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Project Manager’s Guide to Planning Projects

Published By Leyna O’Quinn
Project Manager’s Guide to Planning Projects

When you reduce project management down to its nuts and bolts, project managers all have the same essential goal: Getting things done with the resources they have available. Regardless of whether you’re an accidental project manager tasked with overseeing various operations or a professional project manager in charge of multiple teams across the globe, it’s your job to ensure that tasks are completed within a timely manner.

The nature of every project is different, and strategies that work for the accidental project manager in a small business may not be that helpful for project managers working for global corporations. Each project has its own unique set of challenges based on:

  • The size of the project
  • The number of teams involved
  • The type of industry

However, one key challenge that most project managers face across industries is optimized collaboration. In other words, teams are having difficulty coordinating and working together to complete tasks.

Part of this can be attributed to the way project management and teamwork has changed over the years. With remote work becoming more common, both large and small teams are often required to work with members from different locations and, quite often, different time zones.  As a result, managers must delegate and monitor tasks with utmost efficiency to guarantee project success. And this can only be achieved through effective collaboration and good project planning.

Project Planning: How to Set a Project Up for Success

First and foremost, every project needs to have a clear and concise end-goal.

One of the main causes of project inefficiency is lack of direction. Directionless projects often arise because of unclear project goals. For this reason, project managers should carefully consider what they want to achieve and how they plan to achieve it when planning projects. They can do that by answering the following questions:

  • How can I build a long-term path that will help us reach our goals?
  • How can I include my team members in the planning process?
  • What are the main enablers and inhibitors of project efficiency?

From this, it’s clear that project success depends on three main components: strategy, teamwork, and productivity. Here’s how you can optimize your project planning in a way that enhances your strategy, improves collaboration, and increases team efficiency.

Accidental Project Manager Real-World ProjectPlace  Use Cases

Developing a Strategic Plan that Ensures Success

An action plan helps you and your team members work efficiently. What’s more, with a solid strategy in place, your workers and stakeholders are more likely to support your decisions and requests throughout the project.

The type of strategy you implement depends largely on your management style, as well as the needs and criteria of your project. Some projects work well with the Waterfall approach, where tasks are completed in a linear manner, requiring teams to finish one assignment before moving to the next. But in more fast-paced environments, the Agile method has become the norm, as it allows for rapid delivery.

Ultimately, there’s no right or wrong way to manage a project. While the Waterfall method has fallen out of fashion over the last few years, it does have its advantages.

  • Strategic planning is easier since customers and stakeholders agree on what the project outcome will be prior to breaking ground
  • The progress of your project can be easily measured since the full scope has been determined beforehand
  • There’s a smaller margin of error since team members collaborate on the entire project at once, rather than on individual chunks

On the other hand, Agile is great for time-sensitive projects. Additionally, Agile projects are more malleable, meaning the scope can be changed at any point throughout the project without severely impacting the progress and efficiency of the task.

Once you have a general idea of how you want to approach your project, it’s time to hammer out a strategy by creating a project plan. Essentially the framework of your project strategy, the project plan is a document that lists all the events that need to take place for you to meet all your goals and objectives. This is also where you’ll set your deadlines and milestones, as well as define the resources needed to complete your project.

In other words, your project plan is a summary of everything you need to execute your project. Some key elements of it include:

  • A detailed list of all the tasks and activities to be fulfilled to guarantee successful project completion, including an estimated sum of hours and resources needed to complete all tasks within the project.
  • Communication instructions indicating who is to be briefed about the project’s progress and how they’re to be contacted.
  • A list of anticipated risks, as well as solutions to any foreseeable problems that may arise.

By including these components into your project plan, you and your team members will have a better idea of who’s involved in which tasks, as well as what procedures need to be followed to meet milestones and successfully complete your projects.

Maximizing Project Collaboration

As the project manager, you’re expected to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team members. That way, you can assign them tasks that fall into their areas of expertise. For this reason, it’s recommended to include your teams in the planning stage of the project. After all, they’re the ones with the practical knowledge and hands-on experience needed to complete the tasks.

Fortunately, collaborating with your team doesn’t require reinventing the wheel. Simply hold planning meetings where you discuss your goals and objectives, then delegate tasks to the appropriate team members.

Switching to a Digital Project Management Solution

Thanks to advancements in project management technology, planning and kicking off large projects have never been easier. Instead of constantly connecting with team members over email, digital management tools like Kanban boards and Gantt charts makes assigning tasks and tracking progress easier, especially in projects where teams are scattered across different locations.

What’s more, these tools allow team members and project managers to give progress updates in real time. This means that projects managers can adjust and help solve problems quicker, preventing unexpected setbacks from affecting the project’s schedule.

There’s no such thing as planning a perfect project. In most cases, there are going to be challenges along the way. But creating a solid project plan that maps out your resources, goals, and expectations makes it easier to overcome these problems – especially when you’re working with a team that collaborates effectively. And when paired with project management software, a consistent and manageable project plan will reduce inefficiencies and add transparency to your project, no matter the size.

Accidental Project Manager Real-World ProjectPlace  Use Cases

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Written by Leyna O’Quinn Sr. Content Strategist

Leyna O’Quinn is a Certified Scrum Master and Certified SAFe Agilist. She has been managing the Planview blog strategy for more than 7 years. She writes about portfolio and resource management, Lean and Agile delivery, project collaboration, innovation management, and enterprise architecture. She has more than 15 years of experience writing about technology, industry trends, and best practices. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Business with a concentration in Marketing.