~ By Duncan Haughey
Projects don't just happen they need planning. Involve the whole project team in developing the plan, not just the project manager. This approach ensures team members' experience gets considered, and each person has a commitment to and ownership of the plan.
A good project plan provides the following:
It pays to use previous experience and lessons learned from similar projects:
Running a project without a plan is foolish. Working without knowing where you are going is likely to lead to problems and possible failure. Running a project without a plan, is like trying to find your way in a strange city without a map. You'll be wandering around not knowing where you are.
Next, let's look at what's involved in planning a project with your team.
It is useful to create a Work Breakdown Structure to identify and break down the deliverables in the project. A WBS is the foundation of project planning. Get the team together and brainstorm all the deliverables in the project, in no particular order. Write them down on sticky notes and put them on a whiteboard. Once everyone has thought of as many deliverables as they can, break each deliverable down into successively smaller chunks of work. Break down the deliverables to a point where the project manager can easily manage them. Once completed, arrange the sticky notes into groups under the major areas of activity. Add, change, remove and shuffle the sticky notes until your WBS is accurate, complete and logical. The purpose of a WBS is to decompose the project deliverables into easily manageable work packages.
A Logic Network shows the sequence of activities in a project across time. It indicates which activity logically precedes or follows another. Create a Start (left) and End (right) sticky note and put them on a whiteboard. Arrange the WBS sticky notes in the logical sequence of activities from left to right. Join the notes with an arrow in and out; some may have more than one arrow. All connecting lines on a network enter at the left (beginning) of the activity box (sticky note) and exit at the right (ending). Lines do not enter the top or exit the bottom of the activity box. Unconnected lines are not allowed. All activities must connect to another activity or the start or end of the project. Write the time every activity will take on each sticky note to calculate the project duration. Once completed, you have created a Logic Network that will help you understand the dependencies in your project, timescale, and its workflow. This technique can reveal valuable information that might otherwise get overlooked.
Look for milestones in your Logic Network. A natural milestone may occur any time a series of parallel activities come together to a point. Control the project by defining a concrete deliverable for each milestone. A concrete deliverable is something you can see or touch, such as a design specification, prototype, model or software module.
The information from your WBS and Logic Network can be input into a software package, such as Microsoft Project to provide a detailed plan. Enter the tasks, predecessors, resources and time estimates into the software. Once entered, the software will create the charts and graphs automatically. Don't expect the software to plan or manage the project; it's just a tool.
Here is a checklist to help you create a well thought out, detailed project plan while building a committed high performing team:
By working through this process, you will have increased your chances of success by creating an accurate and realistic plan, while gaining the commitment of your team to deliver a successful project.