One advantage that no one has over another is time. Everybody’s minute contains sixty seconds, and everyone’s hour contains sixty minutes, no more, no less. When we don’t make plans to use our time wisely, we throw it away, never to be recaptured. When it comes to time there are no “do over’s”, but we sometimes are required to do a “do again”, and that is not good time management.
I have taught many sessions of project management over the years, and time is considered to be one of the triple constraints, along with scope, and budget these items are what binds us to a contract. If we adjust one of these constraints, the other two also need adjusting, like the legs of a tripod. Well, how do we adjust time? Can we stretch or shrink it to fit our needs? Can it be saved to be used later when we need an extra helping? No, the time leg of the tripod is not adjustable. Time is time, every second that ticks is one less second that we will have to live, and every breath we breathe is one less breath that we get to breathe. Time must be used wisely.
We can rush a project in hopes that we finish early, expending less time, but time is still expended, once it is gone, it is gone. If we have to go back and redo a project because of careless mistakes or cutting corners we will expend more time, not to mention expend more resources to repair or replace what should have been done right the first time. “If you cut a board too short twice, it is still too short” that is what my grandpa used to tell me.
What then, can we do to ensure an acceptable finished project? We need to take some time and plan. “Wait a minute, you said not to waste time, now you are saying to take more time?” I am saying that time used wisely in the beginning to make plans is hardly time wasted. A minute spent planning a project in the beginning is better than an hour spent planning how to repair a fault at the end of the job. Alan Lakein is often quoted as telling us “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Who in their right mind would purposely plan to fail? I will never be convinced that people purposely set themselves up to fail, our intentions are to succeed, our morals demand it. So why then do we not spend the appropriate time planning to better our chances at success? I would bet that even Edison, who tried a thousand times to make the incandescent bulb light up, planned what materials he would experiment with, and what changes he would make to better his chances at success. Edison did not intend to fail, if he had, he would have failed much sooner. He intended to succeed and succeed he did.
When I was an emergency manager, the phrase that was thrown about the Emergency Operations Center was, “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” Stuff happens, and we can’t avoid that. Murphey’s Law tells us that if something is to go wrong it will. Well, let me tell you that it is not a matter of if, but rather a matter of when something will go wrong. “I wish I had the ability to see exactly where something might go wrong, that way I would be able to be prepared for it. Wait, maybe I can have a contingency for what might happen and then be prepared and have the available resources to deal with the situation. Wait, that sounds like planning… I don’t have time for that, or do I?”