Monday 24 January 2022

How to create a simple and compelling project plan

A good project plan that is not just a list of what to do when and what to do
what is a project plan the result of the project planning process, where the project manager determines, prioritizes, and assigns the tasks and resources required to complete the project. the project plan shows the members of the team, the tools and resources you need, and the steps you need to take to achieve success. when you hear "project plan," most people envision a kind of schedule, a long list of what to do when.

but that's only a small part.

a good project manager creates a plan that covers everything from the problem you're trying to solve to the scope, deliverables, risks, and dependencies of the project, and provides a detailed path to a successful project.

without a project plan, team members don't have an overview of when and how everything happens. we often get lost in a forest of challenges and needs and don't know where to start. worse, they don't fully understand how (or when) their work is built in, and they're doing what they think is their role.

create a project plan step by step

you may get the impression that following a step-by-step process is a bit meta to create a plan that is a step-by-step process in itself. but this is key to creating a robust plan that will succeed.

before you begin planning, consider everything you know about your team, organization, resources, and what you're trying to achieve. as soon as you start planning, it's important to build a common understanding with your team.

step 1: think of the plan as a map for the project

when drawing a map, it's helpful to think of the answers to the following questions:

  • what are your goals? how do i know that my project is complete?
  • who follows this map?
  • what milestones will be passed to achieve my goal? what is the distance between each milestone?
  • what obstacles can you face? is there an alternative route?

step 2: get to know who's involved

Understand cumbersome facts about organizational politics, difficult people, and potential discussions that can affect the project management process. Larry W. Smith, project manager and PMP at the Software Technology Support Center, stresses the importance of conducting stakeholder analysis. Smith said that even if everyone involved wishes the project to be successful, it could ruin the project for everyone if they forget to meet the needs of just one influential stakeholder.

Smith encourages you to take the time to:

  • identify who is involved in the project
  • understand what stakeholders expect and how much impact they have
  • as you progress through the project, decide how to incorporate feedback from colleagues and stakeholders
  • associate all needs and expectations with risk planning and risk response activities
  • carefully plan all communication strategies for the project

When it comes to communication, there's nothing too much to emphasize. Bernie Ferguson, Atlassian's accomplished project leader, starts communicating with stakeholders even at the earliest stages of the project. Ferguson says: "We use the project poster methodology to build a common understanding between team members and stakeholders, what are we working on? What is the value to your customers and your business? Why think this is the right solution? We'll gather feedback on answers to all of these questions before we go on our team's roadmap."

step 3: discard optimism and develop a timeline in detail.

one of the most common mistakes project managers make during planning is to be too optimistic. instead of assuming the best possible situation, think about the issues that may arise and how they might affect your project management timeline. be sure to perform basic due diligence. hold a preanalysis workshop or hold a one-on-one meeting between key players and stakeholders.

ask other project managers how long it took to plan similar projects and outline the timeline. meet with teams you know you're working together to understand how long it takes to perform a specific task. if you are using a project management tool , review the archive of the old project schedule.

then we communicate. provide details to all stakeholders. because don't you want to know? simplified gantt charts are a common and effective way to visualize timelines for easy understanding of everyone.

step 4: listen

as a project manager, you are responsible for presenting the project plan (and ultimately executing the project). however, this is not the work of writing in my seat. when developing a project plan, it is absolutely important to have all key stakeholders involved. please keep in touch as much as possible. you'll find it's a great resource.

by listening to your team and thinking about ideas together, you can reach sensible conclusions in a timely manner. this type of collaboration allows you to create better plans and draw support for your entire project.

At lassian uses templates to reduce the overhead associated with the planning process and facilitate the types of discussions that are essential to project planning best practices. Project planning templates are a great way to think about aspects of project management that stakeholders might not have considered before.

after all, it's important to make a good elevator pitch for your project, but developing a robust plan is very different. templates encourage you to think deeply about what you're going to do and not spill out. and acknowledge reality. it's not fun to think about dependencies and risks, so these elements tend to be blind to the design unless there's a mechanism to force them to do.

Tip: Project planning templates are free and available to everyone. You don't even need to enter your email address.

step 5: think goals and scopes

create a description of the problem that clearly describes what you are trying to solve. next, you'll make a hypothesis that shows what is likely to happen as a result of the project. here's a background description of the project and the data or insights that support it. then decide which metrics to use to measure success. it is usually about multiple areas of the plan.

ask yourself and your team members what they absolutely need and what is useful but not needed. by agreeing on the scope of your project early on, including those that aren't included in the scope, you reduce the likelihood of poor communication between stakeholders. know how much time you should allocate to other people working on the project together. this makes it easier to recognize scope changes.

deviations from scope are a real problem. the key is to balance scope, timeline, and resources so that none of these get out of control.

step 6: anticipate (and avoid) the unexpected

all project plans include facts about budget, schedule, and scope. however, a good plan also provides answers to important questions about the project, such as:

  • resources: what types of skills are required and who can provide them? what is the budget?
  • decision making: who makes the proposal and who makes the final decision?
  • communication: who receives messages about the project, when, and in what format?
  • risk: what do team members need to be aware of, and what is the process of recording and tracking risk?
  • review: how do you collect feedback before releasing a project?
  • approval: who else needs to approve this project? who is the final decision-makers?
  • timing: does the work schedule fit the project timeline? how did you choose the deadline?
  • your plan does not need to delve into the details of each of these challenges, but you should provide enough information to keep your project running smoothly without many unforeseen problems.

Tip: Use DACI techniques to make sure you make informed decisions about your project in a timely manner.

step 7: choose any project management method

as a project manager, you can take a waterfall or agile approach to project management. you can select . agile approaches take advantage of small, repetitive tasks and a process of continuously evaluating requirements, plans, and results to deliver results quickly. in this approach, time and resources are considered fixed. if you need to oversize something, the scope of the project is reduced to the minimum necessary (at least during that iteration). you can then add more iterations to add the desired scope.

the waterfall approach is a more traditional linear process that runs sequentially (like a waterfall), and the project is run on a stage-by-stage team basis. in this case, the scope is considered fixed and the timing and resources can be changed.

step 8: write and review your plan

once you've answered all your questions, discussed them all, and written them on a large number of sticky notes, you're finally set to work on your project plan. keep the words, formats, and designs you choose simple.

here are some useful details that you need to include in any plan in any format:

  • project name
  • implementation date
  • budget
  • plan goals
  • key milestones and expected measurable impacts
  • scheduled start date and completion date for each task
  • callout highlighting the owner of individual tasks
  • task details and notes that clearly indicate what should be done
  • callouts for risk and tasks (or teams) that are dependent on each other to prevent delays
  • once your project plan is complete, you'll want to go around the workplace to the joy of winning and high-five with everyone in the place. however, before that you may still have. ask someone who is not involved in the planning to check.

Tip: don't be too particular about the details when estimating the size of each task. remember, these are informed guesses, not final decisions.

step 9: share your plans and 😉 prepare your mind

the project plan is complete and you have also checked for errors. it's time to communicate your plan to the people who work together on the project and to those who need to communicate. then we prepare for real fun. starting with the project kickoff, move on to the actual work. there are changes and challenges, but you just need to be prepared to manage them.

whatever happens, follow the plan. you can complete the project by focusing on the intended scope and the agreed steps.

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