What is Iterative Planning?
Iterative Planing is the process to adapt as the project unfolds by changing the plans. Plans are changed based on feedback from the monitoring process, changes in the project assumptions, risks and changes in scope, budget or schedule.
Its a Team Effort - It is important to involve the team in the planning process. The people doing the work should be actively involved in planning the project. When they get involved in the decision, they become motivated to get it right. After all, they were hired and they have the skills to understand the dependencies. Once they complete the plans, they will own it and will accept the schedule. It also is helpful to involve your key stakeholders; these could be the internal support functions of the organizations such as finance or procurement. Also involve partners, donors or funding agencies who can provide with valuable insights and information on when they need the project to be completed, risks, constraints and resource availability.
Planning should not be done hastily; it takes time in order to get plans that can become useful to the team. Usually the development of all project plans can take weeks or a couple of months depending on the size and complexity of the project.
Iterative Planning Sessions - In traditional – linear - project management, the approach is to implement the activities under the assumptions that all events affecting the project are predictable, that activities are well understood by everybody, and there is no need to revisit the plans. Unfortunately, this approach proves to be not very effective, given the level of uncertainty on many development projects. What happens is that the original assumptions under which the project plan was built change and in some cases in dramatic ways. What was originally assumed to be true is no longer valid. Assumptions about approvals, additional funding, economic and social conditions change dynamically and the project needs to have the flexibility to adapt to these changes.
The project should find these opportunities to review the original assumptions and make the appropriate changes to the plans, specifically in the areas of scheduling, risks and stakeholders. This approach consists of a series of iterative planning and development cycles, allowing a project team to constantly evaluate the implementation and results of the project and obtain immediate feedback from beneficiaries, or stakeholders.