Have you ever planned an overseas holiday or house renovation? If you have done either there is no doubt you were able to describe what you wanted the end result to look and feel like and went about getting it done. You knew who was going to do what, how much things would cost, when decisions had to be made…well done, you have worn the hat of a Project Manager!
When someone mentions project management, you will normally think complex system implementations, yet you are most likely involved in a project every week at work – automation of processes, office fit out, new policy implementation, launch of a new product, or events. There is one thing for certain, business does not stand still and change happens. The best way for you to navigate from old to new is with a plan – a plan with purpose.
Have you heard of the 5Ps? Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance or do you have a memory of your grandfather saying if it’s worth doing, you better do it right the first time. If you’re a naturally an organised person you will be smiling and for others who find it difficult to plan you’ll be thinking so what.
No matter the size of the project; the technology, processes or people involved; the role you play in the organisation; if you like detail or not; everyone can create a plan to deliver great results.
There are four (4) basic principles to consider when planning a project.
Principle 1 – Know Why
Understand why you or someone in the organisation is investing dollars to make a change. Most times, people will jump straight to the solution without clearly outlining the problem. Take the time to discuss with a diverse group of staff what will be different and why. Does your organisation support the change and will your customers like it? Although it is common to hear, technology is forcing us to change, if you cannot state the expected financial and/or compliance benefits (or return on the investment), maybe think again before deciding to initiate a project. You may be chasing the shiny things and not focussed on the performance symptoms that need your attention.
Tip – develop a roadmap (or blueprint) to stay focussed.
Principle 2 – Engage the Team
You cannot do this alone, involve the team in planning – know the role each of them play, the information they need and the skills they contribute. Decide if the project roles will be full time or part time. You may need to involve contractors and suppliers to bring expert technical skills to the plan. All roles should have responsibility statements and list of deliverables – this way everyone knows who is doing what and can provide support if needed. Remember the people impacted by the change – your stakeholders. Understand what they want to know, how and when they will be involved. Determine an engagement, communication and training approach for your team and stakeholders especially if the change requires new skills and processes.
Tip – design a team structure and stakeholder map to be an active communicator.
Principle 3 – Baseline the Numbers
Know both the budget and timeline – you cannot plan one without the other. Have you been told, you have this much money and this amount of time – if so plan to validate that statement or present new information. Get familiar with where the money is coming from, is it a capital or operating project, if you are not sure talk to your accountant or CFO. Understand the cost of all resources, both internal and external to your organisation. Know staff hourly rates, consultant and contractor daily rates, overhead costs, and procurement costs of goods and services. Develop a monthly cashflow forecast based on when things will get done. Have you included a contingency amount just in case something goes wrong or the estimates where way off? Link review of numbers to the timeline milestone dates that showcase key deliverables or decision points.
Tip – baseline the plan, review often and make adjustments to stay on track.
Principle 4 – Facilitate the Process
You start off with a list of requirements, the things you want changed. Are you willing to compromise? You have support for the change, you have a team in place but the budget and timeline may not be able to deliver everything. Establish a clear criteria and process to facilitate prioritisation of requirements. You may need to consult with staff and stakeholders involved in the specific business processes to support the discussions of must have and nice to have requirements. This principle relates to all other principles, starting with knowing WHY!
Tip – maintain a backlog of requirements to manage stakeholder expectations.
You now have the basis of a plan and ready to get the work started. Keep the plan visible with the use of whiteboards, sticky notes, kanbans or collaboration tools. If you don’t have the time or discipline, engaging a project manager to plan and manage your business change maybe the way forward for you.
Planning with purpose promotes accountability, resulting in your organisation making good decisions at the right time.
Jeanette is a project strategist enabling businesses to successfully plan and deliver transformational outcomes. With over 20 years leading project teams she believes collaboration is the key. Jeanette has established a family events management business utilising all her project experience.