I enjoy planning and I’ve had lots of experience doing it. Planning with me started before I graduated from high school when I needed a plan for navigating the probability of being drafted to serve in a war in Viet Nam. Since I was not accepted by any of the colleges to which I applied, I had to contend with the draft board who, at that time, took every able-bodied male over the age of 18 and sent them into the U.S. Army. Sorting things out I found that volunteering for the service allowed me to choose either what my job or MOS would be, or where I would be stationed. I lived in Germany for 5 years and that was a tempting choice, but I decided to take the longest school I could find in a subject I thought would be interesting and that turned out to be 20 weeks studying meteorology, the weather.
This exercise taught me something important about planning which would stay with me throughout my work career. You will never account for every variable in a plan, and you will, however, discover some things you wouldn’t have if you did not plan. Planning for contingencies is just as important as planning itself. That’s how you avoid major errors and unacceptable outcomes.
Fortune smiled on me when I met Bob Baker and he hired me in 1981 at Digital Marketing, a software publishing firm. Our premier product was Milestone, a PC project management software program. Milestone was also sold as VisaSchedule for the Apple computer. This program introduced me to the formal elements of a project plan and the charts and symbols used in professional project planning, the key ingredients of which are people or manpower, time, and money. These elements are balanced to save as much of each as possible and allow project managers to determine how long it will take, how many people in the effort and what it’s going to cost. Projects are broken down into tasks that have associated time and cost elements. They are presented together in a Gantt chart which indicates the milestones to achieving each section of the plan.
Later in my career when I worked at Computer Aided Management, I became familiar with ViewPoint another PC project management software package but this one was much more robust and expensive. Where Milestone had been a couple of hundred dollars, ViewPoint was $3,000 and came with a week of training ensuring customer’s success using it. This version of the project management planning tool focused a great deal on tracking the progress of the plan and was utilized by very large corporations like Pacific Bell, AT&T, and Hewlett-Packard to plan their projects. Our sales department spent many hours demonstrating ViewPoint’s capabilities and it was selected Editor’s Choice by PC Magazine twice.
A few years later, I found myself consulting with Digital Tools, who sold a software project management package called Autoplan which ran on minicomputers as well as PCs. And I had another client, Kidasa Software who published a software program called Milestones Etc. that produces Gantt charts quickly and easily. I participated in the production of PG&E’s internal manual on project management and have worked with several dedicated project management consulting firms.