I firmly believe that projects have a maximum chance of success when the people who actually have to do the work have a substantial say in the project approach and the planning. Only then will people constructively commit themselves.
With regard to project planning I adhere to a number of important principles. For example: the project planning is a communications tool to explain what people need to do, when their work must be completed and in which way their fellow team members depend on that. If the planning is so complex that only the planner himself understands it, it overshoots the mark.
Another rule is: any planning only reflects the best possible forecast at the moment that planning was made. Many people keep trying to fit reality to the planning instead of the other way around. This usually leads to disappointments. During the course of a project the world changes and the planning must be adjusted accordingly. The correct question is: “how do we best reach our goal given what we know and where we are now?”
The technique I use for project planning makes use of PERT project charts and emphasizes total clarity with regard to deliverables. It all too often happens that deliverables don’t meet the expectations of the receiver, leading to delays and additional costs. In my approach this is prevented by describing and formalising a fixed structure for deliverables at the beginning of a project. This is often a troublesome phase: people experience it as formal and “a fuss”. However, experience shows that this initial effort is amply rewarded in later stages.