You undertake a project to achieve a specific goal which supports your organization’s mission. To achieve this goal, there are a number of paths you could take. Your project plan is like your street map, so rather than walking round in circles struggling to get to your destination, you have a clear route for how to get there and you know what you need to see along the way to know that you are going in the right direction – these are your checkpoints or milestones. Not only this, following a plan means that your team and everyone involved in the project are also going in the same direction and will pass and support milestones to get to your goal together, on time and within budget. Good plans cover all aspects of the project, giving everyone involved a common understanding of the work ahead so that all can plan and manage their workloads accordingly.
Good project planning helps to ensure that objectives are achievable, risks are identified and managed appropriately, the project remains within budget, quality measures are clear and levels of decision-making for each member of the project team are understood.
Effective planning identifies:
- Achievable objectives
- Required resources to achieve objectives within a timeframe
- Activities required to build quality into the project e.g. setting up templates, processes, training, monthly reports on progress
- The problems and risks associated with trying to achieve the objectives and stay within budget
Other benefits are the avoidance of ad hoc and muddled decisions, helping the team to think-ahead, providing a guide to measure project progress, and clear communication with the team on the allocation of responsibilities and how progress will be monitored and controlled. Not having these plans in place can cause frustration, waste, duplication and rework.
Planning in Practice
Explore the benefits of project planning with these two scenarios. The first scenario demonstrates what can happen without a project plan and the second demonstrates the benefits of a project plan.