Project planning is one of the foundational pillars that supports the practice of project management. Jennifer Bridges, PMP, walks through the basics to guide beginners and refresh the pros.
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In Review – Project Planning for Beginners
Project planning is very important in any project, Jennifer said. Managers of any experience level will soon discover how important planning is if they neglect to plan their projects!
To prove her point, Jennifer reflected on those projects where she thought she should have planned better. That thought alone is a red flag indicating that you didn’t plan as well as you could have. Why do you feel you should have done a better job at planning? Maybe something in the project didn’t turn out the way you wanted or expected it to.
A failure to plan incurs costs in the form of time, money and energy. Not only that, but insufficient planning can erode your credibility, which can lead to lost opportunities and strained relationships.
Jennifer concluded that a lack of planning can result in a failed project. That much is obvious. But perhaps less clear is that it’s also the first step towards a failed company and the loss of a job.
Project Planning Basics
Now that we know how important project planning is, let’s move onto the basics of successful project planning. Jennifer began by defining the big picture, which is, of course, the project.
All projects have a start and an end date. In other words, a project ends, and when it ends, there are deliverables. A deliverable is a product or service delivered at the conclusion of a project. Therefore, the key to understanding a project is to know that they are not indefinite. Planning is the process that moves a project from its start date to its end date, where the deliverables are completed on time and within the allotted budget.
Ask Key Questions
Planning a successful project begins by asking the “why, what, when, who and how” of the project. Answering these questions, and breaking things down into tasks and milestones, will result in the completion of deliverables across your timeline.
The “why” is the big picture of the project, the vision, which explains the reasoning behind the project. The “what” is defined by the deliverables, the scope and the expenses.
“When” is obviously the schedule, including the start date and end date, expressed over a project timeline. “Who” are the resources, such as the team members who will be responsible for completing the tasks. “How” is what you’re going to do to get to that end date, on schedule and within your budget, delivering a quality product or service.
Related: How to Make a Gantt Chart
Jennifer likes to think of planning as a house, because planning needs structure to stand. That integrity is part of every successful project plan.
Pro-Tip: If you’re looking for more details on what makes a good project plan, we’ve written about the top steps to project planning. It’s a thorough list explaining how to define scope, break down milestones, monitor progress, document results and more.
Thanks for watching!
Today, we’re talking about project planning for beginners. So, in today’s whiteboard session, I wanna talk about planning and why it’s so important, and what it can cost us if we don’t. I also wanna cover a few basics of a project in planning, and then I wanna provide just a simple kind of a process to get started.
So, first of all, many a times I’ve caught my own self say, “Hmm, I should have planned that better.” So, this is typically not a good thing. It means that something didn’t turn out the way I expected or wanted, and as a result, it cost me time, money, or maybe even my energy.
In some cases, it may have cost me credibility, or a business opportunity, or even a relationship. So, when planning a project as a career, the lack of planning can result in a failed project, or a failed company, or a job.
So, let’s talk about some of the basics. So, we know from this planning is important. So the basics of a project is for every project, it has a start date and an end date with something to deliver by a specific or certain date. Usually, it’s a product or service. These days, it could be information.
So, it’s not to be confused with ongoing operational work. So in planning, planning is a process of delivering, you know, why are we doing this project ultimately, what’s the ultimate deliverable? What other deliverables are going to be produced?
Like what product or service. Who’s going to be involved in doing it and how are we going to do it? So, if we look at a graphical picture, we got a start date and we got an end date, maybe we have different chunks of time. This specific one is by months, we’ve got five months highlighted.
And then we have different deliverables according to different points in time. We could have three deliverables due here, one delivered here, and maybe four here. And then there’s the process of how we go about doing that. So, let’s look at planning.
So, planning, again, we’re talking about why are we doing this project? What is the big picture? What are we delivering from a high level? Is it like a building? Are you delivering or planning a wedding, something like that? And then what specific are we delivering according to deliverables? In some places, you may hear that referred to as scope. We also, as a result of the project, will have the expenses, and those are compiled to our project cost.
Then we look at when okay? When is the start date? When is the end date? And that creates our timeline. We also look at who actually does the work to deliver the products or the service?
So, those are our people resources, and then how do we get there? What is the process? How do we know on the project, who knows what to do, when, and where? It’s gonna be a process.
So, one of the most valuable things I found in planning is what’s called a deliverables diagram. So, ultimately, why the big picture of what we’re ultimately delivering.
Again, I love using the example of a house. So, ultimately, the project may be you’re building a house. People can visualize that better, people understand what a house is. So some of the deliverables, again, from the diagram we used earlier, there may be three deliverables coupled together in a package. Here’s one deliverable, and here’s four here.
But if we sub-divide it and we’re delivering a house, these deliverables may be the foundation, the second one could be the framing of the house, the third one could be the roof, and then later, once that’s done, and improved, and inspected, we could have another deliverable, which is maybe the plumbing and the wiring delivered together as a package and inspected.
And then we have the remaining deliverables, which may be like the inside workings, the inside appliances, and everything inside. It could be the outside, it could be the landscaping, or maybe even some kind of security system.
But ultimately, when these deliverables are done, you deliver the project. But from this deliverables diagram, you take this and you determine what work has to be done to do this. If you’re building the foundation, what sub-work or task have to be done there.
If you’re framing the house, divide that down into sub-parts and then also if you’re roofing. And then once you have it divided into tasks, you’ve gotta figure out well, who’s going to do that work? And then how long is it going to take?
And then from there, again, you begin coming up with your timeline and specific assignments for your people. You’re also going to be able to determine your cost and then, of course, being able to provide the process for everyone involved, so that know how to work together, when to work together to produce the project. So, this is just a simplified version of the basics for planning.
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