Have you ever noticed that a lot of time seems to be wasted at the beginning of a project or program? Compare that with the end stages when everyone is working flat out to get things done. It seems ridiculous to me that professional project and program managers allow this waste to happen.
So why does this waste happen? Probably because it’s generally considered reasonable that planning complex projects takes time. We have to find the right people to be involved, then go through a number of cycles trying to define what the business wants. I’ve seen this take months and involve multiple cross functional workshops. Once the business finally has some idea what it wants then the project is given to a project team to create the plan. This plan then needs to be reviewed by all of the stakeholders before it can be signed off…eventually!
When you read this you may be thinking no wonder it takes a long time to get a project moving, but there is another way…
Side note: Before someone shouts Agile at me, let me state that I’m not referring to the Agile level here. I’m referring to how a business decides what goes on the product backlog, or is designing a brand new product and trying to figure out what it should do, or we’re trying to coordinate a project that can’t use agile because a huge capital investment is needed up front.
Anyway, back to the main point of this article. There is another way which allows you to define the scope of a project and create its plan in a single day. I picked this approach up in a book by Fergus O’Connell, Simply Brilliant. It works for him, it works for me, and it can work for you too. So, without further ado, here are the steps you need to take to create the project scope and plan within just one day.
Identify all the stakeholders in the project and invite them to attend the workshop. Make sure you organize the workshop enough in advance so that everyone can attend. The schedule you issue for your workshop will look something like this:
09:00 – 11:00 Determine the Project Goal
11:00 – 13:00 Create Plan
13:00 – 14:00 Lunch
14:00 – 15:00 Create Plan (Continued)
15:00 – 16:00 Risk Analysis
16:00 – 17:00 Next Steps
When you distribute the agenda ask people to do some work in advance and list down what they think would fully define the project goal, and also what they imagine the plan to get to that goal would be.
When running the workshop it is important to keep the schedule to time. If you are acting as the workshop facilitator you will need a scribe to keep notes of what is said during the day.
Ask the group to call out risks they can see which may affect the plan. Go into detail on each risk with the group to see what can be done to mitigate the risk.
Once you have completed the risk analysis you have your project plan.
Look at the beginning of the plan and assign actions to members of the group. Agree when how and when progress against the plan will be tracked.
Congratulations! You have now scoped, planned, and started to run your project in a single day!
One of the real advantages of this approach is that because the stakeholders are involved in building the plan, and because the win conditions all stakeholders have been considered, the stakeholders are much more bought into the plan than they would otherwise be. This helps to get the project off to a good start.
One last thing. Before you break up the workshop don’t forget to thank everyone for participating and remind them that they should feel proud of what they have achieved today – it is a great feat to get a complex project or program scoped, planed, and up and running in a single day.
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