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Path to be a Project Planner

posted Mar 17, 2022, 10:23 PM by jeffery jim
Someone asked me a question about paths to be a planner. For me, it is similar to the path to be a great engineer.
1. If you intend to be a professional engineer or certified planner, it is never about your certification or accreditation. No one cares about your paper but performance of your past experience. I encountered many who carries the title Ir. or professional ingénieur but failed to grasp the key concept of standards and specifications. I also met many who called themselves planner but never once completed a project or better, rescued a project.

2. Software handling ability is one thing, knowledge is another thing. Software is just a tool to help you in making decision by inferential made through a software or multiple software. The key is knowledge through thorough understanding and that is the core of being a professional just like other licensed or accredited or chartered, or professional individuals. If you are good with software and have no sense of direction or guided by others, you are just an operator. Professionals will maximize all features to the extend of learning how to do scripts or derivation spreadsheet to assist in making sound judgement prior to the use of the software. As I always mention before, 80% on paper and only 20% on software.

3. Like many contracts, time is of the essence. Similarly, to be a professional, one have to have sufficient experience to execute the right call in split second. This can only be achieved by putting effort and time on subjects that matters. In some instances, you can get what ever accreditation you desired but that is about it. A paper worth no essence. No one can have an eagle or a birdie on the first month at the golf course. In similar fashion, no one can have a proper work program in their first style. A planner have to find a comfortable zone and usually have different style of rendering what is envisage into a work program. Your guru have a way of styling is WBS and you have your different way in even detailing your task descriptions (adding technical info to it). This styling is based on user preference and there is no right or wrong in a presentation.

4. Start small. If you cannot plan for a small project, don't be bothered with large projects. Scale does not equal to effort driven when comparing to smaller projects to larger ones. It exponentially increases in degree of complexity and distribution. I remember a contractor switching from Class F to Class D and died executing it. Their planning flawed from the first day and at the end of the day, they went for mutual termination as suggested. Engineers usually start their apprenticeship by interpreting drawings and simulate how it looks during construction. Then, one have to learn about constructibility and so on. An engineer will not jump directly into designing earthquake resistant structure without having experience for normal structure. Similar like earthwork which is always deemed to be simple when it is not. A civil engineer need the knowledge of site investigation and interpreting soil test and monitoring in order to have a fixation and deep understanding in simpler things.

5. When I mentioned exponentially increased in complexity, it only make sense that one should not be planning for other industry even it is related. Acceptable risks in one industry are not comparable to other industries. If you are going to plan for oil and gas industry or marine field when you have experience in construction, it is wise to drop it unless it is purely infrastructure or onshore construction. Now, the reason is quite easy. One have no proper insight to oversee all the risks involved throughout the process life cycle. Every industry have different kind of work-in-progress and have different valuation for work and time. Changes to contract type is horrendous enough when budgeting in conventional interim payment is way better than milestone payment. That does not include the different contract form such as FIDIC or JKR203 variants or PAM contract form.

Remember, planning a project is not about fiddling with the unknown. It is about putting on paper about how you orchestrated a project to be completed in the best time frame within the specified quality and cost. Yes, planning can be like rocket science at times. Even NASA stole Nazi scientists through Paperclip Ops just to ensure they win the war to space. One have to work with the resources they have and try to figure out throughout the project lifespan on how to maximize for best performance.

6. Artistry. Planning is an artistry and it have to be perfect but flexible. Introducing rigidity to a work program is not the way forward although this is one thing that adore by many especially by superintending officer. We call this the grey zone or the dark side of planning. It gives room to maneuver in scenarios in order to wiggle if not wrestle out in certain context. It was placed as a pretext for obscure purposes in the initial state of planning works. Guided by all five points i have mentioned earlier, a planner can fully utilize his abilities to resolve problems for his client. Artistry comes in many forms. From reading, practicing, learning and execution, only one can possess these and use to their advantage. Artistry cannot be learned formally. It is something intuitive and intangible; that sense of feeling placed before knowledge. Exploits, that it is called in engineering. This is a knowledge known to certain people who have put so much effort in learning and place an advantage to their side through specifications which are not none to common practice. For e.g., Eurocode 2 can be overruled if one really understand Eurocode 0 when it comes to partial factors.

So I have covered a lot about the path to be a good planner. Certification does not warrant or guarantee anyone anything. It is one of many routes for formal learning. Me and my guru, Doc Syed do not believe in certifications, especially those which are guaranteed for a pass. No honor to it and I call this as stolen valor. No fight involved, no service, and no ops in any war theater; and there is a person who speak about purple heart in a camouflage fatigue. First, develop an interest and then drive your interest into action. Practice and never give up. That is not only the route to be a great planner but also a route to be a man serving for his desire, the nation and his family.