August 18, 2015

Work that project plan (to your advantage)

Project managers utilize project plans for a number of reasons, such as identifying critical tasks, assigning ownership, maintaining schedules, and status reporting.  Here are a few other ways a project plan can be a good baseline for an effort:

  1. Setting expectations among project stakeholders – The transparency of a project plan helps parties understand where each piece of the project stands. When project resources have differing organizational goals and deadlines, dependencies and timeline shifts can create frustration and tension. Therefore, using a project plan to identify and communicate these task dependencies in advance can help unite stakeholders.  Also, frequent communication of status and impact may improve collaboration.
  1. Onboarding resources – Project resources often have varying skill levels and may also join a project mid-stream.  While onboarding requires a lot of knowledge transfer, referencing a current project plan can provide immediate transparency. Walking through the action items that have already been accomplished vs. the action items remaining can help bring resources up to speed quickly. In addition, junior resources may benefit from learning the effort required (beyond their own responsibilities) to deliver a project.
  1. Informing lessons learned – The experience that comes along with project delivery is valuable.  Therefore, at the end of any project, it is good practice to determine how the learning can be applied in the future. Many of these lessons can be identified based on their impact to the project plan at any point in the effort.  For example, if certain task owners were behind schedule, there may a lesson learned about prioritizing or adding additional resources. Also, at the conclusion of the project, consider incorporating your lessons learned into a template of an ideal project plan and save for future use.