Creating a Project Plan that Works
LOS GATOS, Calif. Oct 16th, 2015 -Your project schedule is only as good as it is usable. If it is just something you created at the beginning of the project to show the client, team and management that the delivery organization is capable of pulling this thing off, then it's really of no value. You need a project schedule that works and lives and breathes throughout the project, revised regularly, up to date as much as possible every day, and something you can use to make decisions from and manage against. If it's never revised or seldom up to date, you'll have a very difficult time making assignments and informed decisions on the project.
So, you need a project plan or schedule that really means something – one that is really working FOR you on the project. To that end, here is what you need to do...
Use a collaborative tool.
Project managers – you don’t have to do everything yourself. You can, but you have lots to do. Resource management, financial management and analysis, project reporting, superhuman feats that haven’t even been requested yet, and monumental decisions to make without any information to back them up. So, it’s ok to share some project schedule update responsibilities with those team members who are actually assigned to the tasks. Don’t be their secretary…let your team update their tasks leaving you to some “save the world” type tasks that you likely had to put off from yesterday.
Revise early and often.
. Keep the project schedule up to date as much as possible. You do no one any favors – especially yourself – by always handing out an out of date schedule. Your team needs to know what's expected of them and your project client needs to know where the project stands every week if not every day. Trust me, no matter how the project is going, if the project customer knows that what they are looking it is up to date then they will have more confidence in your ability to manage the project no matter how the project is going – good or bad. Being “on top of it” says a lot about your leadership and helps maintain customer confidence.
Pick realistic dates.
It's nice to show your project client that you think you can hit milestones on time or early and deliver every deliverable on schedule as per the proposed dates in a statement of work (SOW). However, if you can't really do that and you know the proposed dates aren't possible or reasonable given the work that needs to be done, then you're doing no one – repeat no one – any favors by saying early on that you can meet those dates. If dates need to be revised to realistic timeframes, then let that be known early before it gets painful and dates, deliverables and milestones can't be re-arranged. Be realistic – don't make the customer feel like you're lying to them or trying to be deceptive in any way.
Project plans need to be ongoing, living, breathing elements of our project for the client. I've worked on projects – large government projects – where the project schedule was merely for show. It's a bad idea – work gets off track, people become complacent or start doing what they feel is the most important thing at that moment and without a good, up to date plan to manage from, chaos ensues.