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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Planning Steps for Dummies

One of the biggest reasons projects fail is because groups/organizations use an adhoc or random non-repeatable method to plan the work. Minor issues and details are overlooked in the “planning” phase that can turn into major problems down the road. It happens all the time. Combine the normal corporate bad communication with worker incompetency, mix in some management apathy, and you are setting yourself for disaster.

Poor planning, organizational miscommunication, and employee/employer errors mixed with a lack of training can be expensive and sometimes catastrophic (Think NASA).

What can be done? How about applying some basic project management processes to the work? Below are some very simple steps to get started. There are many more to consider depending on the size of your project, but we must realize that some organizations need to move away from today’s chaos and get back to basics right away.

Four Simple Steps

STEP 1 - Divide the work down into tasks that must be completed. Then continue to break the tasks down into smaller tasks. No task should take more than a day (two at most).

One reason that projects are delivered late is because project managers aren’t breaking down the work into smaller and smaller tasks (decomposition). Small tasks are easier to estimate and manage. Remember, good estimates are the foundation of on-time, on-budget projects.

STEP 2 - Sequence your tasks by dependency
If you don’t establish your dependencies you don’t have a timeline since dependencies help establish duration.

STEP 3 - Verifiable Milestones
What pieces of the project will you deliver and when. Remember the old saying, “you can’t manage what you can’t measure”.

STEP 4 - Assign tasks to people not groups
Get everything on paper. Remember my favorite project management rule “what is not in writing has not been said”. Also, ensure everyone understands their role and responsibilities. No matter what you do there will always be somebody that can’t follow instructions or refuses to fall in line. These people need to be brought into line or moved off the project quickly.

Miscommunication is fatal to projects. Always communicate in multiple ways; – face-to-face, team meetings, status reports, e-mail (as a last resort). Monitor progress, give feedback continuously, and document, document, document.

1 comment:

* said...

Ahh. Finally something for me. Next, I need home repair for dummies. For sure if you don't get the small things right, you have no hope on the rest.