When you begin a project, you probably feel the pressure to start working immediately and meet the time schedules. Maybe you’re not exactly sure where to start, but you know you have the greatest chance of success if you plan out your project before you begin the actual work.
Stanley Portny, an expert in project management, suggests ten questions you can ask yourself to make sure you’ve completely identified all the work your project will require.
1. What’s the Purpose of Your Project?
A deep understanding of the reasons of your project’s purpose can lead to better plans and greater sense of team member commitment. As soon as you’re assigned to your project, get a clear and complete picture of its significance. You can do so by determining what situation led to your project, who had the original idea, who else hopes to benefit from it, what would happen if your project weren’t done.
2. Whom Do You Need to Involve?
Identifying early whom you need to involve allows you to plan for their participation at the appropriate stages of the process. Involving these people in time ensures that their input will be available when it’s needed and lets them know you value and respect their contributions. As you determine who may play a role in your project’s success, categorize them in drivers, supporters and observers. Drivers are people looking for your project’s results; supporters are those who can help your project succeed, while observers are simply interested in your project. Decide whom you need to involve and when and how you want to involve them.
3. What Results Will You Produce?
Establish clearly all the results you expect your project to achieve. Describe each product, service, or impact and include measurable outcomes and performance targets. Confirm that your project’s drivers believe these outcomes meet their needs and expectations.
4. What Constraints Must You Satisfy?
Find all information, processes, and guidelines that may restrict your project activities and your performance. When you know your constraints, you can plan to minimize their effects on your project. Distinguish between Limitations and needs. Limitations are restrictions that people outside your project team set; while needs are restrictions that you and your project’s team members establish.
5. What Assumptions Are You Making?
Document all assumptions you make about your project, as soon as you begin thinking about your it. Each of those assumptions can lead to one or more project risks that you may choose to plan for in advance. Continue adding to your list of assumptions as you develop the different parts of your project plan. Update your plans whenever an assumption changes or you find out its actual value.
6. What Work Has to Be Done?
Establish all the activities required to produce your project’s deliverables so that you can assign responsibilities for them, develop schedules, estimate resource needs, give specific tasks to team members, and monitor your project’s performance. For each activity, specify the work to be done (the processes and steps that each activity entails); the resources (people, facilities, equipment, supplies, raw materials, funds); the information necessary to perform each activity; the results you expect (products, services, situations, or other deliverables).
7. When Does Each Activity Start and End?
Outline a detailed schedule with clearly defined activities and frequent intermediate milestones. Having this information on hand allows you to give team members precise guidance on when to perform their assignments. This information also supports your ongoing monitoring and control of work in progress. When you create your schedule take into account the the interdependencies and relationships (activities that you must complete before you can start the next one); the activities you can start after you’ve completed the current one; the duration (the number of work periods required to perform each activity.
8. Who Will Perform the Project Work?
Knowing who will perform each task and how much effort they’ll have to devote allows you to plan for their availability and more accurately estimate the overall project budget. Specify for all people who need to work on your project their names, position descriptions or titles, and the skills and knowledge they need to do the assignment. Identify the specific roles each person will have on an activity when more than one person will work on the same activity (as well as an explanation of how they can coordinate their efforts); the level of effort each person has to invest. Clarify the exact time when people will do their work if they will work less than full time on an activity.
9. What Other Resources Do You Need?
Identify all equipment, facilities, services, supplies, and funds that you need to perform your project work. Specify how much of each resource you need and when.
10. What Can Go Wrong?
Try to identify those parts of your project that may not go according to plan. Decide which risks pose the greatest dangers to your project’s success, and develop plans to minimize their negative effects.
Adapted from Stanley Portny, certified PMP, author of Project Management, Wiley Pathways