5 Steps on How To Succeed in Flexible Planning for Managers

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Project managers often have access to dozens of project management methods to help improve efficiency and productivity. Flexible planning is one such method that focuses on flexibility rather than rigidity to spread the workload more evenly. Understanding what flexible planning is and how to use it can help project managers become more effective leaders and improve their project efficiency.

In this article, we define flexible planning, show you how to succeed in flexible planning and explore some of the users and benefits of flexible planning while providing helpful tips for using the system.

What is flexible planning?

Flexible planning is a project management method that focuses on flexibility, or the ability to react effectively and make changes in accordance to sudden changes or project requirements. A good example of flexibility is if a customer suddenly requests a major change to a project. With a flexible project management plan, the team can react efficiently and quickly to the sudden changes without affecting the quality of the project or the deadline. Flexible planning for project managers means planning ahead, identifying potential setbacks and training team members to respond accordingly to changes or sudden challenges.

Whether you're using SCRUM project management, Trello, sprints or another project management method, flexibility can be a potent addition to your plans. It can help reduce costs, increase productivity and make your core team more responsive to change. Project managers who focus on flexibility might also find that they help reduce the overall stress of deadlines and give team members more creative freedom in their jobs.

Related: Capacity Planning vs. Demand Planning: Definitions and Tips

What are the benefits of flexible planning?

Here are some potential benefits of greater flexibility in project planning:

  • Reduced team stress: With less rigidity in project requirements, team members might feel less pressured to perform in a certain way, reducing their overall stress and improving team morale, which can lead to greater productivity and efficiency.

  • Better response to changes: Flexibility in project planning can help teams respond more effectively to sudden changes or challenges in a project, which can help reduce errors, costs and improve the overall efficiency of the team.

  • More trust in leaders: Leaders who include flexibility in their planning might experience higher trust from their teams. Flexible planning can show a leader's strength in planning and the ability to respond effectively to changes, which can improve the team's trust and morale.

  • Higher quality deliverables: Flexibility can also help teams create higher-quality deliverables by focusing on the quality and consistency of their work instead of rigid timelines or work practices. This also provides more creative freedom, which may encourage innovation in the company.

Related: How To Use a Sprint Planning Template (With Tips)

How to succeed in flexible planning

Here are some steps to follow for success in flexible planning:

1. Set clear team goals with flexible approaches

Clear team goals help set expectations and define what the team is working towards. Set clear project goals from the onset of each project with flexible approaches for reaching those goals. Since everyone works differently, a rigid, standardized approach might not work for everyone and can potentially create more stress or confusion. While some companies or clients require standardization for certain parts of a project out of necessity, you can leave others open to interpretation. For example, you might allow team members to decide their own hours for greater productivity in a comfortable environment.

Related: How To Implement Strategic Planning (With Examples)

2. Keep plans more short-term

Setting long-term goals can be effective for planning ahead, but may lack the flexibility of more short-term goals. Short-term goals cover shorter periods of time, which may mean greater flexibility. Realistic timelines help set clear and achievable expectations for the team and allow for a more thorough analysis of whether the team can actually complete the project on time. Set goals for a maximum of a few months at a time, then check with the team at different intervals before the deadline. You can always shorten or lengthen your team goals, depending on performance or any changes to project requirements.

Related: A Step-by-Step Guide on How To Do Succession Planning

3. Trust your team to perform

Trust is an important part of flexible planning because you often give your team liberty to determine their own pace and workload. Doing so can help them feel more confident in their abilities and achieve their goals more readily, since they're not confined by standardized processes. This does require a certain level of trust between you and your team, so it's important to learn to trust them with project requirements. You can still check on progress, review submissions and provide encouragement, but leaving them to accomplish goals helps show their competence.

Related: What is Marketing Planning?

4. Learn to predict potential challenges

One of the major challenges in project planning is sudden changes to the project or challenges the team encounters. With enough experience in your field, you can learn to predict these things, which can allow you to create more flexible and responsive project plans for common changes or challenges. For example, if you work in a design field where customers frequently request design changes halfway through the project, you can learn to predict this and include it as part of your project plans. Learn to predict common challenges in your projects so you can teach your team to respond accordingly.

Related: What Is Sales Planning?

Who uses flexible planning?

There are many professionals who use flexible planning, including:

  • Project managers: Project managers use flexible planning to make their teams more limber and responsive to sudden project changes, while maintaining project integrity and efficiency.

  • Developers: Developers might also use flexible planning for software or application development, combining the advantages of greater flexibility with common development methods like agile or SCRUM.

  • General managers: General managers might also use flexible planning to create better schedules and duties for their teams to improve overall efficiency.

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