When it comes to project management, adequate definition of the project’s scope and a proper planning phase are critical to the likelihood of success. In fact, poor project planning is the sure recipe to a project’s failure. Without a proper plan of execution, then achieving goals that should otherwise be simple to attain can be overwhelming even for the most experienced team.
Thousands of projects are carried out on a daily basis across the world and while a large number of them are completed, there are several that turn out to be a disaster while most end in a grey area.
Projects may be completed, but that does not make it a successful one especially when at the end of it all, your deadlines are overdue, your budget outstretched and you still have dissatisfied customers. Here is a look at why planning is important to the success of any project:
Planning sets the tone for the whole project
Planning involves defining the project goals and objectives as well as creating a reasonable schedule that allows you to sufficiently execute your plan of action towards achieving the set objectives. As the starting point, people tend to carry the same level of seriousness and focus through the remaining phases.
Planning simply sets your tone and pace of what all stakeholders expect. If your plan is sloppy and rushed, it will be easier for other people involved to carry the same sloppiness and mindset going forward. It is simply unreasonable to expect fruitful results from sloppy plans and projects that kick off on the wrong foot seldom attain success.
Planning helps sets the goals & benchmarks
Continuous activity tracking and progress monitoring are important inseparable aspects of any project management. They help you bring processes up to speed and finish due assignments in time for advancing to the next phase. In simple terms, they help you measure your success and compare your original plan with where you currently are.
This requires clear goals and benchmarks as well as timelines for meeting specific targets. Poor planning leaves no way of knowing whether the project has succeeded or failed. It is during the planning phase that you set out goals and benchmarks for what you want to achieve.
They are the same KPIs that will be used to judge involved stakeholders. It is therefore very important to treat planning very serious and tackle all arising matters before commencing a project.
Planning helps build “buy-in”
In order for a project to succeed, all stakeholders must be on the same page with regards to the bigger picture or vision of the project. Each project has a number of stakeholders who may have different priorities based on how they want to benefit from the undertaking. Planning offers the platform where all these priorities can be outlined, defined and considered.
After the planning phase, everyone should buy into the overall vision knowing they will simultaneously be achieving their personal goals. Without a proper plan, stakeholders may have mixed feelings and presumptions that may bring a halt to a project on progress. In fact, poor planning is often the prime cause of stakeholder disputes that arise once a project has kicked off.
The planning phase not only helps to secure buy-in from stakeholders but also from the project team. This is just as important because motivating your team is a key element in a successful project.
No consideration of contingency plans
Before commencing a project, it is important to look at all angles including uncertainties and eventualities that are unforeseen. Giving though to the fact that things could go wrong allows you to create contingency plans for dealing with arising challenges and unexpected shifts. Failing to consider contingency plans may quickly sabotage the project when things go wrong; you simply won’t know what to do in case of an unforeseen event since you did not plan for it.
It is indeed the prime cause of stretched timelines and blown budgets. Contingency plans are discussed during the planning phase when you exploit all eventualities you can think of and how you will remedy each should the need arise.
Unclear scope of control / responsibility
Having a clear scope of control and responsibility is very crucial to the success of any project not only in project management, but also at the workplace. This is why your employment contract comes with a job description and a list of responsibilities.
Without proper planning, you may easily end up with a situation where more than one individual or groups believe they have total control over a given aspect. This may result in unnecessary disputes and miscommunication between project stakeholders. Worse yet, you may end up with a situation where no one believes they are responsible for a particular aspect and everyone leaves it undone.
This can be a major upset that throws the project months back. It is important to have a clear scope of responsibility so every member does their part and exercise appropriate control.
The plan is the backbone
This should be a no brainer; the plan clearly provides you with guidance on just about everything pertaining to the project. It defines what should be done, when it should be done, which groups/individuals should do it and even how it should be done.
Plans also establish a mechanism of monitoring, tracking and comparing actual results against those projected. A good plan is at the backbone of every project management and without it, there is no way for stakeholders to know whether they have duly met their goals or not.
The planning phase also allows you to establish streamlined communication channels that will be used to share the project’s information among stakeholders. In essence, it is the original plan you fall back to and this prevents things from getting out of hand.
Paul Towers is a 3 x Entrepreneur and the Founder and CEO of Task Pigeon, a task management application that empowers teams to get more done each day. Paul also advisors Student Entrepreneurs and Startups in Sydney, Australia and has previously managed large teams across sales, marketing and operations.