Making a plan as a necessary part of any project
All processes, concepts or objects begin with something. This beginning moment occurred a few days or years ago, and everything looked different - not like it is now. Looking, for example, at a car, we understand that at the very beginning it was not a car: first, an idea appeared, then this idea was conveyed to other people, which caused a discussion; designers started their work, the assembly process was launched, and much more.
The above is a minor example. It perfectly explains the essence - everything has a beginning.
Project management is no exception. Being a complex chain of tasks and processes, it also begins with something. This first step is the project plan.
In this article, we will talk about the plan and the planning process, as well as explain the points associated with the question of "how to create such a plan." We have identified 7 steps.
What is a project plan?
You may have noticed that in addition to the plan, we also mentioned the planning process. What is the difference between them? Everything is very simple.
Planning is a process, a discussion. During it, the volume of work, the goals and the paths necessary to achieve them are being clarified.
The plan is an official document containing all planning decisions, the approved volume, costs etc. Its main functions are monitoring and facilitating communication between participants and scheduling.
When creating a project plan, the manager should already have key knowledge and skills. This increases the chances of its successful implementation. In addition, the prepared plan will help to anticipate and avoid unnecessary mistakes and making wrong decisions, as well as help save time and reduce costs.
Project Plan Objectives
A well-prepared plan should answer the following questions.
The reasons why funds are allocated for the project must be clarified; what problem should be solved.
The question is about the work that must be done to achieve the result and the ultimate goals.
Question about the people involved, their roles and responsibilities; how they should be organized.
These are the deadlines/duration of the project.
How to make a project plan?
Before you start drafting, the manager must be aware of the large number of questions that will arise throughout the project, and the answers to them. Each question can be distinguished separately. But it’s better to identify common patterns. Therefore, what does a manager need to do to draw up a project plan?
The first step to success is communication with the team about goals, participants, tasks, etc. The manager must know who is responsible for what task, about the timing, as well as just about everything that happens in the project.
It is worth adding that communication is not only the first step. It’s worth communicating throughout the project - this is the key to success.
2. Identify participants and goals
Identification of all project participants sometimes causes difficulties: there can be a lot of them. Moreover, they can directly or indirectly, to a greater or lesser extent, influence the project. That is why it is important to identify all those who directly affect the preparation of the plan and take their wishes seriously.
Potential project participants:
- Customer - a person who directly finances and approves the work;
- Project Manager - a person engaged in planning with the subsequent creation, execution and control of the project;
- The project team that creates the final product. Team members are involved in many important processes, including development, quality assurance, design work, etc. As a rule, they do not approve the project;
- End user;
- Others. This list can include a wide variety of people: risk analysts, procurement specialists, etc.
What can be done at this stage? Interview the key participants. So you will understand what requirements are set and what goals are worth achieving. The most effective way to achieve goals is the SMART goal setting technique.
Conducting an interview also allows the manager to realize what problem the project solves and why it is funded at all.
This is our why-question.
3. Define the entire scope of work
Undoubtedly the most important part of any planning. All key points are highlighted and discussed here: rationale, product description, compliance criteria, goals and results, limitations, assumptions, cost estimation and some others. All project participants must come to a full understanding and agreement at this stage. As soon as the discussion ends, everything important is recorded in a document that records the description of the content and scope of the project.
At this stage, the risks of misunderstanding, which can lead to an uncontrolled expansion of the project, are also reduced.
This is our what-question.
4. Define roles and responsibilities
One of the most important tasks of a manager is the distribution of tasks between team members. They need to know their roles and responsibilities. And of course, one should not forget that teams are formed units with a certain number of participants.
This is our who-question.
5. Schedule a project
This is a direct continuation of the previous stage. Once the roles and responsibilities are allocated, the next step is to set the duration for each task with start/end dates.
This is our when-question.
What tool to work with the project to choose?
6. Visualize the project plan using any offline or online tools.
Note that some people, talking about the schedule, mean the whole project. This is not entirely true. A visualized schedule is just part of the planning and plan as such. The whole project is a more complex structure.
7. Manage risk
All stages of the project may be at risk. Therefore, their management is one of the most important moments in planning.
An experienced manager is able to not only evaluate and anticipate such situations, but also create a plan with ways to solve them. The team, in turn, must also know how to respond to any changes.
There are no identical projects. One can be perfectly implemented without risks and missed deadlines. Another can fail, even if it has the same participants, costs, schedule, and goals. Risks and changes in the project are inevitable. However, competently planned workload, schedule, assessed risks and excellent teamwork will help to simplify the planning itself and make a plan. In this case, even difficult projects can be fun.