Winston Churchill said, “He who fails to plan is planning to fail”, yet so many projects fail to plan! Without a plan you can expect delays, exceeded budgets, scope-creep and reduced quality. Perhaps the thought of planning down to the minutia and burying ones head deep into line after line of a Microsoft Project plan turns us off planning! This could be part of the problem. It’s common to want to plan to the low-level detail as we’re lured into a false sense of comfort that we’ve covered all bases. However, reality takes over and soon after publishing it, the plan is out of date and quite an effort to maintain. Not many colleagues want to wade through page after page of plans to figure out their next move. A plan needs to be simple and it needs to be flexible so it can move with reality. Don’t get me wrong, some projects require detailed plans, but the art is in succinctly communicating it so colleagues keep up the pace and to maintain it regularly. Maintenance means keeping up with reality – mapping the difference between your baseline plan and actual progress. Then you can communicate the difference and realign people to their new task timeline. For a lot of projects you can create a simple plan. Begin by answering these questions:
- What are your key work areas? For example, development, communication, training etc.
- For each key area, what tasks do you need to do?
- When is each of these tasks due?
- Who’s responsible for each task?
Now you need to put the above into some sort of order and the best way to do this is as a Gantt chart. A Gantt chart plots the order and sequence of tasks and an example is below. Some tasks can only begin as another is complete so you can plot this in the chart too.
If you produce the above plan in a spreadsheet you can just drag around the schedule as it changes. As per my article Project Managers: Get your head in the cloud there’s a lot of simple online project management tools that help you produce project Gantt charts. My favourite is Tom’s Planner and it’s free to use (personal account).
There you have it. A simple way to plan so you plan to succeed and not fail.