Sometimes we don’t need a cape, tights or superpowers. Sometimes we just need a plan to help save us.
A project plan is at the very centre of any functioning project. It’s a communication tool which displays lots of different pieces of information.
Some people call a list of things to do a ‘plan’. That’s not a plan. Just stop it!
A proper plan is a way to show who is doing what, when, for how much and how each piece of work links to the next.
It will include:
– Person / people responsible for each task
– Linkages between the tasks
– Start and finish dates for each task
– Planned cost for each task
Ideally the tasks should be grouped so that common aspects are done together or in sequence. For instance, in a house build, it would be sensible to group all of the groundworks together, then all of the interior fit out together.
Here’s how a proper plan will help rescue you from tricky situations.
1 – Useful forecast
A proper plan will organise the expected work to be done. This lets you know when you expect to finish. Importantly, this is just a representation of how things may turn out. Some people dismiss plans because they say that ‘plans are immediately out of date as soon as you have produced them’. But the important thing that a plan does it create a forecast. It gives a feel of when the project should be complete and when each of the sub-parts should be complete too.
If the plan suggests that the project will be too late, then the assumptions used to plan the project can be reviewed. Perhaps more resources are needed at specific points. Perhaps some of the tasks need to be removed in this part of the project. When the tweaks are done, the plan can be re-run to show a new possibility. This method of ‘playing with the future’ means that alternative delivery methods can be explored to see which options could be best.
Using the plan for a useful forecast means that it saves you from having to guess when you think your project will be finished.
This removes a lot of stress and worry from the actual delivery of your project – especially when you’re discussing the start, or progress, with your client.
Much like a weather forecast, it helps you get prepared for what you expect to come.
2 – Know who’s doing what and when
A proper plan will show how the people in your project fit together. That means that anyone involved can look at the plan and see when they need to contribute and how their contribution links in to the project. Naturally this is great to show the work that you, and your team, need to accomplish.
This is especially useful for identifying when clients need to contribute to the project. Sometimes plans only include the work of the supplier and completely ignore the fact that the client is involved. Identifying when the client needs to provide specifications, or attend meetings, or provide review feedback, means that they can plan their workload while you’re planning yours. This way of planning shows that you really care about getting your client appropriately involved.
3 – Recognise extra work
A proper plan will include everything that you have agreed to do for your project. This means that if it isn’t on the plan then it shouldn’t be done. That’s not to say that it can’t be included on the plan, but if it isn’t on the plan then there is no time or people allocated to do it and so it shouldn’t be worked upon.
The fact that the plan only includes planned work means that you can recognise if something extra, or a change, comes along. This means you can add the extra work or the change, re-run the plan and see what the effect is.
I have seen many times where extra work creeps in and the plan is blind to it. This means that what people are working on and what the plan ‘thinks’ is being done do not match up. This can be disastrous, as the plan reports one thing but reality is different.
Using the plan to control extra work means you can have useful, and easier, conversations with your client. If they want to change something then you can show the effects of the alteration. Maybe it will reduce the delivery time, or increase the cost. This way of planning demonstrates that you have control over the original and agreed project scope, and showing them how their changes affect your original scope can help them confirm whether or not they want to make changes.
So to summarise, the key ways a plan can save you are:
- Useful forecast – Take the stress out of guessing when your project is likely to be finished
- Know who’s doing what and when – Make it easy to show who needs to work on your project
- Recognise extra work – Remove the hassle around discussing extra project scope and changes
If you need assistance to develop a useful project plan drop us a line at: email@example.com