Friday, January 5, 2018

Planning Your Next Project

Happy New Year!  It's a great time to kick off the new year with a solid plan that will drive your next project towards success. Planning is a key tool to include in all of your activities to reach your goals in a timely fashion. I hope that these ideas and tips will be beneficial in your next project planning effort.

The key to every successful project is in the planning. Creating a project plan is essential in developing your project or community event. Quite often, project planning is often ignored by most event planners and community organizers in order to focus on the work that may seem more important. In my early years of community engagement, planning was often the last thing considered. Most people often fail to realize the great value of having a project plan. A great plan can be beneficial for saving time, money and possibly many challenges that may be faced. There are several steps to planning a successful project that may be helpful:

Project Goals
  • A project is successful when it has met the needs of the stakeholders or community gatekeepers. Stakeholders can be anyone who is directly, or indirectly impacted by the project. To begin, it's important to identify the stakeholders or gatekeepers in your project. Surprisingly, it's not always easy to distinguish stakeholders of a project that are indirectly impacted. Examples of stakeholders may include:
    • The project sponsor or financial supporter
    • The client or customer who receives the deliverable
    • Users of the project output
    • Project Manager or Project Team
    • Board or Advisory group member
    • Community leaders
After identifying your stakeholders, the next step will be to ascertain their needs. One way to identify their needs is by conducing key informant interviews with them.  During the interview process, it's key to discover the requirements that  create real benefits. Beware, sometimes stakeholders may discuss needs that aren't relevant and may not deliver benefits. From experience I have found that it's good to listen and hear what is being said by your audience.

Once all interviews have been completed, develop a prioritized list of needs. The next step would be to create a group of measurable goals that can be reviewed against the SMART principle. Once a clear set of goals have been established they should be  placed in the project plan. It's also helpful to include the needs and expectations of the stakeholders. This is the most challenging part of the  planning process. Here are the elements of the SMART principle:

Project Deliverables
  • Once the goals are created, develop a list of items that the project will need to deliver in order to reach its goals. Remember to add all deliverables to the project plan with approximate deliverable dates. Try not to stress if the dates are not accurate. Every good plan should be flexible and adjustable in order to reach the overall goals of the project.
Project Schedule:

Now the fun begins - develop a list of tasks that need to applied for each potential deliverable or objective. For each task, make note of the following key items: 
  • Amount of time required for completing the tasks
  • Note who on your team will be responsible for each task and their role
This task will help to establish the amount of effort for each deliverable leading to a more precise delivery date. In developing your plan there are a number of project planning tools that may be used. Many of the tools are free. It's a great idea to check them out to see what feels right for you. There are a couple of tools that are more compatible for me that I will highlight, but please check them all or create your own tool. Here are some potential (free) project management tools for your review:
  • Asana
  • Basecamp
  • Orangescrum
  • Meistertask
  • Wrike
  • Smartsheet
  • Slack
  • Zoho
  • 2-Plan
  • Freedcamp
Other Resources:

There are a variety of plans that may be created as part of the planning process that can be included in the overall plan.

Human Resource Plan:
  • Identify by name the team members and organizations that may have a leading role in your project. For each, describe their roles and responsibilities. Remember to identify the number of people needed for the project and if possible the amount of time to complete each task.
Communications Plan:
  • Develop a document that reveals who should be kept informed about the activities of the project and how information will be distributed to them. Often, monthly or quarterly status reports are provided that describe how the project is performing, accomplishments and future work.
Risk Management Plan:
  • Risk management is essential to the success of project management. It's imperative and highly recommended to identify as many risks as possible to your project. Planning ahead helps the project manager to be prepared and ready to deal with potential or unexpected challenges. Here are a few examples of common, everyday project risks:
    • Lack of stakeholder input
    • Poor communication leading to misunderstandings
    • Stakeholders adding new ideas or activities after the project has began
    • Not understanding the needs of stakeholders
    • Unclear or misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities
    • Unexpected budget cuts or budget delays
    • Not enough time estimated in order to complete projects
    • Disagreements between team members and/or stakeholders
Once you start working on your project, you and your team will identify other potential risks that may or may not occur.  It's a great idea to make a list of those potential risks and jot down notes of how each would be handled if it should happen during the project. You are now ready to get started in what will be a GREAT project.

Always remember:

For more information about project planning or planning your next community engagement or event, please feel free to email us at

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