The Project Management Corner Series: A simple project planning method

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Part 4 of our Project Management series presents a simple method for planning your projects. Although first published in 2011 , this article provides a number of helpful tips that can still be applied to projects today. 

Read Part One here

Read Part Two here

Read Part Three here

Sometimes the best and simplest planning method is a well sharpened pencil and a note book. This is a good method to start the project planning process as it is simple, easy to use and requires no special techniques, other than all the project information be kept in one place.

Next time when planning a project, take a pencil and start by jotting down these key words at the top of separate pages: scope, quality, time, cost, communications, risk, resources and suppliers. Then starting with the project scope, develop the project work breakdown structure (WBS) down to the required individual activities or deliverables. Thereafter add the WBS dictionary that defines the attributes of each activity or deliverable. Use the list of topics created earlier and the pages assigned to each to ensure that you capture all of the relevant activity attributes.

Be sure to write down all of the information, ideas and concepts that pertain to the project or activity. Don’t worry about what it looks like, use diagrams and write up questions and information that come to mind during the process. By the end of this process you will have a clearer idea of what the project is about. You will also have identified areas of concern or where there is insufficient information and no doubt a long list of questions. Then discuss and review your plan with the client and project team and add the additional information you gather. Your final outcome will be a detailed collection of project planning information. This information is then easily re-organised and transferred into formal company systems. The image below depicts the inputs to the planning process that need to be re-evaluated on a continuous basis as the project progresses.

Project plan inputs
Figure 1   Project plan inputs

In conclusion, when planning your project stay focused on the project deliverables and ensure that each deliverable or activity has been fully thought through in terms of the project constraints. There are a number of methods and systems available for the collection and storage of project planning data. Using a note book as above is a simple method, but whatever method you use, try to stick to one that you are familiar with or is supported within the organisation. Keep in mind successful project planning is a team sport that requires input from all the project team members. Project planning is not a once off activity done at the start of the project; it is a reiterative process that is updated throughout the duration of the project. The initial project plan becomes the baseline plan that is added to and developed throughout the project lifecycle. A plan that is well thought out, detailed, regularly updated and documented will serve well as a key learning tool for the successful delivery of this and future projects.

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