Project management is a big undertaking that requires quite a bit of effort. Sometimes that can seem like too much work for too little of a reward. As an existing or aspiring project manager, you know that project planning adds value. However, you may struggle to prove that to your stakeholders or to explain the real benefits of a proper, professional, thoughtful approach to project planning. Why is it so important to spend time on project planning? What are the benefits of doing so?
This post explains why it is worth the hassle in ways that will hopefully be useful for proving your worth to others in your organization.
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The problem project managers often face
Unfortunately, many people within organizations – including managers and executives – frequently view project management as a bureaucratic process that gets in the way of rapid progress.
According to the 2016 Pulse of the Profession study by the Project Management Institute, almost 50% of companies do not fully understand the value of project management. This leads to poor project selection and poor performance, as well as projects not being fully aligned with organizational strategies. The result of all this is insufficient training, development, or support for many project managers, leading to a lack of effective planning and poor performance.
Using effective project planning practices allows managers to add value and improve their processes. Here is how.
1. Project planning adds value through transparency and clarity
Executives initiate projects by expressing a desire to get something done. The people reporting to them all too often plunge ahead to meet a fuzzily defined objective without sufficient planning and control.
According to the same 2016 study, “Organizations that invest in project management waste 13 times less money because their strategic initiatives are completed more successfully.” This is partly due to the increased transparency and clarity that results from good and effective project planning.
2. Project planning uncovers customers’ genuine needs to deliver real value
The single biggest factor for a project’s success is whether it delivers what the customer needs. Successful project managers uncover the customer’s true needs by combining thorough investigation and relationship building with experience and skills. That way, they learn about the client’s business and challenges and are able to deliver real value by seeking to solve their challenges in the most effective way.
3. Project planning motivates their team rather than micro-manage
The team is the project’s biggest asset, and highly successful managers nurture their teams. They understand each individual’s strengths, motivations, and weaknesses, so they can support them in finding solutions and making decisions without the need to micro-manage. These project managers focus on being enablers and removing potential obstacles to the team can be more productive.
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4. Project planning allows to delegate effectively
Another way that high-value project managers increase their team’s productivity is by delegating tasks effectively. Delegating helps to develop the team’s skillset and frees up the PM to focus on more value-added activities such as customer relationship building, communication, leading and motivating the team, setting the vision, and removing obstacles.
5. Project planning adds value by looking for ways to continuously improve
More successful project managers are constantly looking at ways to improve processes and experiment with doing things better. They are driven to deliver projects cheaper and faster. This means assessing new technologies and processes, looking at how to improve existing processes, and trialing new ways of thinking.
6. Project planning asks to have a strategic outlook
Projects need to be delivered on time and on budget, sure, but they also need to contribute to an organization’s long-term strategy and be sustainable. Project managers who consistently deliver at the top level are always thinking strategically and working out how projects fit into longer-term strategic goals.
7. Project planning strengthens buy-in to the project
Highly successful project managers build great relationships with the project’s stakeholders. In doing so, they focus their attention on those stakeholders who have the most power and influence over the project. They listen to stakeholders’ concerns and act on their feedback, thereby strengthening buy-in and commitment to the project.
8. Project planning allows controlling risks, issues, and changes to the scope
Successful project managers have a process for uncovering issues and concerns from their team, whether in regular team meetings or one-on-one. Risks with the potential to impede a project’s delivery crop up constantly and good PMs need to be always on the alert. They therefore also monitor changes, assess their impact on time, cost, and quality, and they assess the impacts of requirement changes in the same way. As a result, they are always on top of potential issues and are able to spot and resolve them as they arise, thereby keeping the project moving along smoothly.
9. It helps deliver on the promises
Project managers earn trust by delivering on their promises. Successful PMs move heaven and earth to ensure they are able to promise delivery dates and timescales that are achievable, and then to ensure they are able to deliver. This means being able to manage others effectively and managing stakeholders – including senior executives and clients – when necessary.
10. It advocates for the benefits of project management and project planning
A project manager may not have the power to influence senior executives to mandate project management professionalism from the top down. But you can apply project management principles to their work in ways that should ultimately sell the benefits of proper project planning.
One way to do this is by documenting a project in a one-page overview and send it around for feedback. Another is to plan ahead, putting things in writing and sharing that plan with stakeholders and asking them to review the proposed project objectives, roles and responsibilities, constraints, dependencies, estimates, assumptions, and risks.
Even if stakeholders don’t review, the PM and their team still have a guideline to work to for the duration of the project. This adds value by giving PMs the opportunity to reflect on their own understanding of the project, and it helps to promote accountability.
Over time, by taking a grassroots approach, PMs will make others aware of how project planning adds value in a practical, hands-on way that is neither complex nor overly time-consuming. This becomes a proof of concept of the effectiveness and value of project planning.
Ready to see how project planning adds value to your projects?
Check out Teamhood to start using the project planning practices within your team. You will find everything needed from Gantt charts, portfolio overviews, to daily task progress monitoring. It is visual, easy to start, and free to use!
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