Why do we need to plan out our work? Isn’t it easier to just do what seems most important today, then move on to what seems to be the next most important task, and so on and so on? Raise your hand if you do this even when you are being organized and following a plan. I know I do. We all do – it’s in our nature. I’m all for not multi-tasking too much. I think it’s counterproductive much of the time. So I’m a firm believer in figuring out what is most critical now and do it, then move to the next task.
But…we can be the most organized individual on the planet, and still stray from the schedule and do whatever some asks for next or whatever seems to be the most critical thing to accomplish right now. It happens all the time. Is that good? Well, no…not to skip planning all together. Probably a bad idea.
Planning as part of our project
Everyone needs to plan. That goes without question. No planning means you’re getting by on luck and that’s a bad idea for many reasons. The most obvious of which is that your project success will be both rare and nearly impossible to repeat. But, if we plan well and succeed, we can follow that original plan and replicate it on future projects to realize even greater successes.
What we should be using to plan our projects and tasks? We can use mind-mapping software as we are planning out our projects to explore and document different ways to increase creativity and inspire our brainstorming process when working on business processes and requirements for the project with our team and the customer and to even enhance our collaboration on the engagements we manage for our organizations and our project customers. We can also use regular spreadsheet software to manage our resource forecasts and analysis and our financial forecasts and analysis. That’s what I usually do for resource and financial forecasting using an established template that I put together and update weekly on my projects.
The key is to plan – and plan well. And, of course, to plan for planning. Too many inexperienced project managers fail to include enough of the upfront planning time into their project timeline, their financial forecast, and their resource usage. The result? A project that is behind on schedule and budget almost before it starts. Because it takes time to document business processes, real and detailed (and viable) project requirements, and then to plan the rest of the project accordingly including how you are going to design and build out the project solution for the customer. You had an initial plan and timeline and budget, but that all changes – at least a little – once you have the real need and requirements well documented. If you don’t give you and your team enough time to plan that out and document those requirements well, you either aren’t going to end up with the right solution, or you’ll be going through a lot of re-work to get you there. Either way, you’ll blow through the budget and timeline fast…and the project will likely be considered yet another fail.
Planning seems tedious. Sometimes it seems like negative progress. And sometimes your senior management – or even the customer – is pushing you to show them progress. But we must protect that planning time on our projects if we hope to end successfully. Mind-mapping is one process by which you can plan out this process and actually give those in opposition some visual on why and how you are going about your project planning process. Share it with them - they will likely be impressed. Your management or even your customer may not seem like your allies on some elements of the planning phase of the project, but making them aware of the criticality of those requirements and that planning time may help – that’s why keeping key stakeholders like that apprised of project status and progress is of utmost importance.
About the author
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com.