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4 July 2013

How to Plan a project

This is the second part of a 5 part series on kicking off a project. It's a basic check-list of things to consider. The purpose of sharing this is to point you in the right direction to get started. The series starts here.

Planning brings the people together and unites them in their purpose. It also helps you think through scenarios and anticipate the opportunities and risks that might come up during the project.

  • Break down the big goal
    • Who are the customers/users/stakeholders this project is delivering to? What do they care about?
    • What will our measures of success look like for each of these parties?
    • Break that down again – what are the main themes underneath each of these stakeholders’ goals? And how will we know we have succeeded, partly succeeded or failed here?
    • Repeat up to three levels of breakdown. Have success measures at all levels.
    • The main tool is the work breakdown structure.
  • Design a solutions team
    • Identify the skills, knowledge and capabilities you’re going to need
    • Balance this against constraints as you go
    • Try to manage people in teams that are aligned to customers and work packages. Create an organisation structure built around the customer experience.
    • Consider what you will buy in from third parties
  • Understand the environment
    • What environmental constraints are you going to have to deal with?
    • What financial and time constraints do you have to work with?
    • What things beyond your control do you depend on, and how will you manage these? (Delivery of materials, decisions by others?)
  • Think about quality
    • How do your customers perceive quality? How will you make sure you deliver appropriate quality?
    • Strongly consider systems that manage quality into your work as you go, rather than a quality check at the end of the project (when time and money have run out and there is no time to fix things.)
  • Think about your stakeholders and the stories they want to hear
    • Who do you need to keep onside through this project? (Don’t forget your team and your sponsor)
    • How will you keep stakeholders informed and engaged?
    • What communications systems should you put in place?
  • Iterate your planning
    • You never know everything up front so keep your plans flexible
    • Visualise everything in charts so everyone can talk about what they see and stay on the same page, or change the page.