Exploring trends and developments in project management today.

Planning the Project

Question 3: Have you developed a detailed project plan?

Project Manager standing in front of a Gantt chart

21 Ways to Excel at Project Management

Good Practice: A detailed project plan should be developed and signed off by the Steering Committee. It provides the following benefits:

  1. Translates the high-level business objectives into a detailed 'road-map' of concrete deliverables.
  2. Provides a detailed list of resource requirements.
  3. Provides a realistic assessment of project timescales.
  4. Allows estimated project costs to be further validated.
  5. Allows for issues to be identified early on, for example tasks taking longer than expected, slippage in target dates and team members not being productive.

Base the plan on known metrics, how long did a previous similar project take?

Involve all team members, not just senior management. Develop the plan in iterations over several weeks, by consulting team members and drawing on their experience.

Common Mistakes

  • Having no project plan.
  • Having a wrong project plan. Do not be swayed by a sexy looking project plan that has been produced to give the Steering Committee a warm, comfortable feeling, but which is not based on reality. A wrong project plan is worse than having no project plan at all.
  • As with all methodologies, a healthy dose of common sense and pragmatism is required. Do not be too religious, for example a 5-day project does not need a detailed project plan.
  • Do not lose sight of what the project is trying to achieve. Traditional project management techniques can encourage over planning and an excessive focus on micro level tasks at the expense of the overall objective.
  • Disbelieving evidence from past projects and insisting the current project can be done faster with fewer people.
  • Committing to or baselining project plans too early.

Notes: Trying to manage a large and complex project without a project plan is like trying to cross an unknown continent without a map, you are running blind. The key thing to get right is the balance between planning and action. Take the example of driving from London to Paris: too much planning and other cars will be halfway there before you leave; too little and you will turn up at the Eurotunnel terminal without passports.

"A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week." General George S. Patton, JR.

Warning Sign! When successive project milestones are missed this is a sure sign of a project that is failing.