LET'S BE HONEST—PLANNING SOFTWARE projects is mostly not fun. It can have fun moments, it can be challenging (in both good and frustrating ways), and it can be rewarding when it serves its purpose, but much of planning is tedious and dry. Nevertheless, keeping your plans alive and current is more than just a necessary evil.
Because planning is difficult and usually not much fun, it frequently gets postponed. We may blame the project sponsors ("They don't give me time to plan") or the project's team members ("They think planning is a waste of time") or the crisis du jour ("I'm busy fighting fires right now and don't have time to plan"), but the bottom line is that we don't always do what we should. One subtle yet insidious excuse I’ve heard for delaying planning activities is "We know that change X is coming, and we will know more in two weeks than we know today." I know of one project where that was said every two weeks for eighteen months.
Planning and plan revision cycles take time. As project plans begin requiring two weeks or more for substantive change, it gets tempting to postpone trying to keep plans current because you will always know more in two weeks than you know today. This invites peril.
Your project needs current and credible plans—not because "textbook" project management says planning is needed and not because you need Gantt charts to cover the stain on your cubicle wall. You need plans because they are tools to assess feasibility and communicate with the team and sponsors about expectations and the viability of accomplishing the project according to its current schedule and resource goals. Does work ever happen without plans? Of course. Does work happen efficiently without plans? Sometimes. Is there a process for building perfect plans? No—but that doesn't mean that imperfect plans have no value. Do the best you can with the information you have.
The fact that planning is difficult is no excuse for failing to plan. The fact that upcoming information may alter thoughts about the project's approach or viability suggests the project is in the midst of substantive change—making project and plan awareness all the more necessary. If your planning cycle is getting too drawn out (if you can't finish painting the bridge before the first bits you painted begin rusting), perhaps you need technical or administrative planning assistance. As a priority, maybe you need to focus on developing and maintaining detailed plans for the next three months rather than trying to maintain detailed plans for the next year. Maybe the rate of change is beginning to exceed the rate of progress, and project viability should be reassessed.
Plans are communication tools. In the absence of credible plans, how can we assess progress? How will we know if the project is still viable? How can we avoid fooling ourselves into thinking that the big picture is OK when we can't see the big picture any longer?
Gut it out, friends. Update those plans. Schedule yourself for a movie or some other fun treat when you finish, but don't delay. The pain you save may be your own.