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Type ‘P': The Planner

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We’ve all heard of the Type A and Type B Personality Theory and, in all likelihood, identify with one of the two. If you have not, you will find a wonderful definitional summary here. Type As are stereotypically described as high-strung go-getters for whom success is the only option; Type Bs, on the other hand, are laid-back, relaxed and tending to always go-with-flow. Believe it or not, there is also a Type AB for those individuals who fall somewhere in-between the continuum.

Well, how about adding a different alphabet to the Personality Theory? I’ve coined the profile Type ‘P’ for all of us PLANNERS.

Our mantra is a clichéd one, but one by which we live wholeheartedly: If you fail to plan, you better plan on failing.

Are You a Type P?

Although Type Ps are not exclusively Project Managers, most PMs are Type Ps. Whether the personality type leads an individual into the field or individuals with the personality type have a natural affinity toward the field is anyone’s guess. What is certain, however, is that in order to be an effective PM, you need to be a skilled planner. As a recent convert to the workshifting lifestyle, I can now say – with a high level of certainty – that to be an effective workshifter, you must also be a skilled and diligent planner.

Whether project managing, or workshifting, upon being assigned a new project or client or both(!), you jump in and begin assessing needs, defining scope, engaging stakeholders and kicking off the project or assignment. These activities should all be precursors to creating your ultimate roadmap: the project plan (It’s no mistake that, in the world of project management, this central document is called a plan). You work long hours perfecting the deliverables, deadlines and milestones which comprise this plan in order to share it with your client or project team and begin the fast and furious process of initiating, executing, controlling and closing the project in record time and on budget! Then, you get to begin all over again with a new project!

Although our more laid-back counterparts may consider this level of planning to be superfluous and overly analytical, if you are managing multiple clients, multiple projects, or multiple client projects- there is no room for error nor confusion. And in an ideal workshifting world, you want to juggle several engagements, never compromising the integrity of your work and the satisfaction of your end client.

So, why do project managers, workshifters and the like learn to enjoy planning so much?

  1. It is fun and gratifying to map out the landscape of a new project, itemizing the deliverables and ensuring they are clearly defined and placed so that no item is overlooked or under-addressed. A plan is a visual charter, whether in our heads, on paper or coded into software, which showcases the ultimate goal and the steps needed to achieve it.

  2. Perhaps plans also create an illusion of control – particularly when timelines are imposed, we want to believe we are in control of all of the inputs in order to achieve the desired output. And, the tighter the timeline, the more crucial the plan is to keep us on track.
  3. Planning creates its own momentum, permitting the planner to take the time to think through each item while also fast-tracking through the list.
  4. When the items that can feasibly be planned are and remain on track – we leave ourselves highly desirable time to address any unforeseen issues that may arise (which always do). Similarly, if the major milestones are laid out clearly – but a change in the plan needs to occur, we can most easily identify where that shift needs to occur, what else will be affected by the shift and determine if parallel planning can help mitigate the effect of said shift.
  5. Plans will not lie – they illustrate the fallacies that may exist in our heads between actual, realistic timeframes and goals and idealistic ones which may render your intended outcome improbable.

Plans are connective tools, bridging the ideas of individuals with desired outcomes. Without plans, there are sure to be missing links between identified goals and actual results. Therefore, it’s best not to risk that gap with a client and subject yourself to miscommunication and unsatisfactory results! So, whether you are a Type P or not – do not jeopardize the success of your project or your relationship with a customer. Slow down and take time to formulate a plan; it will pay dividends toward generating the success you desire.

What’s in your planning toolbox? How has effective planning or the lack thereof affected your workshifting lifestyle?

Author’s Note: there are a plethora of planning tools available, from Microsoft Project and Excel as well as some ingenious and free mind mapping programs. Try them; you may never fail to plan again!

Photo Credit:Justin See

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Natalya Sabga is a project management professional and operational efficiency expert turned author, consultant and executive education advisor. Fascinated by the study of human behavior, she has parlayed this into a successful writing career. Ms. Sabga is also the author of "From Secretary to CEO: A Guide to Climbing the Corporate Ladder Without Losing Your Identity" (2010). She is also the President of DNterprises, LLC - a firm specializing in project needs' analysis, and project management from implementation to operation. Ms. Sabga is currently working on her next non-fiction narrative, "A PMP's Guide to Project Managing Your Life," and authoring the blog 'ASK N'.