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Tips for Effective Project Planning

Projection and Perceptions

Ref: http://xkcd.com/678/

10 Tips For Effective Project Planning and Successful Delivery

All over the world, statistics about project failure is not encouraging. The devils that derail project are known; yet we tend to skip some of the critical aspects of project management. One such critical element is project planning. However effective project planning makes a real difference. Let’s look at what does effective project planning involve

Why do you need to Plan a Project ?

It is already said: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” Period. Well, perfect 10s for this line. All project managers have this critical task to perform before project execution starts. It is critical because, it sets the path for the entire project. And nearly all every project managers struggle to put together ‘all encompassing’ project plan.

In short, to avoid the ‘Blind Men and An Elephant‘ story getting replayed in your project, you need a proper project plan. Well, importance of project plan is known but how to make planning effective is the question we should be asking. Let me try to put across few things, I learned to create an effective project plan.

  1. Well organize planning session

Discount otherwise a trivialproject, but for your project you need project planners to assemble for project planning session. And getting project planning team together itself is a task that needs to be planned. Meeting with no or ad hoc agenda is more likely to waste everybody’s time. So you need to avoid it. Following is the quick check list to organize planning session.

  1. Effective project planning - project manager is anchor force to drive project in right direction
    • Decide project planning team

You will find more details about this point illustrated in next point

    • Keep planners & stakeholders involved

Having involvement & feedback mechanism with stakeholder will only help you to better plan and execute the project within time & budget

    • Set specific and time bound agenda for planning sessions

Clarity on things to be discussed and inputs to be collected/corrected will help your project to set a correct path

  1. Gather inputs from reliable stakeholders

    • If you yourself have done the similar work with hands on experience, you are good to go. If not, you need to get inputs from the team members or SMEs who have hands on experience with similar projects
    • Remembers, you still need inputs on other aspects (financial, administrative, resources, etc) of project to get accounted.
  1. Set finer details of project plan

    The chances of project success are more if project plan is chalked out with greater details of work breakdown structure (WBS), tasks, milestones, schedule, required resources, risks.

    Effective project management : Explore ZilicusPM

  2. Do Pre-mortem and rectify as necessary

I refer Guy Kawasaki for these perfect words. Simply because, quite aptly the message is conveyed: We have to think of all reasonable possibilities that can fail our project. Pre-Mortem will help you to assess and manage these potential setbacks, well before the project execution starts.

    • Things can go wrong & trust me, they will

Any practicing project manager knows it well. How things get cropped up and can potentially change the path of the project. So we need to keep ourself ready, despite of finely carved out project plan.

    • Always have reasonable buffer

Having reasonable buffer in your project can help you to cover up incidental losses arising because of any slippage/ risk in terms of time or budget or resources.

    • Practice Risk Management

Practicing risk management right from the project planning phase, will get you in better stance. Identifying potential risks, assessing those, creating mitigation/contingent plan will only help you to manage risks in better manner. It is more about honing your capabilities to deal effectively with potential setbacks.

  1. Check! Check! Your plan and the project objective

To cross-check whether project plan & delivery is meeting project’s (and Organization’s) objective; create a list to track project through out the project lifecycle (right from project planning to project closure)

    • Check value delivery (Is real problem being solved?)
    • Check timeline (for any potential slippage)
    • Check Budget stretch (Are we within budget still?)
    • Check Resource Requirement
    • Mechanism to Review Project Progress
  1. Set metric for evaluation right from beginning

You can set metric for your project. The metric can be published internally or externally (with customers) e.g. Number of issues (priority wise) to be resolved, number of resources (SMEs) to be assigned to your project or any other variance parameters that you would like to be evaluated for your project.

Apart from above checklist, using right set of project management tools which will enable you to enhance the collaboration & planning capabilities.

Effective project management : Explore ZilicusPM


Additional readings about project management, leadership

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I am a co-founder of Zilicus Solution and I write about project management, collaboration, productivity, project management software, cloud computing, requirement management and business empowerment.