Creating a foolproof Project Plan

Foolproof Project Planning

Ever been in a car travelling to a new destination and it’s doesn’t have a sat nav? #firstworldproblems, but seriously I’m sure this sentence has filled you with dread.

What do you mean I need to get to a destination and I don’t have a clue how to get there? You wouldn’t have it.  With somewhat stampy feet, you’d demand a Satnav or at least a map, and rightly so.

I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve picked up where there is no plan and not surprisingly they are not going very well!

How on earth do we think we’ll be able to get to an endpoint without an idea of how to get there? One of the biggest reasons projects fail and surprisingly very common. 

As a wise lady once told me, “The thing about common sense is … it’s not that common.”

So how do we plan a project? 

Any project should first have requirements. What is it that I need to get out of the end of this project? How would I expect it to work? And what would success look like? But for now … once you know these requirements you can break down your need into simple tasks.

Let’s use the analogy of creating your dream home to illustrate the fundamentals of a plan 

You want to build your dream home (requirement). We’re talking indoor swimming pool, a bowling alley, an open plan kitchen the lot! (Lots of requirements in one sentence). But how do you achieve this outcome?

Here we discuss the key elements of good project planning: picking the key milestones, picking the people and picking …to reach our end goal.

Project Management
Project Management

Picking your key milestones 

Now, obviously there is a heck of a lot that goes into building a home. Even more so with this type of home in mind! But if we start at the end, we can narrow this project down. So, with the end in mind what are the KEY outcomes of your project? The probably look a bit like this:

  1. Lay the foundations
  2. Build the home
  3. House build complete

These would be called your “level 0” milestones. These signify key achievements in the house build project. Of course, to achieve the 2nd milestone ‘build the home’, there are many things which must take place:

2.1. Gather all the required building resources

2.2. Gather all the appropriate building materials

And so on …

These are all things that will help you achieve your Level 0 milestones. These are called your “level 1” milestones.

And it doesn’t stop there.  What do I need to do to help 2.2? Are you still with me?

2.1.1. Buy Bricks

2.1.2. Buy Cement

2.1.4. Buy Timber

Ok, so enough on the milestone planning part of building a good project plan. You get the gist. Build the plan from the end, pick the key outcomes and get into the detail. 

So, I’ve got a super-duper plan, that’s it, right? No … life is never that easy my friend. Let’s talk resources.

Picking your people 

Now you’ve identified the task in hand you need to assign it someone. This could be you (if you have the skill set) or someone else. The most important thing here is the RIGHT person.

But, how do I assemble the dream team?

You wouldn’t ask your electrician to plumb in your bathroom, would you?

Find the right people and assign the right task.  The dream team needs to have individuals with different skill sets that makes each task achievable. This gives the project manager the ability to delegate work to the appropriate member of the team; i.e. the decorator is in charge of decorating, the builder… well… builds.

By setting and assigning milestones, everyone knows how their work is contributing to that end goal.  And, because they’ve done it before, they’ll also help you estimate how long stuff will take to complete.

Now how do we know that those skilled people are doing what we need them to do? By …

… Picking 

When I say picking what I actually mean is monitoring and reporting. Picking was a nice link to the picking theme. 

That age old saying of “what gets done gets reported” is absolutely true. Regular weekly reporting on each of your milestones is crucial to know how your house build is getting on and crucially what could stop it from happening, more on risk and issue management later.

So, there it is – the 3 (not exhaustive) key areas of constructing an effective plan of action: picking your milestone, picking your people, picking (you know what I mean!).

For more straight talking and information about outcome-based project services, please get in touch with Mark Pratt. Providing project services focused to the outcome.

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