At any one point in time there are thousands of projects being carried out simultaneously across the world. Some will be highly visible projects like new roads or bridges, or a major sports tournament; others will only affect employees in a single organisation. Some will be highly visible failures or successes and others will drift to a completion without being either a true success or a failure.
There are many, complex reasons why projects fail but if you get the planning stage right then that is one more reason to help you succeed so your project does not become one of the ones that never delivered on its promises.
A lack of planning will always contribute towards an unsuccessful project whereas good planning leads to successful projects. By clearly defining the project aims in the planning phase, and by creating an achievable schedule you are more likely to succeed in delivering the project objectives. That sounds pretty simple yet so many project managers rush the planning phase – often due to external pressures – and the project is then set up for failure. A poor plan will never deliver good results.
A good plan will include milestones to help monitor progress and provide the opportunity to re-evaluate deadlines, scope and deliverables, if necessary, or provide confidence that the project is on track. It helps avoid bottle necks when there are complex inter-dependent tasks so ensuring the project can advance to successive phases. A good plan helps compare the original aims with current progress – it is highly likely that your plans will change during the course of the project (rarely do original plans deliver as expected) but a sound initial plan ensures smooth transition to a new plan that will deliver successfully, and will add certainty that the project has delivered successfully. This avoids the situation where a project is finished yet doesn’t “feel” like a success.
Projects often have several stakeholders with different priorities but a good project plan ensures all of their priorities are considered and included in the overall vision of the project. This helps ensure stakeholders are fully committed to the project and will work to drive progress forward – without this stakeholders can become disillusioned about the project and not be there when you need them.
Another element of good planning is incorporating a contingency – both within the budget and the schedule – to account for unforeseen problems that might arise, because things can always go wrong. Without a contingency plan the project is running a real risk of failing to deliver because no allowance for additional costs or time mean that scope and/or quality will suffer, resulting in a deliverable that does not satisfy anyone’s needs
A good project plan should provide a roadmap for every aspect of the project. Amongst other things, it:
- Defines what tasks need to be completed, how and when
- States who is responsible for each task
- Provides a mechanism to monitor and track progress
- Gains commitment from stakeholders
- Has a defined contingency plan for all eventualities
- Defines communication channels