Sunday 6 February 2022

How to involve your team in the project planning process

Bring team members into the project planning process from the outset to transform the project plan

a team that collaborates to complete a project

the importance of the project planning process any project must go through the planning phase before it begins, the process of identifying tasks, timelines, resources, and all other information you need to know to ensure the success of your project. while some projects may be urgent and short-term, planners for large, long-term work need to be aware of the importance of the planning process. therefore, this is usually the responsibility of senior project managers and organizational decision-making layers, but this approach can become unsustainable.

if the entire project scope is decided by the manager individually and then communicated to the team members, it can lead to a disconnect in the team member's understanding of the project goals. even if you work closely with your team on a daily basis, there's no guarantee that you'll always be consistent with different team members on multiple projects as your work progresses. or worse, you're just constantly making plans and taking a top-down approach to checking, while team members blindly follow siloed instructions, unsure of their work direction, or overall progress in the project timeline.

if you want to align with your team in terms of project goals and the way to achieve them, the best way to do this is to involve your team from the very beginning of the project planning process.

why involve your team in the project plan?

engaging team members in the first step of a strategic plan has many benefits, not only throughout the project lifecycle, but also later in the process:

motivation and responsibility

when team members receive simple, individual task instructions, it can be difficult for them to understand the overall project goals. as a result, they may not consider the impact of their work on the work of others on the project team and the final product or project deliverables they produce. use team charters to bring teams together to set common goals. giving your team a space to collaborate and clarify their responsibilities in the project planning process helps them think holistically. not only does this help them understand the purpose of their work and thus the quality of their work, but it also helps them to participate in the project as a whole and make themselves project stakeholders. by encouraging them to take that responsibility for the success of your project, you'll find yourself managing a hard-working, motivated team.

improve the skill level of your team members

your team is always looking for new ways to improve the quality and efficiency of everyday tasks. some team members are proactive in looking for new opportunities to participate, while others need encouragement to broaden their horizons at work. involving your team in the project planning process can help give your team new avenues to experiment and learn new skills. this allows you to perform important planned tasks at the same time, while also improving your team's skill level and helping them to improve themselves as a team member. not only will they be the backbone of the project planning process with their new skills, but they will ultimately be able to lead and guide other team members in the execution of the planning work. of course, creating an environment in which experiences are shared and mutually responsible is beneficial to all organizational cultures.

increase efficiency through delegation

once the project starts, you distribute work among team members based on their skills, so why not do that during the planning phase? once your team understands the steps in the strategic plan for your project, you can begin to share the planning work with team members. not only does this eliminate the need to waste time performing heavy project planning work, but it also greatly increases the efficiency of your processes when the work is in full swing. if team members are as proficient in project planning as they are at performing their day-to-day work, it will be faster to draft and scope projects together. however, you want to make sure that this doesn't create "islands" in the team (i.e., each member only performs their own scheduled tasks), but rather remains a collaborative process.

how to develop a team project planning process

of course, developing a collaborative approach to executing a project plan with your team requires the right approach and strategy. here are some of the essential elements that teams need to work together to better plan successful projects:

team brainstorming

the most common first step in strategic planning is the brainstorming and ideation phase. if you're a project manager, you need to not only open your doors to your team members, but also invite them to participate in the process. after giving them a brief introduction to an upcoming project, schedule a meeting with your team to brainstorm on the initial plan. consider scheduling a pre-analysis session in the meeting so that team members can visualize the project and expected outcomes. ensure that the agenda of the meeting is issued in advance and the purpose of the meeting is determined to ensure that an effective meeting is held. if this is the first time for your team, try using a minutes or brainstorming template, a structured approach that can help keep the work running smoothly.

create a shared project plan document

Once you and your team are involved in the project planning process, you need to create a shared, centralized project management plan and project plan document. It acts as a standard, letting everyone on your team know where you are in the process and what decisions you've made. This can be done on a whiteboard, but project management software and team collaboration programs such as Dropbox Paper can automate and streamline this process. The entire team can collaborate on the same Paper document, which has a built-in version history and a record of who performed which changes. From here, you can link to other Paper program documents if necessary, or share them with other teams in your organization who need to know about your plan.

use a planning or project management approach

If you're struggling to find a methodology that works for your team to use in your project plan, there are many purpose-built project planning and management methods to choose from. The Agile Planning methodology creates a project sprint timeline for the team to draft a plan in a short period of time, and also provides an opportunity for feedback and iteration of the plan. In contrast, PERT or program review techniques provide an integrated approach that can leverage its built-in project milestones and risk management considerations to determine a project's needs. In addition, project planning tools such as Gantt charts or the Eisenhower Matrix can help you organize tasks and processes using proven methods.

each approach has its advantages and varying degrees of complexity. although your team may eventually modify or extend these methods, using one approach allows everyone to participate in the project planning process.

make sure to stay connected at all times

When teams work closely together to complete a project, it is crucial to maintain good communication. While sharing documentation can help, you should also make sure you have the right channels in place to communicate with your entire team. With communication tools like Slack, you can create dedicated servers for you and your team, and when used in conjunction with Dropbox, you can even start conversations directly from Paper docs or other files. Of course, you also need the methods you use to hold team meetings. When you use Dropbox and video conferencing together through Zoom, you and your team can review your plan as you collaborate on it.

Plan together as a team

as the first step in a project, project planning does not have to be handled by the project manager alone. conduct a project review with the team and apply their feedback to the new project plan. if the entire team can support this process and in subsequent projects, it will not only improve the efficiency of the process, but also bring greater results to you and your team. by sharing responsibilities and pushing for harder work among colleagues to achieve project goals, you can improve your team and their overall level of work. no matter which approach you and your team decide to take to plan your project, collaborating in this process will not only lead to better results on a single project, but will also lead to better results for your team, your organization, and yourself in the long run.

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