How Much Planning Should You Really Do for a Creative Project?

Two things struck me with awe as I stood in the dated hallways of a US defense contractor: 

  1. That so many employees, thousands of them, were required to design, engineer, develop, and produce a single military helicopter. 
  2. That the wall to my left was covered in over 300 sheets of paper, all woven together like squares of a quilt in a single, 30-year long project plan for building a military helicopter. 

Thirty. Years.

All planned out, every todo ordered, each task assigned to the thousands of employees whose cubes littered the floors far out of sight, around the corner, and up the stairs. 

As a professional Project Manager, I couldn’t fathom the complexity of that schedule. What’s more, though the chart was generated with a software tool that would automatically update the project plan to reflect any divergence from the critical path, the thought of even a single misstep and the ripples it would cause over the next 30 years made me vomit a little in my mouth. 

Some projects, like building a house, cleaning a garage, or building a military helicopter can be scheduled in great detail from start to finish. 

Most projects cannot. 

Most projects, especially those from creative entrepreneurs like yourself, building products that have never been built before, are full of unknowns. They require unplannable amounts of creative brainstorming. They will run into unknown unknowns. They will face problems for which you and your team could never prepare. 

So does that mean you should give up? Should you run your next project ad-hoc, dealing with issues as they arise and hoping for the best?

Absolutely not.  

“The key to success is looking ahead just enough to know that the next vital few things you do, contribute to the results you want to accomplish.” - Getting Results the Agile Way by J.D. Meier

About the Author


Michael Mehlberg


I help high-achieving entrepreneurs live their passion and achieve their dreams by consistently saving time, getting productive, and being more efficient and organized.

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