B) Laying Down the Groundwork: “Project Planning”

“Even with the best planning and collaboration, things happen. Make sure your project schedule reflects the actual and current reality of the project.” – Robert Kelly, services solution executive, Lenovo

What happens when a project loses steam and is unable to deliver on important metrics such as speed-to-market? Case in point: Ford’s Edsel project, which was launched in 1957.

The problem: The company engaged itself in a drawn-out and expensive research process, having ultimately spent 10 years and $250 million on planning the unveiling of its brand-new model. All in all, inaccurate deadlines, error-prone communication, and outdated information led the project downhill.

The learning:  Building a S.M.A.R.T road map, maintaining a steady momentum, ensuring seamless communication, and drafting an accurate project strategy during the planning phase are all vital to achieving project success.

In project management lingo, this phase of the project life cycle involves setting goals that mix-and-match different skill sets, methodologies, and strategies to define a project’s scope, goals, deliverables, and deadlines. Key factors that define this phase include (but are not limited to):

Step 1: Setting project goals such as S.MA.R.T goals which can be summed up as:

  • Specific: What is it that you aim to do/achieve?
  • Measurable: How will you know when you’ve reached your objectives?
  • Achievable: Is it in your power to accomplish the goals?
  • Realistic: Is the goal realistic and practical to achieve?
  • Timely: What is the deadline to complete the goals?

Here’s an example of a S.M.A.R.T goal: “In 2 months, we will boost blog conversion rates by 10%”, or,

C.L.E.A.R goals as coined by entrepreneur, Adam Kreek:

  • Collaborative: Goals should encourage employees to work together in teams.
  • Limited: Goals should be limited in both scope and duration.
  • Emotional: Goals should make an emotional connection with employees, ultimately tapping into their energy and passion.
  • Appreciable: Long-term goals should be broken down into smaller milestones, so they can be accomplished more quickly and easily.
  • Refinable: Goals should be set with a headstrong and steadfast objective. However, as new situations emerge, they can be modified as the need arises. Adam Kreek gives an interesting example.

He says;

“When we prepared for our Atlantic crossing, our higher goal was to cross the Atlantic Ocean, but we also created three rules to support that higher goal. The first rule was don’t die, the second rule was don’t kill your mates, and the third was don’t sink your boat. So look after yourself, look after each other, and look after your equipment.”

Step 2: Developing a project management plan or project road map which includes the following elements:

– Project Scope (Scope Statement), which highlights the business needs, project benefits, goals, deliverables, and key milestones.

– Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which visually breaks down the scope of the project.

Step 3: Setting a realistic time schedule and estimating resources as well as assets to assign roles and responsibilities.

Step 4: Estimating costs and creating a budget plan.

Step 5: Identifying quality requirements and establishing performance measures.

Step 6: Creating a communications plan for outside stakeholders to manage stakeholder expectations.

Step 7: Identifying potential risks, dependencies, and constraints; performing a qualitative and quantitative risk analysis and planning risk mitigation strategies.

Step 8: Getting a low-down of the required procurements.

“Too often, tech teams are only knowledgeable about their specific tasks instead of the bigger picture. Knowing the business drivers, timelines, other deliverables, dependencies, and the like contributes not only to a better understanding of the project holistically, but can also adjust and improve how individuals work towards the ultimate goal.” – Brian Contos, Verodin Inc.

Expert tip: If your WBS includes details for work required to be done for more than 10 days at a time, it won’t work. Additionally, it helps to add diverse inputs from your team members about their specific tasks to make the plan foolproof.