Proper Project Planning = Direction and Perfection
The ability to plan projects, both large and small, simple and complicated, is essential in today's business environment. Without the tools to do so, people tend to flounder, "wing it," or wander off course, resulting in delayed success, missed deadlines, or failure. Read on to learn about the steps you can take to plan a successful project.
Step 1: "Should-Be"
Clarify the project scope and be sure that the scope is aligned with senior management's initiatives. The "should be" is a picture of what you ultimately want and who and how this result will benefit all involved. Your team and senior management should work together to ensure you agree on objectives. If you have not done a good job of defining scope, it will be nearly impossible to plan the project.
Step 2: "As-Is"
This is the reality of the current situation. Where are you today? What factors help and hinder your efforts to carry out the project's scope?
Step 3: Goals
Define and set realistic goals to successfully carry out the scope of the project. Without such goals, you and your team will drift. Goals can be immediate, intermediate, and long-range. Achieving day-to-day goals (immediate goals) contributes to the achievement of intermediate and long-range goals. Develop SMART goals:
S Specific processes and resources
M Measurable by objective data
R Relevant to your vision
T Time-specific deadline
Step 4: Action
Steps To achieve your goals, you must establish specific priorities so that you can develop specific action steps. To achieve your goals, your action steps should include:
- Job requirements
- Who will do the job
- Methods to be used
- How the different parts tie together and fit into the big picture
- How the results will be communicated (report, PowerPoint, etc.)
Step 5: Cost
Another aspect to planning is determining the budget for and cost of each action step. Costs include:
- Opportunity cost (what must be given up to pursue a given action)
Step 6: Timetables
Set and communicate deadlines so there is a clear understanding and so that immediate, intermediate, and long-term targets can be met. When establishing timetables, be realistic. Work backwards to determine when each phase should be completed, and put the schedule in writing to avoid misunderstandings.
Step 7: Implementation
An important, yet overlooked, part of implementing a plan is making sure that all involved understand their role in achieving the established goals. Obtain the team's commitment to agreed-upon results. As you monitor the implementation, you may need to modify the scope of the plan and reevaluate your goals.
Step 8: Follow Up/Measurement
A critical part of the planning process is to keep accurate records, analyze why deviations have occurred, and take action to correct any challenges. Concentrate on those factors critical to reaching the goal.
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