Just in Time (JIT) planning – always a mistake.

JIT is like the Holy Grail of supply chain logistics; why keep excess stock around when you can plan it for a minimal of storage and save the budget?

Similarly, JIT sounds like the lifesaver of task execution. Why waste time, when you can just plan for tasks to complete just in time? The next task can begin right after that, thus making you an uber efficient individual who plans with a razor sharp edge.

Not.

Life as Forrest Gump likes to put it, is like a box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get. In short, surprises await at every corner; some good, some not so good.

Task completion is but an aspect of project management, and I learnt early on to expect the unexpected. That means to plan ahead, to allocate that most important resource most carefully – time. Time management, is of the essence.

There should always be allowance given for that “shit happens” scenario in between milestones at work, reasonable buffers should always be arranged. For example, you don’t give six months for a system to be developed, and then arrange for it to be tested and rolled out within a week. Logic would tell you that is insanity if not stupidity, but you would be surprised at how management works in real life. Truth, is often stranger than fiction.

Extra time should always be allocated in areas where results cannot be correctly determined; in this case, user testing, debugging and system migration. These are phases where the potential for uncertainty (I call it my shit meter) is pretty high.

This actually applies to all aspects of our lives. For example, you don’t plan to get off work at 5pm, drive thirty minutes and have a dinner appointment at 540pm because that’s cutting it too close. The likelihood of you being late, far outweighs the probability of you being on time.

So if you plan for things to be executed just in time, all you are doing is planning for it to fail, period. I would accept the fact that brilliant project managers and competent teams working together could create magic, but reality often falls short.

To cope with failure, backup options should be looked at, or alternative scenarios where the JIT execution fails – what happens next? Failure is acceptable if backup plans have been made; it is only when there is a single lifeline with no redundancy, that things go awry.

So remember folks, always plan with logic, give reasonable time frames for everything you do, and be mentally prepared that life often goes otherwise.

Disappointment comes from rigid expectations, and rigid expectations comes from JIT when failure is an impossible option.

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2 thoughts on “Just in Time (JIT) planning – always a mistake.

  1. Not sure how JIT planning violates the logic of creating risk buffers. In one of my projects where i’m experimenting this, we don’t create plans for a month but we create plans for a week, we do this weekly planing on Monday. Of course we add buffer for what is required for that week This JIT planning helps plan on most realistic resource availability and accommodates change effectively. Can you please clarify.

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    1. vv: I wouldn’t say it’s violating risk, but more of where exactly the balance is sought between JIT planning and the amount of buffer you allocate. Of course, with constant (and effective) change and project management you can execute JIT planning to a T.

      What I notice in the workplace (and more casual scenarios) however, is that JIT planning is only be utilised loosely, and not practiced as you said, with constant monitoring and adjustments to reflect changes. Unrealistic milestones and deadlines are set because management do not understand the time frame(s) required for various tasks.

      Once again, I reiterate my point that JIT can be carried out by people who know the system. The problem however, is that it’s largely inapplicable to the majority of people who plan their daily lives and work, thinking that JIT works without adding buffer periods and evaluating whether the milestones are given acceptable time periods for completion. Ergo, they plan for perfection. And as we all know, perfection often falls short. This is why you have buffers isn’t it?

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