During the initiation and planning phases of a project, there are a number of key activities to be performed. I am going to cover 3 of the most important activities in this article:
1. Scope Definition
I cannot stress enough the importance of locking down the scope at the beginning of project.
Using a scope document, it is critical to define exactly what is in scope and what is not. Of course, you will need to work with the project sponsors and, at times, the project team to do this. Once the scope is defined, it is crucial to have formal sign-off.
Remember, if the scope is not locked down and agreed to, small changes at the beginning of a project will potentially have huge ramifications later on – potentially to resources, costs, ability to meet business objectives, etc.
For example, if a ship leaves San Francisco bound for Hawaii and is 2 degrees off course, the ship will miss Hawaii altogether. A minor course correction in this area at the beginning of a project will ensure your project does not stray drastically off course.
Developing a good plan is also critical. When done right, good planning will typically ensure the execution phase of a project runs very smoothly – barring any unforeseen issues.
Developing a sequential plan (step 1, step 2, etc.) and understanding what can be run in parallel are also important. Clearly defining the work and breaking it into small work units is a key step. Once these work units are defined, resources can easily be assigned based on availability and skill sets.
It’s important not to rush project planning. It’s better to spend a little extra time developing a good plan than it is to try to course correct during the execution phase when more resources are typically engaged and the impacts are greater.
This is one of my hot buttons. Good, frequent and consistent communications are key!
What do I mean by this? Well, communications should be planned in advance and well thought out with the possible exception of emergencies. Here’s a simple example of an ongoing communications plan:
1. Weekly Status Report – sent only to project team every Friday
2. Weekly Project Meeting Notes – sent only to project team every Wednesday
3. Monthly Project Report – sent to all stakeholders and sponsors last Thursday of every month
This is a simplified example but, as you can see, there is a definitive plan for communicating. By communicating in an organized manner, your project team and sponsors will know exactly what to expect and, as a side effect, this will help build their confidence in your work.
Tip 1: good or bad, always communicate the true status. This will protect you as well as help sponsors know when to engage and assist.
Tip 2: by consistently showing progress with resource names attached (e.g. task 1 due on this date – assigned to John Smith), more often than not this visibility will serve as a natural self-motivator for the assigned person to complete his or her work on time. Often, no additional follow up or prodding is needed.
By focusing on the key activities at the beginning, projects start stronger and typically run much, much smoother.
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