How Can You Make Your Project Management Plan Smarter?

Some people are planners; others are doers. And while doers appreciate the very necessary work of planners, more often than not, they don’t want to wait – they’re ready to jump in and get to work. The determination of doers is praiseworthy, no doubt, but without a well-laid plan in place to provide guidance, direction, clarification and purpose, doers can find themselves in a precarious situation.

In fact, one of the best ways to fail at completing customer deliverables is to fail to plan. Or, better yet, have your project manager take the time to develop a plan for your project and – once it’s signed off on – no one on the project team follows it, or worse, doesn’t even knows what it says. To say this is a less than ideal expenditure of resources – not only for the development of the project management plan, but also of the team performing the work – would be an understatement.

Project Management Plans That Work

Project management plans are an integral component to successful team performance if the plan: a) is done correctly, b) has input and buy-in from the project team, and c) is utilized throughout the duration of the project’s timeline. Developing a project management plan for the sake of having a plan is worthless.

Developing a project management plan for the sake of clear direction, purpose and expectation, however, is value. But how do you achieve a smarter project management plan? One that provides the direction, purpose and expectations via clear deliverables and milestones?

Involve Your Customers in the Process

Easier than one would think – all you have to do is ask! Talk to your customer. Spend the upfront time during the planning process to really understand their needs. Don’t assume that the statement of work or performance work statement you initially proposed against clearly defines what your customer actually wants. That’s not to say that the overall scope of work should differ from what you proposed (we’re certainly not advocating for scope creep or gold plating), but when you get down to defining the details of the work product – ask the customer what they want.

Based on what they want, is this something that is within scope, and can be delivered? Are their expectations realistic? Are they really communicating what they really want, or what they think they want? Equally important, and one many fail to ask, is what don’t they like? Did the previous contractor do something that they hated, but felt like they couldn’t change? Capture that and see if it’s something that can be resolved. Clarifying to this level of detail can save a lot of time and resources depleted on redoing work.


Final Thought

Thorough project management plans can be a challenge to develop, but focusing on a plan that has the customer as the central focus will help ensure that you’re addressing the work appropriately, allocating resources effectively, and managing expectations on both sides.

A smarter project management plan will help your team work smarter as well. But is it worth the effort? Absolutely.

About Skip Blackburn