Planning a project

As we begin to get our project rolling we start to plan out the overall project.  We have set out what things are involved in the project at a high level and then we start to take each part and break it down.

Breaking down the work

We take each of our milestones or deliverables and figure out what steps it will take to complete this. Similar to the person who wants to lose twenty pounds it can be quite daunting when we look at it all at once. But if we break it down to how much we need to lose per day and per week we can make it more manageable.

As a college freshman, I remember taking a class where we had to read a lot. I wasn’t sure I could do it all. So I began to break down each book and figure how much I needed to read each day and week so I could be ready for the mid-term exam.

Project management is no different so we break down the work to a level that we and our team can find in manageable.  This might vary depending on the people on your team but you will soon find the right balance. This will help your organize the team’s work into attainable parts.

Defining the work

Next up, we need to define the work. As a software developer, I have had some interesting discussions defining the work and determining what “done” is. We all have assumptions of what we think is done and most of the time those assumptions are quite different.

As a parent, we run into a disagreement of what a clean room is. My son thinks if he throws the blankets on his bed and shoves the dirty clothes under the bed this is a clean room. Then I take some time to define the work to him and reset his assumptions.

When we have work on our project we need to have mutually agreed upon expectations. If we get this out early on in the process we can eliminate the need for tense conversations later. When the work is not completely defined this can cause delays in project completion and negotiation of responsibilities.

Setting the schedule

Once we put these activities into the schedule you will start to see some of the biggest challenges for project management. Setting the schedule and then keeping the team on schedule can be daunting tasks. As you see the duration of the many work tasks you will probably notice that some tasks are crucial and can kick you off schedule quickly.

The constraints of time will become evident. You may need to enlist more help on certain items. Also, it may be an issue where one person or group is doing a lot of work. As you prepare the schedule with these resources identify ways to get them some help.

Resources

The schedule is set now we need to find the right people and tools to do the work. The first time I hired a contractor to do some electrical work I learned a lesson in resource management. They told me how long the work would take and they would be available to do it in a certain time frame. I also had some additional work that needed to be done after the electrical work. I schedule all the work and thought I had the resources in place.

I neglected to determine when the actual time the work would start. We need to know when the resources are available to us. No matter what type of project you are managing you need to understand the availability and that the things come up. We need to manage our resources and stay on top of any upcoming challenges.

Budget

Some projects have explicit budget limits where others do not. If you don’t have a limit it is a good idea to get some ballpark figures to start with. Make sure you take everything in consideration so there are no surprises when you complete the project.

As work on a project in an organization you need to understand how you may have a budget that is not spelled out directly. This may be in the form of using certain resources for a period of time or so many hours a week. Partial allocations of team members happens a lot on smaller projects. Take this into consideration with planning and  your budget.

Risk Management

Every project has risks that they must manage to some level. First off let’s define what risk is. According to the Project Management Institute or PMI, risk is “an uncertain event or condition that has a positive or negative effect on a project’s objectives.” So any unanticipated incident that can affect your project is a potential risk.

Change management

Change management is an orderly approach to handling change both from the perspective of the group and the individual. As we outline the individual changes we must identify and communicate them out. We need to create a strategy around these plans and incorporate ways to solicit feedback from all parties. Some companies do this by having weekly meetings around the change that is happening and what is coming next. Then follow that up with some open and honest question and answer time.

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