March 19, 2011 | Author: PM Hut | Filed under: Project Plan Development
Project Management - Planning Vs Making It Up
By Michael L Young
Are we really planning projects or just making them up as we go along?
A number of studies and surveys have been conducted over the years as to why Projects fail. In almost all of them, directly or indirectly, one of the top reasons is ‘Lack of Planning’.
We’ve all been taught the benefits of planning but often it is not sufficiently undertaken because project managers, particularly those with specialist technical expertise, often have an anxiety to just “get on with it” or get pressured into gaining ‘quick wins’ by managers or even the client. They tend to rely on their expertise and adrenalin to be able just work it out and get through any eventuality, rather than take a systematic and considered approach.
There are good reasons to take the time out to plan and more often than not - time taken up front for planning saves time down the track as unanticipated events arise.
Elements of Planning
There are several elements of planning that need to be undertaken to maximise the likelihood of project success. These are:
- Outcomes and goals - identify what needs to be achieved from project activity.
These can be financial, physical, perceptual, and environmental or efficiency related.
Articulate what is to be achieved and how it will be measured. Without outcomes and goals it is impossible to tell whether a project has been successful.
Scheduling and budgeting - is about what resources need to be used (time, money and people) and what activities have to be undertaken to achieve these outcomes.
Project managers need to know up front what the investment needs to be and allocate that across the timeframe of the project.
Procurement - In line with budgeting, project managers need to plan how the money will be spent and on what. This involves identifying and appointing suppliers and managing and monitoring contracts to ensure deliverables are being met.
Recruitment - Plan to ensure that the right people are available with the right skills at the right times during the project to ensure activities are conducted efficiently to achieve outcomes. Skills need to be identified and selection processes planned to achieve this.
Communications with stakeholders - is vital to project success. Whether they are clients, financiers, users, customers or other interested parties - dissatisfied stakeholders have the capability to bring even the best-planned project undone. Spend time working out what stakeholders need to know to keep them content with progress and what is the best way to communicate that.
Risk Management - is not just about identifying risks but is about anticipating what needs to be done during the project to limit the likelihood of risk events occurring and the impact on outcomes should they occur. It’s about limiting the negative impact of external events on the success of the project.
Measurement and review - needs to be planned at the beginning of the project.
Once it is known what the project will achieve - the next step is to plan what data needs to be collected throughout to be able to determine how successful it is in achieving its outcomes. Review needs to be undertaken at all stages of the project so that changes can be made as risks materialise and changes occur so that adjustments can be made to keep the project on track.
Why Don’t People Plan
Project management is notorious for attracting people who are doers rather than planners. In many ways, being able to get in and make stuff happen is what makes a popular project manager.
Along with this though can come a lack of patience. Technical competence is one thing, but the core skills required of a project manager are effective communication, good people management skills, decision-making ability and above all - the ability to plan.
Surviving on adrenalin will only work for so long and “making it up as you go along” just doesn’t cut it in the modern project management environment.
Michael Young is an award-winning project management consultant, trainer and assessor and Managing Director of Transformed Pty Ltd. Transformed works with individuals to develop their project management skills and with organizations to enhance their program delivery and strategic implementation capabilities. Michael can be contacted at http://www.transformed.com.au.