Fortune favors the bold, but some creative leaders just start plowing through projects before doing any project set up. No matter how grand your vision or how important the outcomes, without any project planning, you’re doomed.
As bestselling self-help author Stephen Covey says, you have to begin with the end in mind. If you want your project to end up a success, you have to plan and set up the project for success.
Here are 10 ways to do just that:
1. Develop a scope of work and get all stakeholders to sign off on it. Make sure everyone knows what you’re doing and when you’ll know this project has completed its mission. Project planning begins with a scope of work, always.
2. Define what you’ll deliver. Everyone should be able to picture the end result of a project. What exactly will the team be handing over at the project’s close? Make sure the descriptions are clear and include specific numbers and details.
3. Calculate what you’ll need to get the job done. Do you have enough people, money, and time? When you assign roles, you’ll be better able to see who can handle what. When you know the exact resources you’ll need, you’ll be better able to estimate costs. When you create a Gantt chart, you can see the time it will actually take to do everything.
4. Have clear roles. Make sure you have a written guide to who will be doing what, so no job gets neglected or duplicated, and the team knows who’s responsible for what outcomes.
5. Set up a central hub of communication. There should be one master source of information that everyone can see (but not edit without permissions). Make sure everyone knows what information they’re responsible for maintaining.
6. Decide what reports will be created. How and how often will you measure success? You don’t want to spend so much time creating information products that you neglect the project, but you also don’t want to be operating blind. Create your mile markers, perhaps once a week or month, and make sure everyone understands where the project is in terms of percentage completed, what’s been accomplished, and what’s left to do.
7. Mark clear dates on the calendar. You’re more likely to hit a large deadline if you hit smaller deadlines along the way. Make sure everyone on the team knows when mini-deliverables are due.
8. Decide how you’ll communicate during the project. Would you prefer to send emails or use Slack? How will you make sure all relevant communication is accessible to team members and retained for posterity? Decide on a communication style for the team, and make sure everyone is on board and synced into the conversation.
9. Decide how you’ll manage changes during the project. Who will decide if changes are included or excluded from the scope? How should changes be proposed?
10. Know your risks. You can’t manage what isn’t measured, so you know what your risks are and how much they could cost you. Project planning requires you understand what might not go to plan.
Follow these 10 steps the next time you plan a project and you’ll be much more likely to have it turn out successfully.