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Tips for creating a project plan

  • 1.  Tips for creating a project plan

    Pitney Bowes
    Posted 05-21-2019 15:09
    Edited by Colleen Reed 05-21-2019 15:45

    Years ago, the team I worked with nick-named me "The Wrangler".  When I asked why, they told me it was because I added structure to the work we needed to do.  The name has stuck, and so has the obsession with adding structure to our plans. 

    Over the years, I've witnessed several projects that didn't go anywhere. In some cases, it was because of shifting business priorities. In other cases, it was because clear objectives, milestones, actions, and timelines were not defined. I have found that creating a project plan and communicating it to project participants and stakeholders is key to success. A well-defined and broadly communicated project plan sets expectations and makes it possible to hold people accountable for their deliverables.

    If you are working on a project that does not seem to be progressing, try creating a project plan. To do this:

    1. Define the project's objectives. State, in plain English, what you are trying to do, and what business value is created from the successful implementation of the project. Socialize this with the project participants and stakeholders. Be willing to incorporate their input and adjust the objectives to achieve the team's buy-in.
    2. Set milestones for your project. What are the big chunks of work that bring you closer to the goal state? The successful achievement of milestones gives stakeholders confidence that the project is on track.
    3. Once the milestones have been defined, break down each milestone into clear actions with owners. These should be the discrete pieces of work that it takes achieve each milestone. Having clearly defined actions helps people prioritize their work.
    4. Create a timeline. To do this, work with the owners of each action to estimate the time it will take to complete each task. Ask about dependencies on other actions. From this, create a project plan that summarizes milestones and actions, and projects a timeline for achieving each action and milestone.

    Now that you have a plan in place, socialize (and re-socialize) the plan with key participants and stakeholders. Schedule a regular cadence meeting with the project participants to track progress on actions and associated risks. And set up regular check-ins with stakeholders to provide them with updates on your project's progress.

    Does anyone have other tips for creating a project plan?

    Colleen Reed
    Pitney Bowes
    White River Junction VT

  • 2.  RE: Tips for creating a project plan

    Pitney Bowes
    Posted 05-22-2019 10:42
    Two observations from personal experience: First, in environments that promote a high degree of socialization, it's worthwhile to set a milestone for the cutover from planning to execution. A prolonged or unchecked planning phase raises the probability of feature/scope creep and telescopes the execution timeframe.

    Second, don't underestimate the value of risk analysis in planning. When I worked in biomed, all my project plans had to include at least two risk evaluation gates - one in the planning phase and one pre-release. We don't operate in a highly regulated environment that requires this level of formality, but even an informal risk analysis has value. It's one more tool for creating stakeholder buy-in, especially if you're dealing with risk-averse people.

    Andy Cybruch