We generally hear the project manages crib that the time spend doing project planning can be utilized better for actually “doing the work”. They feel instant productivity is better than the planning done for being productive in the long run.
Before the project work begins, the project manager must make sure that the work is properly understood and agreed to by the project sponsor and key stakeholders. The larger the project, the more important it is that this information be defined formally and explicitly.
When we troubleshoot a problematic project, often we trace back the main cause of problem being planning. These include
- Poor estimates based on not understanding the totality of the work.
- Lack of scope change management because scope was not properly defined to begin with.
- Issues occurring because of poor risk management.
- Missing work because the schedule is not thought out.
- Not understanding all the stakeholders involved.
If we think rationally, it’s pretty clear that the best way to avoid these problem and many such problem is to execute a good project planning phase that too right at the start of the project.
So, what does a typical project planning process include? Below are few of the basic tasks which if done correctly, will aid tremendously during project execution.
- Defining the scope of work: You need to understand the nature of the project including objectives, scope, assumptions, risks, budget, timeline, organization and overall approach. It’s a general tendency to start the work because the client wants to see the product in action or the internal sales team wants to complete a milestone and do the MIB, but cutting short of the work definition or not defining the scope of work could lead to problems like continuous changes, improper effort estimations, unnecessary work load and unrealistic deadlines.
- Creating the schedule: Again, due to pressure from your client or peers, the project managers tends start the project before a schedule/ plan is generated. You should create a project schedule before the project starts. This is needed to help you determine how to complete the work, and to estimate the total project effort and duration.
- What Project management processes are you going to use?: This Even if you define the scope of project and draw a well thought of project plan, it’s seldom that things won’t change during the project life cycle. There are always changes in the scope or some risks creep up. To avoid these traps, the project manage and the Steering committee for the project should decide on the process as to how the project manage will manage the scope of project, how to manage the issues/ change that come up and how to track and mitigate risk.
- Estimating / Knowing the Project Cost: This might not always be known to the project manager, but it is always advisable to know how much the project cost to the client and also the profit and loss the project will make to your organization. This will give an idea of the tight deadline and pressure from the client and also aid you in decision making which can then result in a win-win situation.
So, whenever you start a project, always remember to spend sufficient time doing project planning. You might need to spend time to define the scope of work, create your project plans, and setup the process to manage your project and small amount of time to under the financials associated with it.
Spending time on good planning reaps benefits during the project. You in turn, spend less time and efforts to correct the problems while the project in action.
We all know this, and have been taught to “Sharpen your Axe, before you start cutting the woods”. It’s just that we have to apply it during managing our projects.