"Plans are Nothing; Planning is Everything" (Dwight Eisenhower)
A process of defining project scope with estimating techniques to then use schedules to plan, baseline and subsequently report progress within the project environment against the delivery of milestones, outputs, outcomes and benefits
KNOWLEDGE (THEORIES, IDEAS & CONCEPTS)
Through Professional/Personal Study Gained Through Experience
Planning incorporates 5 of the core knowledge areas (Scope, Time, Cost, Quality & Resource Management) whilst Delivery cover the remaining 4 (Communication, Risk, Procurement & Integration).
Better planning and scheduling tools allow for the capability to monitor, coordinate and control progress, through better trained PMs with better management processes.
Identify the products (WBS, PBS, OBS,RBS, CBS), identify Activities and Dependencies, Estimate Effort, Schedule, Estimate Risks/Contingencies, Agree Milestones, Outputs, Outcomes & Benefits, Write a Narrative, Create Plan.
Skills & Application of Knowledge in Real World Situations
Together with Responsibilities/Accountabilities
Defined Project Management Procedures up front and ensure the project sponsor approves and supports the plan – Having all the procedures beta tested and working properly at the start of the project can be invaluable in saving effort and time later on. Without a sponsor that allows you to get the resources you have requested in the plan, you find it almost impossible to deliver. Stakeholders need to sign the detailed work definition document. You need the organisation behind you supporting you on the project. Business transformation starts from a known as-is baseline towards the to-be state, and this can only happen with solid process and procedural foundation.
Communication with all stakeholders is key from the start of the project, keeping them updated on the progress to the plan and obtaining buy-in for any changes.
Project Horizons – The cone of uncertainty increases the further out into the future you go. The art is to create detailed work plans for the near term tactical environment, and then as the project progresses turn the higher level further out activities into more detailed incremental plans. Scenario planning should augment the on-going risk management process that is periodically updated together with relevant mitigations actions/ strategies. Agile is a method to accomplish this approach, however you need to make sure that this approach is aligned to your planned deliverables.
Constantly monitor, review and look for those warning signs – No project ever proceeds exactly according to the plan, estimates or scope. Humans are not very good at predicting the future, however we do have the tools and techniques to review work plans, confirm work complete is done to the appropriate quality standards, monitor previous performance and variances, and watch for those advanced warnings signs that the project is heading for troubled waters (morale drops, quality decreases, cutback on activities, variances increase or unscheduled overtime is needed to meet deliverables). Having a risk/issue response team can act as your first line of defence against the unexpected, just like an ITIL helpdesk team.
Resolving issues quickly as possible is critical to keep on top of things. There will always be oversights, unexpected events and new changes that come along during the project. It is the way you handle this that it very important. Expecting them to arrive and having done the planning in advance will help ensure that they are solved diligently, as a matter of course, and don’t de-rail the project.
Document everything from principles, requirements, approaches, strategies, steps, bottlenecks, changes in scope, ask for feedback (management methods, what could be done better) and record that, important meetings, review outputs, wrap-up notes, assumptions dependencies, metrics and recording techniques. They all help to identify issues and risks, improve team communication, they help new starters and new stakeholders get up to speed, and can help future inform projects of what approaches to take and what to avoid. If you don’t do it as you go along, you will invariably forget to do it. The value is achieved by incorporating this approach into the daily routines, rather than making a separate activity.
Selected Achievements & Successes
Together with Any ‘So What’ Statements of Insights
The hard part of undertaking planning is the thinking, strategising, negotiating, balancing, asking the right questions, listening and then re-thinking that goes behind solving all the anticipated problems ahead. Clear goals, team responsibilities, tracking progress against clear KPIs, methods of acquiring and training staff, and management of relationships should not be overlooked. Going through the action of writing a plan is then ultimately an activity of transcribing all the previous hard work down into schedules, lists and allocating resources. A lot of my transformational successes (platform installation, business transformation, safety programme, architectural design) have been down to the rigour that I have applied to the planning part, rather than thinking I can just dive into the activity part straight away.
Respecting the learning curve (time and money spent on training, self-study, consultants and continuous improvement activities) will help sustain your project success. When you apply new processes, tools, techniques and technologies into your organisation, don’t expect fabulous benefits immediately, right first time mind-sets and accept there will be a short-term productivity loss. Planning needs to take into consideration the effects of planning for change, the need to be adaptable and to do things differently, the evolutionary and spiral nature of getting to the higher level planes of performance, and an inescapable consequence of working in rapidly changing, agile working, high-technology environments.
Plan for reality not for the ideal world. You may decompose large tasks to inch-pebble granularity, however tasks invariably take longer than expected when people are less skilled, are interrupted, have significant business as usual activities to do, get re-tasked to answer customer questions, undertake re-work, attend business led activities/meetings, take holidays or go off sick, are expected to work on multiple concurrent projects, get involved in handovers/ bringing new staff on, or any other left field activities. Never expect 100% utilisation from anyone, the lower the utilisation, the more time that can be spent on project continuous improvements, dealing with unexpected issues or planned mitigations, further training, undertaking retrospectives, trying new techniques out to improve delivery and quality, or improving collaboration/ stakeholder engagements.