In Japan during the 1970s, Taiichi Ohno pioneered just-in-time manufacturing within Toyota manufacturing plants. This manufacturing management philosophy minimizes waste by striving to avoid unnecessary production and precisely meet customer demand.

While traditional methods of IT project management may have emphasized detailed, lock step planning, some methods forego an elaborate plan for a simple vision statement and a more just-do-it mindset. This just-do-it mindset is similar to just-in-time manufacturing because it is about eliminating waste by developing plans to match important needs as they arise.

Detailed plan or no plan? It’s a balancing act.

In a business that deals with infrastructure design and development in enterprise environments, the best bet is a balance of upfront planning and agile flexibility. Sure, you still need to plan but not always at the same level of detail; planning can occur and be refined when some portions of the project are in the execution phase.

It helps to write a charter to understand the end goal and have a clear vision of what success will look like. When you construct a detailed plan at the beginning, it will help reduce missteps and risks. At the same time, too much effort and time might not be fruitful as these plans are based on abstract reasoning and are bound to change. You still need to anticipate, but initial planning in a charter is best done with high-level objectives that can be clarified as project work proceeds.

In the software development world, sometimes minimal planning might be appropriate. However, for IT infrastructure and application implementation projects with demanding logistics required for ordering equipment, some upfront preparation and planning is a must. If you purchase the wrong device, it can be costly, change your project goals, waste time and drag other aspects of the project down.

A more agile and iterative approach can help you execute on your goals but also allows you to adapt as needed. This will also reduce costly over-planning at the initial stage of the project. Plan just enough to get started. Avoid drafting overly detailed plans for execution.

Quick tip: It can be dangerous if you design and stick too closely to a detailed plan without reflecting and reviewing your scope. Always have a vision but stay adaptable. Create a plan to provide a clear vision but execute with a methodology that anticipates change.

Where we left off: Last time I posted a blog, I wrote about the benefits of a hybrid methodology, recommending a waterfall model for project planning and agile principles for execution. Though every IT project is unique in its own way, using these two methodologies will help you achieve a balance between planning and adaptability.

What’s up next: Achieving a balance between detailed planning and needed flexibility requires a skilled project manager. In my next blog, I will outline general traits and techniques that organizations should look for in project managers.