Tools - Project Planning Checklist (Part 2 of 2)

As a continuation of the previous blog, here is part two of things that can be reviewed to help increase the probability of success for your project:

  1. Are there formal governance and change approval guidelines?
  2. Is there a process to discover issues (ASAP) to lessen their impact?
  3. Is there fast, easy access to key tools and equipment?
  4. Is there knowledge of the overall vision and mission of the target audience?
  5. Is there a clear understanding of how the customer wants to do business?
  6. Are people being proactive verses reactive?
  7. Is there focus on training, growth and the future?
  8. Are there regular communications using standards and known expectancies?
  9. Is the data accurate, clean and available?
  10. Are the processes that support clear tracking against project metrics?
  11. Is it known what happened during the client’s last project (successes & failures)?
  12. Is there timely project team and stakeholder communication, where communication occurs amongst the team members and to / from the client representatives.
  13. Is the PM facilitating communication, cooperation and collaboration and are project processes and practices implemented to support this?
  14. Is the PM identifying critical metrics and milestones, communicating those metrics / milestones, and managing the project with the objective of meeting those targets? (e.g. EVM)
  15. Are handoffs between groups being managed effectively and is there a process to support effective hand-offs?
  16. Is documentation of the project evolution* maintained in a shared, accessible, and secure area?
  17. Does the PM have a process and mechanism for managing project financials (for both  and client)?
  18. Are processes in place to allow the PM to assess overall client satisfaction?
  19. Is the PM probing for, and qualifying potential new business leads with the client?  Are these leads passed onto Sales for further action?
  20. What are all the things that you are measuring - so you can justify that you are objectively "increasing the probability of success"

Tools - Project Planning Checklist (Part 1 of 2)

Everyone's goal is to deliver projects that align with the planned Scope, Schedule and Budget, but we sometimes forget the most important thing is to understand how to produce value for the end-users.   

Utilization of processes and established guidelines is the key mechanism to provide the assurance that the investments are being effectively managed. Don't re-invent the wheel, use checklists to verify you are on the right track and build those checkslists so you don't miss the easy things each time you do a project.

Checklists also should not be visited just at the project start.... on-going reviews during the entire project life cycle gives the opportunity to revisit risk triggers and any potential change to risk parameters. Bringing issues forward will assist the project team in highlighting the actions needed while there is time for pro-active adjustments. 

Project risks related to planning can be avoided with questions such as:

1 - Is the Scope Statement clear and specific?

2 - Are the expectations realistic and achievable?
3 - Are the timeframes realistic and achievable?
4 - Is the scope statement manageable?
5 - Is this an appropriate solution for the target audience?
6 - Are there complete and accurate requirements and specifications?
7 - Is there appropriate technology to support the desired solution?
8 - Are there appropriate resources available to the project (internal and external)?
9 - Are the major issues with the project identified and documented?
10 - Do any actions need to be taken to address the major issues?
11 - Is there risk of the client satisfaction level changing in the near future?
12 - Is there regular performance reporting with established feedback loops?
13 - Are the roles and responsibilities clear for all those involved?
14 - Is there commitment by all stakeholders to the project deliverables?
15 - Is it clearly understood what is the value statement (value that will be delivered and for whom)

NOTE: this is part one of a checklist, part two is to follow....

PMTip - Do you know your priorities - at a minimum, do you get them done (no excuses)

One of the top reasons people don't get their priorites done, is that they simply have toooooo many.  This is part of life (both work and personal).  We love to over-allocate and rely on optimism and luck to get things done.

Humans are drawn to the number 3 and feel comfort with it.  It also aligns with a manageable number of priorities.

A system that we try to follow internally is that each employee no matter what their role is (CEO vs Field Labourer) must know their top 3 priorities for the day, week and month.  They must be able to achieve those priorities, the company depends on it (in today's world, everyone and everything is inter-connected).  Must remember, each role has a different level of complexity around their priorities, a different level of change control must also be followed and a different level of overlap with others exists based on the role - so it can be a communication challenge.  Internally, my company even has a "priority collaboration software" that helps to enable this (however is still a work in progress!!!).

Key challenges are to ensure that you are absolutely clear (you must know) what your own priorities are each day, week and month and that you are on the same page with your manager AND ensure you have a system to manage through the changes that occur.  Further description of this concept includes:
  • Daily top 3 - these must be simple, fast and have a lower level of complexity/risk.  Scope of work is generally described in the format of tasks.  Try to put a measurement on them so they can be planned and you can track your progress, example:  you have approximately 7 hours available each day, 1 hour of the day is allocated to secondary priorities and admin, so ensure the 7 hours is realistic to get the priorities you take ownership over (you MUST try at all odds to get them done since they should build into the weekly priorities and also link to other people's priorities) 
  • Weekly top 3 - these are more complex/risky but still must be clear enough in scope that the majority of the work is described in tangible, concrete work packages, think in terms that you now have 35 hours to accomplish the work so try to set realistic goals, then ensure to allocate the 5 other hours to secondary priorities and admin, and try VERY hard to not go over those 5 hours, cut off the work and defer it to the following week.  If your priorities change, then go through a mini-change control process.  One of your top 3 priorities must be demoted to a Secondary Priority, then new expectations must be established and you and your Sponsor/Managers/impacted stakeholders must all be on the same page.  Again, you must take ownership of the managing of these top 3, since is more tricky then the daily top 3, so ensure that you have more communication with your manager about them (are they on track, are they changing, what are the risks as we progress, etc)
  • Monthly top 3 - these have the highest level of complexity and risk, and often can change over the course of the month.  However, they still must be planned and managed.  Ideally, they are documented, to help formalize them.  Ensure they are not too overly detailed, they can have aspects of intangible work, and thus can be further elaborated as the weeks are completed.  They can be thought of as guiding objectives that are detailed enough that you can "check them off" at the end of the month, but not too detailed that you have to spend days planning as to what they are.
A good mentor I worked with always said, confirm and then understand your top priorities, then at a minimum you must get them done, AND, fight off everything else and consider it as "white noise". 

Recently, I was able to relate this approach to an article I read (full article link), an excerpt of that article is below:

Set three specific goals weekly and monthly -- and ignore everything else.

There are a million things you can do to improve your business. The problem is, if you try to fix or improve them all at once, you end up not making much progress in any of them.
You need to be relentless in following your goals. At least once a day, I find myself asking, "Is what I’m working on directly helping one of the three goals?" It's easy to distract yourself with tasks that aren't critical. You just need to stay on top of it. This helps us accomplish big things quickly.
To hold ourselves accountable and stay on the same page, we have weekly meeting on Fridays. During these meetings, our company sets the goals for the upcoming week and see where we are on the previous week’s goals. It's a lot easier to say "what went wrong this week" then "what went wrong this quarter"
--Co-founder Patrick Ambron of BrandYourself

Related: The Best Business Advice You'll Ever Get