The team had met a couple of times, earlier that week, and they’re in the middle of another discussion. Ben, a team lead on the project, was wondering when the meeting would get over so he could leave office and go out for a beer or two with his friends; after all it was Friday! While Ben was busy pondering, he heard something in a low voice “when can we have the plan?” which he dismissed thinking it’s just an imagination. Then, almost like a shout, “Ben! When can we have the plan?” asked (Mike) the project manager. Trying not to fumble and seem attentive, he replied “you will have the draft within two days.”
As Ben was stepping out of the meeting room, with one part of him just wanting to go out and have fun, he kept thinking “did he commit too early?” or “was there enough information available with him to proceed?” He had prepared a plan once before, so he was pretty new to this and still learning. In that moment, all he could muster was to check previously available plan or talk to people he knew who have worked on similar plans before.
We all have come across a similar situation at some point in time or come across them on daily basis. Think about the financial institutions which make forecast for the month or year. The trading firms which work solely on the data available with them through various sources. Or a sports commentator providing you with vital stats, dating back 30 or 50 years. It doesn’t matter which industry you work in, there will always be a need for historic data. How you use that data is entirely based on your need and scope of work.
“Past can tell a lot about future to come, or at least prepare us for what to expect. But it can’t predict everything, since we don’t live in an ideal world.”
With time the situation changes, the actors, the policies, and almost everything changes. But to be available to compare scenarios or data you need evidence, evidence of something which has happened within the conditions desired by you, and evidence can only be achieved from past and not from future.
You can’t be perfect or plan for actuals while preparing a work plan. It’s a plan based on your understanding or things, previous experience of working under similar situation, and an assumption of how things would shape up. The historic data comes in to play by enabling you to enact a similar situation with previously used set of inputs with a more likely outcome. It acts like a teacher, a simulator; only the data set is available from other projects with known results. The only thing you have to do is pick the parameters which best suit your need or project, cater in the risks and mitigation, and you have a plan which you can work upon. You are better prepared for executing a scenario when you have outcomes available from previous executions than planning for something afresh. In former case, you would know of the conditions and values used previously and how closely they would match to your current work, rather than shooting in the dark.
An interesting, yet important, thing to note is that any plan is merely an outline to how you and your team would work or should work. Wouldn’t they all love to stick to it as closely as possible? Yeah, we all do! However, we need to be open and flexible and dynamic in our approach. Just when you think everything is working fine or going by the plan – Boom! Something JUST happens! That’s the reason why every plan should have enough space for any variation to kick in and not disturb your project’s eco-system.
“Past is a good way to plan for future, however it should not force you to bend it rather mend it for good.” ~ P.R.
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