by Linky Van Der Merwe

3 Steps towards PM planning excellence

Best Practices

3 Steps towards PM planning excellence
3 Steps towards PM planning excellence



The purpose of this post is to share with you a balanced approach to project planning. Above and beyond doing the standard project planning activities, there are three steps you can take towards planning excellence:

#1 Continuous planning (always be planning)

After scope agreement and sign-off, the project schedule needs to be developed, or if it existed from a pre-sales phase, it needs to be refined.

What the team members need to know about the project plan, and more specifically about the project schedule, is: ‘what they are responsible for and by when’. In order to gain commitment, I normally expect the team lead to verify the activities, durations and dependencies and by doing this, to take ownership of the deliverables of the project. Then as the project progresses, the project manager always needs to be looking 1-2 months ahead. They need to always be planning and continuously tracking against the plan or update where required, based on Change Requests or risk mitigation activities.

#2 Consistent communication practices (always be communicating)

Through experience I have found that weekly project meetings work best for any size project that is longer than 2 months in duration. The normal progress items need to be discussed, include:

•    Progress made

•    Actions outstanding

•    What is due in the next week or two

•    Risks, issues or dependencies

•    Other matters relevant to the specific project

Regular team meetings, whether in person, or virtually, keep the project team informed and committed to the outcome of the project. It also enables the project manager to receive adequate feedback on a regular basis and to do proper progress reporting to stakeholders.

#3 Team alignment is important (always build relationships)

If your project team is widely dispersed and from different companies, a good on-boarding process is important. Every team member needs to be clear about the goal and objectives of the project, as well as the expected outcome and business benefits. In addition to this they need to be clear on their roles and responsibilities, the project schedule and how every member fits into the team.

Team synergy, cooperation and trust are achieved through regular team builds at the project beginning, after major milestones and at closure with the key stakeholders (like the customer). A team working together as one unit, no matter whether from different companies or in different locations, the project manager needs to maintain good relationships and manage people and not only the task.

The gold nuggets to take away from this are:

•    Continuous planning

•    Consistent communication practices

•    Team alignment

•    Good relationships with all team members, because you manage the person, performing the task and not the task itself

For a balanced approach to project planning I recommend as the project manager you use your project management skills (technical skills), but at the same lead using a facilitative approach, in other words, allow team members to share your responsibility to ensure a successful project outcome (people skills).

About the author

Linky van der Merwe is a certified project management professional (PMP) and Founder of Virtual Project Consulting.  She has been a senior project manager at Microsoft Consulting Services South Africa for 5 years. She likes to blog about project management and integrated online communication marketing. Her mission is to provide project management best practices advice and to recommend resources to aspiring and existing project managers. She can be reached at linky@virtualprojectconsulting.com

 



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