Planning: A Skill Or A Tool?

In 1997, my journey as a Civil Engineer began almost by chance, coming from a rural background with little exposure to the field. From marine projects in Paradip to urban viaducts in Delhi, my early career was a whirlwind of diverse experiences.
planning skill or tool

Planning: A Skill Or A Tool?

In 1997, my journey as a Civil Engineer began almost by chance, coming from a rural background with little exposure to the field. From marine projects in Paradip to urban viaducts in Delhi, my early career was a whirlwind of diverse experiences. Yet, amidst the monotony, I harboured a desire to become a planner, to steer projects with precision and efficiency.

Throughout my career, I’ve embraced various roles, from electrical design to customer relations, honing my skills in project coordination and problem-solving. My fascination with planning led me to transition roles twice, ultimately finding my footing as a planner, thanks to the guidance of my mentor, SNR.

planning skill or tool

Image Credits: Freepik

Our philosophy centred on envisioning the end goal, a belief that planning is not just about schedules but about visualising the final product. We innovated by comparing drawings with photographs, fostering a strong belief that planning is indeed a skill, not just a tool.

Our planning sessions were dynamic, focused on identifying bottlenecks and finding solutions collaboratively. Armed with tools like the Critical Path Method, we squeezed project timelines and fostered a culture of healthy debate and innovation.

Reflecting on those years, I’m reminded of the joy of challenging norms and pushing boundaries, culminating in the gratification of receiving recognition from industry stalwarts like E. Sreedharan.

Today, as I navigate the realm of Supply Chain Management, I carry forward the lessons learned from my planning days, striving to optimise processes and drive efficiency in every project, whether it’s sourcing materials for a Bullet Train or mobilising resources for marine projects across the country.

The Importance of Planning

Planning is a cornerstone of project management, often overlooked despite its critical role in shaping outcomes. Effective planning transcends mere task scheduling; it entails envisioning success and charting a path to achieve it. At its core, planning entails anticipating challenges and devising strategies to overcome them. Whether coordinating construction activities or managing procurement processes, meticulous planning lays the groundwork for success.

Each project presents unique complexities, demanding planners with a diverse skill set from analytical thinking to creative problem-solving. In construction, planning is instrumental in ensuring timely project completion within budgetary constraints. By sequencing activities and allocating resources thoughtfully, planners optimise schedules and foster collaboration among stakeholders, promoting transparency and accountability.

Embracing Innovation in Planning

Innovation lies at the core of effective planning, driving continuous improvement and adaptation to evolving project requirements. In today’s digital age, planners have access to a myriad of tools and technologies that facilitate more sophisticated planning processes. From Building Information Modelling (BIM) software to advanced scheduling algorithms, these tools empower planners to model complex project scenarios and optimise resource allocation with greater precision.

Moreover, the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms enables planners to analyse vast amounts of data and derive actionable insights to enhance decision-making. Predictive analytics tools can forecast project risks and identify potential bottlenecks, allowing planners to proactively mitigate challenges before they escalate. Additionally, the critical path method (CPM) is employed to identify the sequence of tasks that determine the project’s duration, ensuring that activities are completed in the most efficient manner possible.

Furthermore, the emergence of collaborative planning platforms facilitates real-time communication and collaboration among project stakeholders, enabling seamless coordination and information sharing. Cloud-based project management tools empower teams to access project data from anywhere, streamlining communication and enhancing transparency.

The Evolution of Planning Practices

Planning methodologies have evolved significantly, transitioning from static schedules to dynamic and adaptive approaches. Agile planning emphasises iterative planning and continuous improvement, allowing teams to respond swiftly to changing requirements. Lean planning principles, inspired by lean manufacturing, focus on eliminating waste and maximising value delivery, streamlining processes and optimising resource utilisation.

The Future of Planning

The future of planning holds promise driven by technological advancements and sustainability considerations. As projects grow in complexity, planners must adopt a holistic approach considering environmental, social, and economic factors. Integration of digital twins enables planners to simulate and optimise project outcomes virtually before execution, leveraging data analytics and simulation to allocate resources efficiently, mitigate risks, and enhance performance.

In conclusion, planning is not just a skill; it’s a mindset—an approach to problem-solving that empowers individuals and organisations to achieve their goals effectively. By embracing innovation and adopting agile and lean principles, planners can navigate the complexities of modern project management and drive success in an ever-changing world.

Gourab Mandal
Gourab Mandal


Author Bio

Gourab Mandal, a Civil Engineering graduate from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, belonging to the 1997 batch, boasts an impressive 26 years of industry experience. With a dedicated tenure of 9 years at Larsen & Toubro since joining in July 2014, Gourab has excelled in various capacities, from executing Marine Projects to overseeing the construction of Roads, Metro Rails Viaducts, Urban underground Stations, canals, cooling towers, and technically challenging river bridges. His expertise extends to Planning, where he has successfully managed time-bound projects, consistently delivering ahead of schedule.

In his current role as DGM, Procurement, Supply Chain Management, L&T Construction (WET IC), Gourab specialises in sourcing major components and services for mega projects such as High-Speed Rail and NHAI initiatives. Among his notable achievements are the early completion of an Underground Station for Delhi Metro Rail Corporation in 2005, pioneering multi-modal logistics of crushed stone aggregates for NHAI projects in Northeast India, optimising rental equipment resources for enhanced productivity as P&M Resource Head, and facilitating the rapid mobilisation of full span moulds for the High-Speed Rail Project C6 (Vadodara to Ahmedabad) with a focus on local manufacturing initiatives.

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