The 7 Steps of Project Planning

Updated: 20 hours ago

Today’s article is about the seven steps of project planning, which are the inevitable duties of project managers when they are doing project management.

“Planning is a procedure. Its nature is a rational act that uses mental power.”

– Harvard Business Management Series

Project Planning

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Planning uses human’s practical activities as its development preconditions, and it also bases on the human’s intellectual creativity as its driven power. Along with the progressive development of human’s practical activities and the development of intellectual level, the level of planning directly reflects the development level of human society.

Project planning is a process with constructive and logical thinking. The overall purpose of project planning is to summarize all possible influential decisions in order to direct and monitor the future work of the project and finally achieve the final objectives of the project plan.

Step 1: Set a final objective

The essential of this step: after the initiation of the project, set a clear and inspiring project goal (objective) for the project team.

In term of this inspiring final objective, the project manager needs to continuously propagandize it and make the project team members memorize it. The purpose is to make all the team members consider it a rational and good objective. Even if the project was to fail in the end, the team members still feel they would be lucky to have ever contributed to this project. This process is what we usually call “motivation”.

Step 2: Make team members like the objective

Even if you have set a clear and inspiring project objective, it would be no use if the team members thought the objective has nothing to do with them. That is why we said that the success of project planning must be connected to the successes of various functional departments. If this project was succeeded in the company, what would all the functional departments get?

Therefore, we must be very clear with all the relevant functional departments. Apart from the salary of human resources which was paid by the company, the more important motivation is the propaganda effect of “Honour one and you honour them all”. We can not violate human nature. That is to say, we can not ask people to do the extra contribution for no honour and no money, because it is against human nature and also unpractical. In a sentence, a project manager has to realize the reality of the success of a project or a company must connect to the success of various individuals.

Step 3: Develop a deliberate plan

A deliberate plan is a plan which would achieve the project objective. A good plan is not about what to do, but how to do it.

A deliberate and good plan must contain the five basic factors: the first factor is the overall objective, which is discussed in the previous sections. A second factor is an accountable person. In this factor, we must answer the question of “who is 100% accountable for this certain work?” In other words, if the goal of this work was not achieved, who would be the one fully responsible? The third factor is the assessment criteria. After a certain work has been done, is it considered to be good or not good? Or excellent? There has to be an evaluation standard for assessing the quality of the work being done. Not only is the standard an objective, but also a quantitative number. The fourth factor is the assessment point. In this project plan, when does the project objective suppose to be achieved? We have to breakdown the overall objective into several milestones and set assessment points accordingly. The fifth factor is the evaluator. Who is the judge for whether or not certain work has been achieved? Who is responsible for assessing all the works and making decisions? These evaluators must be assigned according to both client and leaders of our company’s opinions.

Step 4: Empower the team

The team members are usually from various functional departments that are different from the department which project manager belongs to. Hence they might think the project work may not be the most important work they should care about. As a result, they would be a lack of initiative working for the project. In this scenario, the project manager should win over some decision-making power from the company for the team member. In this way, achieving the project’s objective of finishing the project’ work would make them have a sense of accomplishment. If the project manager does not empower the team or does not trust the members fully, then the members would probably think the project work as a burden and the team work’s efficiency would be very low.

Step 5: Provide resource and support

During the process of execution, the most typical issue is that the coordination between different functional departments. As project managers, we should be the role of coordinator to communicate and coordinate among different functional departments. When the team members themselves could not solve the problem or deal with the conflicts, a project manager has the responsibility of resolving the problems of different stakeholders.

The second typical issue is that the project has limited resources or limited money. In this situation, some functional departments may ask for more budget or more human resources. The project manager should lead the team to find some alternative plans which cost fewer money or resources. Another way is to ask for support from our clients or project sponsors.

Step 6: Inspect the progress periodically

The pace of empowering and inspections should be controlled by the project manager. The pace can be once per week or once per month. After all, periodical inspection is needed to ensure the project being under control. Of course, every result of inspection should be documented and signed by both the inspector and the person being inspected.

Step 7: Recognize the contributors

Once some team member has significantly achieved some objectives of the project, reward and recognition would be needed from the project manager. There are many forms, such as verbal recognition, giving award prize, or dine together. The purpose of recognition and reward is to keep the team’s morale up and further improve the team’s efficiency.

In summary, this article introduces the seven essential steps of project planning and the necessary duties of being a project manager.


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