this for me.
 

silver0101

Registered
When I do intense planing session on my projects, that usually span over 18 to 24 months, it is to better evaluate the risks and to find the right sequence of activities that will make it a success. The clarity I gain in the planning session then translate into smaller projects / priorities that I can manage with much less planing.
If timeline was not a concern, I could live without these planing session but contractual commitment cannot be ignored, so to make sure I am taking the right path I need these sessions from time to time.
 

Gardener

Registered
It occurs to me that the various online and other discussions of planning for waterfall software projects, versus agile software projects, could be relevant to this.
 

Melissa Strayer

Minimalissa
What I hear David saying is we need to continually focus on what's appropriate to plan given the complexity of the project, the degree of risk involved, and the level of environmental change occurring. In the project management profession, we plan projects according to a guiding principle of "tailoring" - that is, we tailor the rigor of planning based on the project's level of risk and complexity as well as the degree and speed with which conditions change. Too much structure applied to a relatively simple project and nothing gets done (for the same reason we urge new GTD'ers to create a tool ecosystem that can effectively manage their stuff but also one they can manage when they have the flu). In this sense, the project management principle of tailoring aligns well with David's maxim of "plan as little as you can [responsibly!] get by with", so you avoid the risk of creating artificial constraints. We need to be appropriately prepared yet also appropriately agile and responsive to changing conditions and levels of uncertainty. An NIH grant proposal or project has a long lead time, clear requirements (at least as they see them), and few changes over time (e.g., the NIH is unlikely to cease to exist in 5 yrs and the need driving the study is unlikely to simply evaporate in that time). Thus a more structured, formal, traditional planning approach (i.e., "waterfall") would be entirely appropriate. But applying that rigor to planning your next vacation would be absurd. What I hear from David is a very important reminder: we need to focus on what's appropriate to plan given the complexity of the project, the degree of risk involved, and the level of environmental change occurring. That is very much consistent with the project management profession's principle of tailoring... as well as Einstein's admonition to keep things as simple as possible, not simpler.
 

Longstreet

Registered
What I hear David saying is we need to continually focus on what's appropriate to plan given the complexity of the project, the degree of risk involved, and the level of environmental change occurring. In the project management profession, we plan projects according to a guiding principle of "tailoring" - that is, we tailor the rigor of planning based on the project's level of risk and complexity as well as the degree and speed with which conditions change. Too much structure applied to a relatively simple project and nothing gets done (for the same reason we urge new GTD'ers to create a tool ecosystem that can effectively manage their stuff but also one they can manage when they have the flu). In this sense, the project management principle of tailoring aligns well with David's maxim of "plan as little as you can [responsibly!] get by with", so you avoid the risk of creating artificial constraints. We need to be appropriately prepared yet also appropriately agile and responsive to changing conditions and levels of uncertainty. An NIH grant proposal or project has a long lead time, clear requirements (at least as they see them), and few changes over time (e.g., the NIH is unlikely to cease to exist in 5 yrs and the need driving the study is unlikely to simply evaporate in that time). Thus a more structured, formal, traditional planning approach (i.e., "waterfall") would be entirely appropriate. But applying that rigor to planning your next vacation would be absurd. What I hear from David is a very important reminder: we need to focus on what's appropriate to plan given the complexity of the project, the degree of risk involved, and the level of environmental change occurring. That is very much consistent with the project management profession's principle of tailoring... as well as Einstein's admonition to keep things as simple as possible, not simpler.
Yes!! This is so well-stated! Thanks, Melissa. This is at the heart of what I was trying to say.
 
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