Categorized | Management

Running a project without a plan? Your doomed!

Projects can be all shapes and sizes varying in complexity, duration and budget. Most businesses are likely to have some projects of some sort or other but how they manage them can vary considerably.

The rise of project management as a discipline

In recent years project management has been increasingly seen (quite rightly so) as a discipline in its own right with appropriate training courses and certifications. With the demand for skilled Project managers increasing however many businesses still fail to realize the need for appropriate project management within their organizations – often managing complex activities by appointing a project manager from within the company who may or may not have appropriate skills or experience. All too often the Project Manager will have a ‘day job’ (not project management) and be expected to move seamlessly on to the project – worst case scenario is that the project will need to be managed alongside his ‘day job’.

Its unsurprising that inexperienced project managers are likely to make a few mistakes – unfortunately one of the most punishing ones is to forgo a project plan – managing their project in their head/from memory or without the appropriate documentation such as a project plan.

What a project plan offers

A project plan offers rigour and consistency and typically incorporates a number of elements including

• Tasks
• timescales
• Dependencies
• Constraints
• Resources
• Milestones
• Etc

The project plan’s complexity is typically aligned with the complexity of the deliverable. A plan is just that – a planning tool – it provides a way of breaking down a deliverable into a set of activities and provides the project team a route to success.

What happens when there isn’t a plan

Projects which are run without a plan – usually in an ad-hoc format from the project managers memory will all too often run into schedule and cost over-runs (or in worse case not even complete the deliverable). There is nothing to hold anyone accountable too – minimal task scheduling, little thought to constraints or dependencies and all too often with activity creep (i.e. more jobs carried out than need to be executed).

When there isn’t a plan you suffer from the following:

• No single set of understood activities
• No view of dependencies or constraints
• Ambiguity for the project team of what to do and when to do it
• Greater likelyhood of schedule/cost creep
• Increased level of risk

Don’t fear the project plan

So why don’t people complete a project plan given its importance? Often new Project managers look at project plans and are a bit daunted – they see what looks like a complex gantt chart with numerous blocks and lines and are unsure how to both create and maintain it.

However, the Project plan is without doubt the single most powerful tool the project manager has at their disposal. Project plans do not have to be complicated (you don’t even have to have a gantt chart) they can merely be a set of key milestones and key activities providing they provide a framework of how to deliver what is required.

You even don’t have to use complicated software – while it can be useful and save time in the long run if you must you can create project plans using a paper and pen.

In summary – the project plan should be seen as essential – while for the novice project manager there may be a temptation to avoid planning –this can result in significant difficulties as you struggle to see where you are, what has to be completed and what the timescale is to complete it in.

Leave a Reply