Considering the ever-accelerating rate of change in today's workplace, there may be no more important skill than the ability to adapt successfully to change. Sometimes, adapting to change comes easily. You enjoy the challenge and opportunity that the change presents. Other times you find yourself resisting change, focusing on what you might lose as a result of the change, rather than on what you might gain. Your ability to adapt to workplace change is usually closely observed by leaders and team members, so it is important to adapt productively and positively, no matter how you might feel personally about the change.
Proper Project Planning = Direction and Perfection
The ability to plan projects, both large and small, simple and complicated, is essential in today's business environment. Without the tools to do so, people tend to flounder, "wing it," or wander off course, resulting in delayed success, missed deadlines, or failure. Read on to learn about the steps you can take to plan a successful project.
Step 1: "Should-Be"
Clarify the project scope and be sure that the scope is aligned with senior management's initiatives. The "should be" is a picture of what you ultimately want and who and how this result will benefit all involved. Your team and senior management should work together to ensure you agree on objectives. If you have not done a good job of defining scope, it will be nearly impossible to plan the project. Don’t forget to look at the WHY you are doing it. Always driving off a strong WHY will keep the rest of the process aligned.
Step 2: "As-Is"
This is the reality of the current situation. Where are you today? What factors help and hinder your efforts to carry out the project's scope? Sometimes, it is not quite clear exactly where you are and you might need to pull some data together. Invest the time, because if you start on the foundation of an error, it is mightily hard to correct that later, espcially once you have introduced scale.
Step 3: Goals
Define and set realistic goals to successfully carry out the scope of the project. Without such goals, you and your team will drift. Goals can be immediate, intermediate, and long-range. Achieving day-to-day goals (immediate goals) contributes to the achievement of intermediate and long-range goals. Develop SMART goals:
S Specific processes and resources
M Measurable by objective data
R Relevant to your vision
T Time-specific deadline
Write them down, refer to them and measure against them regularly. Sounds simple, but in a busy life these things can be subsumed by a lot of pressing emergencies.
Step 4: Action Steps
To achieve your goals, you must establish specific priorities so that you can develop specific action steps. To achieve your goals, your action steps should include:
Who will do the job
Methods to be used
How the different parts tie together and fit into the big picture
How the results will be communicated (report, PowerPoint, etc.)
Step 5: Cost
Another aspect to planning is determining the budget for, and cost of, each action step. Costs include:
Opportunity cost (what must be given up to pursue a given action)
Step 6: Timetables
Set and communicate deadlines so there is a clear understanding and so that immediate, intermediate, and long-term targets can be met. When establishing timetables, be realistic. Work backwards to determine when each phase should be completed, and put the schedule in writing to avoid misunderstandings. Always remember Murphy’s law, "what can go wrong, will go wrong" and whenever IT tells you something, triple the cost and double the time required!
Step 7: Implementation
An important, yet overlooked, part of implementing a plan is making sure that all involved understand their role in achieving the established goals. Obtain the team's commitment to agreed-upon results. As you monitor the implementation, you may need to modify the scope of the plan and reevaluate your goals.
Step 8: Follow Up/Measurement
A critical part of the planning process is to keep accurate records, analyze why deviations have occurred, and take action to correct any challenges. Concentrate on those factors critical to reaching the goal. Measurement and checking at the very start is also critical, to make sure the project is zigging rather than zagging. You will hate yourself, if you leave it and then find the whole thing has sailed off on a tangent, the time has run out and so it is panic stations to get it all back on track.