Developing a project plan consumes a significant amount of time and resources. A wide range of details must be gathered and evaluated to inform the list of activities that should be included. Task durations need to be estimated and task dependencies identified. A timeline for activities is then developed so everyone knows what they need to be doing and when.
But once you’re done doing all that, are you really done? And—more to the point—can the development of your project plan ever be truly finished until the project is complete?
The prospect of a project plan that undergoes routine adjustments may strike fear in the hearts of some, but ongoing development can actually be a good thing. It gives you a way to fine tune the list of tasks and optimize your sequence of activities based on real-time factors. Done correctly, by giving your project plan some routine attention, you’ll increase efficiency, protect your project’s ROI, and help your organization achieve better outcomes.
Why do teams avoid reworking project plans?
One reason is a lack of experience reworking plans while the project is underway. Concerns about disrupting scheduled activities or inadvertently dropping dependency links between tasks, for example, might make a team hesitant to implement changes. But the opportunity to improve your plan doesn’t need to pass you by. An experienced project management consultancy partner is a valuable resource that can help you assess your existing plan and identify where additional efficiencies or cost savings may be available.
Another common reason project groups aren’t always eager to adjust their plans along the way is because they don’t feel they have enough time to go through the process. However, it’s important to put the exercise in perspective. The goal isn’t to recreate the wheel—you should be looking for areas that can be optimized and streamlined, not completely rebuilt.
What are the benefits of reworking your project plans?
If you’re worried about making changes to an established project plan, consider some of the advantages.
Maintaining a regular update schedule for adjusting your project’s plan and timeline gives your team an opportunity to review the elements of the initiative. You’ll be able to confirm that nothing has slipped through the cracks and your project’s critical path activities remain on track for a successful completion. When the project plan is static from start to finish, you run a greater risk that warning flags may be ignored or overlooked simply because no one is checking for new information.
When the team completes project activities early or if tasks are eliminated from the project—an anticipated follow-up visit from a regulatory agency is deemed unnecessary, for example—you can remove those from your plan. Mid-project reworking enables you to dynamically reallocate resources based on evolving needs. It’s also a useful window to compress the schedule if other activities consumed more time than expected or there’s a possibility that anticipated delays later in the project could be accommodated by reworking the plan now.
Periodic plan adjustments across the project’s lifecycle also provide an important opportunity to monitor your practices.
- Are your project controls functioning as expected?
- Is your early risk management and mitigation work still on target?
- Do you have the right data to accurately assess the project’s health?
- Are your analytics delivering enough visibility into the project’s progress?
Your controls, planning and monitoring processes should be working together to keep your project on track. Regular assessments and adjustments conducted throughout the initiative can help to ensure you’re taking the right steps to move your project to a successful completion.