A project’s planning stage is arguably the most important. Often management ignore planning in favor of getting on with the work, but time spent planning is time well spent as a well-planned project can save time and money and prevent problems. Every aspect of the project can be organized and all potential pitfalls identified.
In many ways, planning is the key to a successful project, and the first thing management should do when undertaking any kind of project is to create a plan. A manager should not plan projects alone, though. Instead, use brainstorming meetings to include every member of staff involved in the project.
Brainstorming will not only allow every team member to be part of the solution, it will also allow management to gather all the best ideas. Consider all the ingredients necessary for the successful execution of the project and think about any potential pitfalls that may hamper or destroy the project.
Listen to Team Members
Management must take time to listen to the contributions of every team member and, once all the opinions have been considerd and the tasks have been determined, decide on a plan of action to accomplish the tasks. A plan should include details of which team member will do what, when tasks will start and how long they will take, what has to be done to complete each task and what the consequences will be if these actions are not carried out.
Risk management is an important and often overlooked part of project planning. It is important to identify as many risks to the project as possible and be prepared if something bad happens. Common project risks include:
- Time and cost estimates that are too optimistic
- Targets changing once the project has started.
- Unexpected budget cuts.
- Misunderstandings caused by poor communication.
- Additional targets being added once the project has started.
- Quality problems that lead to work having to be redone.
- Team members being unclear about roles and responsibilities.
- Project goals being misunderstoon.
- Insufficient resources.
Remember that ignoring risk does not make them go away. By identifying these risks in advance, measures can be taken to avoid such pitfalls. Discuss what can be done in the event of a problem occurring and what can be done to prevent it from occurring. Review risks on a regular basis throughout the project and add new risks as they occur.
It can help to break a project down into small targets and look at what must be done to reach each goal. Another tactic is to use backward planning. In this case, management starts by looking at the finished project and works backwards to the present in order to determine what must be done. Sometimes looking at the big picture first makes it easier to plan all the tasks in a logical sequence that will make it happen.
Gauge the resources needed for each task and staff the project accordingly. It can be a balancing act to manage the project in a way that ensures staff are not overstretched but are in a gainful employment throughout the duration of the project. Ensure the necessary equipment, support and supplies are in place too. As the project grows and develops, it is up to those who manage it to ensure everything is progressing as planned and every team member working on the project is in gainful employment.