Project Manager’s Guide to Project Planning


Everyone knows that being a Project Manager can be a tough job, but also a necessary role, that can bring extraordinary value to your company. There are constant demands on your time, schedules to keep on track, resources to monitor, etc. A recent study said that more than 60% of project failures are linked to internal issues such as insufficient resources or missed deadlines. These are the reasons you assign a Project Manager in the first place.

With new project managers added all the time, with an estimated 16 million new project management positions scheduled to be added by 2020, the industry needs as many tips as possible to help make your projects successfull.

1. Create Clear Goals

Start by understanding the big picture that your project is trying to accomplish. For everyone involved as stakeholder, try to understand what the goal is and how to prevent these items:

• Scope Creep – Don’t allow the project to take on tasks and goals outside of the original goals
• Over Budget – Stay on your approved budget by focusing on what is important
• Extra Requirements – Prevent anyone from adding unapproved new requirements and tasks
• Poor Quality – Don’t allow stakeholders to squeeze you or your team so that poor quality is an option
• Late Tasks – Don’t get behind schedule and feel that items can be delivered late
• Missing Resources – Securing your resources in advance will reduce issues later in the project

2. Communicate Expectations

People all have to be working together as a team to make your project a successful project. You must clearly communicate your expectations as the project manager (and expect other members of your team to communicate their own expectations) as part of starting any project. These expectations should include:

• Scope Statement
• List of Deliverables and Due Dates
• Roles and Responsibilities
• Communication Plan and Schedule
• Who and How to ask questions

3. Understand Risks

Even if you have planned everything and you have stacks of written documentation, your project will face unexpected events. Business requirements change, people quit, budgets change, etc. What a good project manager to does it plan for the unexpected. You probably can’t predict everything that will happen, but you can expect the unexpected and create a plan for what you might do for the most likely items that may occur.

Identify the most likely risks, and summarize what you would do to address those issues, in a written risk management plan. In the event of something bad happening, you flip open the risk plan and execute the steps. You won’t always have a plan for every risk, but it really reduces the stress and team member panic if you at least have a written plan to help identify the proper steps.

4. Minimize Meetings

The usefulness of meeting has been studies several times, and these studies never say you should have more meetings. About one third of all meetings are not useful. While meetings are a necessary part of successful project planning, you must consider whether a meeting is a best use of your team’s time. Usually a well-crafted email can more useful than a meeting. You need to understand that the more time spent your team is in meeting the less time they spend on actual project deliverables. Don’t schedule a meeting unless it is absolutely required, with a clear and written agenda.

5. Kickoff Meeting

The initial project kickoff meeting is the most important meeting of the entire project. When planning your keickoff meeting be sure to do these items:

• Invite the correct people
• Quickly determine of the meeting attendees must be present or if they can be online
• Create a detailed written agenda
• Determine if this can be an online meeting or if it needs to be held in person
• Reschedule if the key players can’t attend
• Know what information people should have learned from the meeting, before the meeting starts

6. Project Reporting

As project manager, you should be collecting data throughout the project. This includes who is working on which task, percentage done, due dates, tasks completed, etc. The only way management will know if your project is on track is to run and distribute consistent reports. This can often be accomplished through your project management software, but you might have your own custom reporting formats that help your management team understand the progress of your project.

If your project is running well and on time, make sure that is easy to see on the reports. If your project is having problems, that should also be easy to see on the reports. Honesty and trust are two distinguishing qualities you don’t want to compromise.

7. Project Tools

You have to decide what tools you need to do an effective job and then use those tools in a consistent way. You would not trust the skills of a carpenter that insists on using a bent piece of rusty sewer pipe as a hammer, and you shouldn’t expect to be trusted as a project manager without using the proper tools of your trade. While not all project management tools on the market are created equal, you need to decide what works for you and get to know those tools really well. Your selected tools need to allow for the following:

• Identify Project Tasks and Resources
• Organize Tasks into Timelines
• Reporting to Communicate Progress
• Customization to fit your Team

You will also need something that is learnable, easy to use, and updatable. This means you have selected a product that has some learning resources available like books or online content. It should be intuitive and easy to use, so the simplest features are the easiest to use without extensive training. The product should also be actively supported and updated. You don’t want to use a product that is abandoned by the builder and hasn’t seen any updates in 10 years.



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