Project Planning “Those that fail to plan, plan to fail”

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Part 2 of our Project Management series, first published by Snowden in 2010, focuses on the importance of planning in a successful project. We have decided to republish this series to show that whilst technology has advanced, basic principles and processes are just as important when ensuring project success.

Read Part One here

Planning is a cornerstone of successful project management it helps to uncover and highlight the details and potential pitfalls of a project. Planning provides a basis for better understanding a project, which in turn leads to better management and a better chance of success. Project planning breaks the project down into smaller, more manageable, bite size chunks. It is important to understand what project planning is, and what it is not. Project planning is a structured process that unravels and identifies the details, requirements and specifics of delivering a project that meets the client’s specifications. It is not a Gantt chart, Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) or a cost sheet. Instead it is a combination of these and other tools that provide a roadmap for the project to follow. The plan needs to be of sufficient detail, providing a time and cost estimate, indication of resource needs, identification of risks and concerns, with a focus on quality and the end deliverable to the client. This may sound fairly daunting and may lead to the generation of huge spreadsheets, discussions and meetings that go on for hours – over planning- or no planning at all. The key to successful planning however is to keep it simple and relevant to the project you are working on.

Three fundamental rules apply to planning. The first is that planning needs to be done as soon as possible right, at the beginning of the project. General George Patten Jr. once remarked of project planning, “A good plan violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week”. This doesn’t mean that any plan now is good enough, but rather that good planning is required sooner rather than later.

The second is that 100% of the work to be done, including management, must be included in the plan. A plan that does not cover all of the work requirements, serves only to increase risk and uncertainty.

Thirdly, all of the people involved or responsible for the delivery of the project must provide input into the plan. Team buy-in is essential to the success of the project plan. If people are disenfranchised or excluded they will most likely not buy-in to the plan, or worse they may sabotage the plan.

For most projects, following these rules will greatly assist you in developing a good project plan and will help you to avoid the common pitfalls of poor project planning, which are:

  • No plan – just doing the work
  • Wrong plan – using something that looks good
  • Over planning – getting bogged down in the details
  • Disbelieving evidence from past projects – doing something that hasn’t worked before
  • Ignoring common sense and being impractical
  • Committing to a plan too early without all the facts
  • Repeating the same action over and over again but expecting different results.

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