Planning When Too Much Is Unknown

Sometimes you just can’t wrap your arms around a project because the unknowns far outweigh the knowns. Short of making yourself crazy, you need to accept the situation for what it is and work around the unknowns the best you can.

Let’s say you have a project scheduled for the first quarter of 2016 with a half dozen variables that would change the planning, process, and execution. The unknowns aren’t going to become known until an precariously short time before the deadline.

Maddening, isn’t it? Well, you don’t need to despair. You can use scenario planning to sketch out the possibilities.

Begin with the end in mind. You can outline the project on one piece of paper to start, and expand in project management software or a simple spreadsheet later.

At the top of each column, list the variables that you know, along with space for one or two which haven’t yet surfaced. After you’ve exhausted the possibilities, work backwards in each column and identify the resources and information that you would need in each situation.

This may seem too simple, but it accomplishes several things. First, it takes you out of panic mode as you wonder how the heck you’re going to make the deadline with so many unknowns. Second, by putting ideas on one piece of paper, you have a snapshot that organizes the most important things you need to know.

Third, by filling in the blanks and expanding each column as details become available, you’ll be ready for action. The snapshot will give you what you need to make decisions and take action quickly.

What do you think? Give it a try, and let me know how this works for you.

Have a great day!

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