“Morning comes, whether you set the alarm or not.” – Ursula K. Le Guin
When we are fortunate, then morning comes whether we set the alarm or not. In our project work, our deadlines are going to arrive, whether we plan for them or not. This is not an argument in favor of fatalism and lack of planning, “Well the deadline will come whether we are prepared or not, so why bother?” It is a reminder that the deadline will come, so why not be prepared? Setting the alarm is a metaphor for planning and morning is your deadline. The deadline will come, whether or not you have a plan.
To return to the analogy of morning, you can face your day with calm and preparation or with surprise and chaos. You have at least one friend who wakes up everyday and everyday has a difficult time pulling himself together and getting out the door. Yet at least five days a week he has the same destination, the same commute and the same dress code. But each morning is like a surprise to him. He does not know where his clean clothes are; he does not have gas in the car or time for breakfast.
Then there is you, your clothes are ready, your lunch is packed, if you need to stop for gas you allow for time in your schedule, your morning routine flows smoothly MOST of the time. Your planning does not guarantee a perfect morning. Your planning positions you for an easier morning, even when things start to fall apart.
The purpose of the plan is not guaranteed perfection. The purpose of the plan is to provide for a better experience. To increase the likelihood of meeting your goals and when changes and issues arise (and they will), you will be less disrupted and recover more quickly.
The difference between you and your friend is that when he gets out the door and he is already late and running low on gas, even if everything else falls into place, he is most likely going to be late. On a day when he is already late and running low on gas and everything else falls apart (traffic jam, car trouble), he is going to be exceptionally late. You on the other hand will be on time MOST days and on that rare day when you are late, the fact that it was out of your control will be understood.
A project manager who does not lead her team in good planning will earn the reputation of being disorganized, and barely making or often missing deadlines on a regular basis. A project manager who leads her team in good planning will earn the reputation of being a strong professional who is prepared and makes deadlines with ease. Only situations beyond her control and the control of her team cause them to falter. And when this happens, they respond quickly and effectively.
Like it or not, the deadline will come. Will you be ready?