Some time ago I was accused of patronising a project manager. Perhaps I was. But, I’m not apologising.
Here’s why …
Why Project Planning Is Critical to Success
Project planning is of vital importance for achieving results. And, when I observe a project manager who fails to plan, I am compelled to speak up. Sometimes this means I say things that people don’t want to hear.
But, I know from experience and observation that projects designed by one person lack vitality and are far less likely to achieve ordinary — let alone extraordinary — results!
Projects are a means of creating beneficial change. But it would seem that we are not so good as we should be when preparing for business change projects.
All too often, we don’t know what we should be doing, which is why planning is so important.
The purpose of project planning is to keep the project on track. To stay in control. And, to know what we’re doing.
Project planning helps us to avoid last-minute surprises.
But, project planning has an another benefit. It is ideal for bringing the project team together — the movers, shakers, and producers. Indeed project planning calls for participation.
Project planning is the process of asking questions and seeking answers. Answers to questions that cannot be answered by the project manager alone.
5 Tips for Screwing Up Project Planning
So, where do some project managers go wrong?
Stick with me and I’ll share my top 5 reasons why project managers — or those who claim to be project managers — screw up project planning.
1. Failing to Plan
Although this may seem obvious, some people do not plan. They may fein planning, but inevitably their incompetence is found out. Quite simply, the project manager who does not plan has no control over what’s going on!
The project plan helps us to predict and prepare for difficulties, and to identify what needs to be done to succeed. It helps us to answer a variety of questions with confidence. For example, is the project viable? how much will it cost? will it deliver the right benefits? and so on.
2. Confusing the Schedule Plan With a Project Plan
Sometimes I sound like a stuck record. The project schedule is not the project plan. The project schedule is not the project plan. The project schedule is not the project plan! 😉
The emphasis of the project plan is the big picture, the ideas and ideals of the overall project goal.
In contrast, a good project schedule shows the project manager how work fits together, if the project is going to plan, and the impact of an unexpected change on the project.
3. Estimating the Work Others Do
Since the project schedule begins with a reasonable understanding of what the project is expected to deliver, it makes sense to know what resources, effort and costs are needed to deliver the project.
Pretty straightforward eh?
So why do some project managers think they know how much effort it will take someone else to do a task?
4. Making Assumptions
Don’t assume you know what will happen! History tells us that projects rarely go to plan. No one knows what the future holds.
Making assumptions is dangerous.
The only assumption the project manager should make is that change is tough and unpredictable. If truth be told, the project manager should challenge habits and assumptions not make them.
5. Not Engaging With Stakeholders
So, many things will conspire against the project manager and lead to false hopes. For example, overoptimistic expectations, a weak business case, poorly defined requirements … inadequate planning.
Each of these things will eat into the project schedule and introduce delays. Delays the inept project manager will fail to control.
More often than not though, the antidote to these conditions and risks is the quality of the project manager’s relationships with his stakeholders.
By necessity involve stakeholders early and continually. Seek their feedback, expertise, and suggestions.
Or, you could wait for that crisis!
How do you plan?
What have you learned from your mistakes, or the mistakes of others?
Creative Commons image courtesy Jim Larrison.