Making an overall project plan.
With the New Year approaching, we start to think about what we want the up-coming year to look like for us. If it has been a rough year with several bumps in the road with work and life, we look for new clean pavement ahead. If it has been a good year, we mourn the loss of past year and anxiously await what will happen over the next few months. New Year's disillusions - not resolutions. I have been prepping Kevin as this is the year of the New Dog. (Note: I am aware it is the year of the Red Chicken, however, City Bylaw does not allow chickens in our inner city dwelling.) Kevin and I need a plan of what having a new member of the household will be like. Sleeping arrangements, introductions, food dish locations, and saying goodbye to the annuals in the backyard. There are things we need to think about before our new arrival.
When a project has been conceptualized, and now has the blessing of upper management to proceed, a team is required to produce, deliver, coordinate, and execute - turn the concept into being. There needs to be a master plan or overall project plan to get everyone to the final deliverable and preferably with limited staff and client casualties. In every office there are mad scientists who keeps the entire master plan snuggled in the Borca's area of the brain never to be placed on paper or whiteboard for all to see. It is equivalent to knowing that your team needs to get from where you are standing, through the park and to the store. Only, you don't know the park or on what street the store is located. With a mad scientist, they are the only ones who know where to go and if anyone gets separated from the team, everyone is lost. If you stop and take a bit of time to talk with your team and take a map to see what the most efficient and shortest way to the store is, BEFORE it closes, you will all be successful.
An overall project plan contains key milestone dates, major roadblocks or constraints which can affect the outcome, resource ability, availability, interest, and what the deliverable actually is. The information from the overall project plan is to be shared with the team or they will have no idea what their limitations are. After the overall project plan is shared with the team, then the roles of each team member and their expectations can be reviewed. There is a factor of "oops" and "didn't expect that" incorporated into the overall project plan as well. Not exactly "plan B", but the awareness that not all will be precisely executed according to plan. The overall project plan has to be flexible as well - too many unknown factors can disrupt the initial plan, but you have to start somewhere.
The popular vision of horizontal management where everyone is equal is a nice concept and can work under specific criteria, however, those perfect conditions are not consistent with every project and they are not the normal. In order for a project to be organized efficiently, someone has to be elected or chosen as the overseer. This person may not be the Project Manager. Team members with the ability to project plan and task manage can be the ones who help create and implement the overall project plan on a daily basis.
A plan can be scribbled on a notebook or can be beautified by a graphic department, as long as it is enforced and accepted by upper management and the team it will be a key to project success and give the client confidence that you have their interests under control. The plan should be refered to during the project process to ensure continuity and revised where necessary. This is not a militant element, it is just basic organization.
Perhaps when we discover the perfect algorithm for project planning with the human emotional factors included, we will not need the time required to create and implement the plan. In the meantime, Kevin and I will review our New Dog Plan to see that we haven't missed anything...and to plan if the dog sees Kevin as dinner...
Fiona Warren - 17 years experience with large high-profile projects and teams.