Every project begins with a plan. However, a good planning process—one that’s thorough and thoughtfully structured—does more than ensure your team’s can get the upcoming initiative to the finish line. Taking the right steps during the planning phase also sets you up to perform your best. Your process should cover some broader strategies, such as the judicious management of your available resources, careful and continuous oversight of the time component of your project, and ongoing engagement with your stakeholders and sponsors.
Managing the planning phase the right way the first time puts PMs and their teams on the path to long-term (and repeatable) project success. Front-loading your workflow with a focus on some key concepts is critical to achieving your initiative’s goals and enabling the organization to get the best return on its project investment.
Maximize your workforce resources
Typical planning efforts produce a forecast that shows how many employees and how much vendor-provided labor resources a project will require, but it shouldn’t end there. You can leverage this pre-launch period to ensure you get the most out of every hour available. Look for opportunities to batch tasks so your internal staff and contract workers aren’t wasting energy switching from one type of activity to another more often than necessary. Setup and teardown time is another line item that can consume a surprising amount of effort but is sometimes difficult to separate out from a scheduling perspective. Carefully examine the planned workflows to make transitions from one task to the next as efficient as possible.
Minimize your costs
Though some project expenses aren’t open to negotiation, you should still look for ways to keep costs low. You’ll get the best results if you include this work during the planning phase. Consider where fixed costs may be pooled to minimize individual line item charges. Is it possible to reduce shipping costs by bundling several pieces of new equipment into a single truck? Review your vendors’ trip fees. Can you schedule several tasks into one appointment, thereby eliminating multiple charges while still getting the necessary work completed? Small savings here and there can add up to big dollars across an entire project.
Maintain credibility with executives and sponsors
Problems that arise once a project is underway have the potential to damage the team’s reputation, particularly if the effort is at risk of missing its budget or timeline targets. A PM who doesn’t implement an effective planning process could find that executives no longer have faith in them to deliver projects successfully. Opportunities to oversee complex, high-visibility, or strategically important initiatives could evaporate, leaving you unable to advance professionally. When you do the planning phase right, you’ll continue to build credibility with influential sponsors and the organization’s senior leadership team.
Create a foundation for ongoing communication channels
PMs gain two important benefits from a well-executed planning process. First, because you’re familiar with the details and history of the project and its genesis, you can speak knowledgeably when presented with concerns, questions about potential risk areas, and inquiries into why certain decisions were made. In addition, your early preparation makes you a natural point of contact for engagement with stakeholders, business partners, sponsors, and the executive group.
Protect your team’s morale and energy
Project professionals are regularly asked to accomplish a lot without being given everything they need—staffing, time, funding, even access to key strategic information in some cases. By putting a strong planning process in place, you can ensure you’ve provided your team with the best footing possible to move the project through execution to a successful on-time, on-budget completion.
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