There is a saying: “Every minute you spend planning will save you 10 minutes in execution.” As a project manager, I’ve learned that along with communication and execution, planning is one of the three key ingredients for project success.
Planning is not just a one-off activity completed in the early stages of a project. Planning is a process (or rather a group of processes), conducted throughout the project. And like every process, planning itself requires a plan and a setup, which defines the planning scope, details and deliverables.
So how do we plan the planning? Here is my five-step approach:
1. Decide on the project management methodology, framework or practice you will use on the project. Depending on the approach, you might require different planning styles, deliverables, details or rigor.
You might have to go ahead with a detailed planning process if you will use a waterfall approach. Conversely, you might have to keep the planning thin if you will use an agile approach, such as scrum. Or, your planning might be predefined and framed if you have to use your organization’s proprietary methodology.
2. Plan project time for planning. In average, at least 10 percent of management time should be allocated to project planning.
3. Write down a checklist of all project documents you plan or need to deliver. The list will mostly depend on your project’s complexity, organization and methodology. (More on this in my next post.)
4. Start planning early and continue planning throughout the project.
Some of the planning documents, such as the high-level schedule or scoping documents, might have to be kept frozen upon sign-off. Other documents, such as the risk management planning or rollout planning, will typically require updating as the project progresses.
5. Continuously improve your planning.
Improve planning by communicating the planning outcome with your project team and by collecting their feedback regarding your planning performance. You can use this feedback for continuous planning improvement.
As the project progresses, keep a log of your planning issues to track gaps you encounter along the way. This is the “planning lessons-learned” document that you can also use for continuous improvement.
What do you think? How do you plan for project planning?
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