Struggling with Your Projects? 5 Steps to Simplify Your Project Plan

So how do you get from idea to outcome?  Idea execution is the bridge, spanning the chasm between having an idea and seeing the benefit created through the implementation of your idea. During the next phase you will make sure you work according to a detailed project plan.

Draw Up a Project Plan

If you invested quality time and effort during the Definition and Research phases, you will now have a very clear picture of what you want to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.  However to make this picture a reality you will need to do some detailed planning.

The Project Plan Work Breakdown Structure

The first step is to identify and lists all the necessary tasks.  This detailed task list is called a work breakdown structure in project management terminology. So now you need to make sure you do not only have a list, but you also know who will complete the task by when.  Because you have not finalized your team yet, you will have to fill in the responsible person’s name at a later stage.  For now all you will have on your work breakdown structure is the task and by when to finish it.

The Project Plan Timeline

Once you have your work break down structure completed you must determine the project plan timeline.  Creating a project plan timeline and setting deadlines helps to keep you and your team focused on completing the various tasks.  When determining the project plan timeline the first thing you need to take into account is by when you want to see your idea implemented.  This will give you the overall timeframe within which you will have to work to complete all the various tasks you listed.

Now you can start to prioritize the various tasks, and creating milestones to indicate progress, keeping in mind some tasks can run concurrently, saving a lot of time.  Indicate clearly which tasks are completed concurrently and which tasks are sequential.

People to Work the Project Plan

During the first phase activity of Support Garnering, you focused your efforts on communicating the idea and getting people excited about what you want to accomplish.  Now you have to assemble a team of people excited enough to help you make your idea a reality.

As the leader of the project plan, it is your job to make sure you have the right people for the various tasks on your team. Identifying the people on your team’s unique skill sets will help you to allocate the tasks on your work breakdown structure to specific individuals.

Project Plan Finance

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in idea execution and making your project plan work is the lack of finance.  It is important to do a detailed analysis of the financial needs you will have to make your idea a reality.

Questions to ask during this analysis might cover the following:

Will you need any finance?

How much will you need?

How much can you invest personally?

Can you expect your team members to contribute?

Where else will finances come from?

Can you get sponsorships?

The project plan financial analysis will give you a very good indication of your financial needs and how you will service these needs.  The best way to manage finance within a project plan is through a budget.  Drawing up a budget is very important especially if you are working with sponsorships, because your sponsor might want to see how you spend the money he/she gave you.  The budget should also be linked to your work breakdown structure and the expected timeline to make sure your money lasts throughout the project.  With the budget in place it is important to apply discipline and stick to it.

Monitoring the Project Plan

As the project plan leader, it is your continuous task monitor progress against timelines and budget.  The key is to monitor the project plan in such a way not to give people the idea you are checking up on them.  Monitoring is the work of gauging the health of the project in the following areas:

  • People

The people working with you on the project are the single most important resource you have to make your idea a reality.  It is therefore very important to make sure they stay motivated and know exactly what is expected of them.

  • Progress

You need to monitor the progress against the set task lists and timelines. Delegate more resources to tasks lagging behind and keep an eye on the budget. Practise the 80/20 principle to enable faster progress. This principle simply states if something is 80% ready you go with it, the remaining 20% you can fix as you go along.

  • Problems

A project plan almost never gets executed 100% according to plan.  Prepare yourself therefore for a fair share of problems along the way. You need to know of the problems and by making use of the collective expertise in your group, come up with creative ways of addressing the problems as they come along.

Turning your ideas into reality may not always be easy.  However, the probability of successful idea execution is much higher when you start by defining your outcomes clearly and making sure you research your idea thoroughly.  Building a network of support by sharing your idea with others will provide much-needed momentum when the going gets tough.  Through detailed planning, setting realistic deadlines and monitoring your project it becomes possible to execute your ideas successfully.

I would to get your ideas on the process I describe here and if there is anything else to add?

About the author

Joseph Hawking has a passion for people & leadership development and since he discovered his mom’s old typewriter as a boy, have been writing in some form or another. He is part of the Leadership for The International Mentoring Network, where he is a regular Idea Studio Facilitator and Annual IMN Conference Speaker. He believes that the highest form of living is using what you have been blessed with, to add value to other people’s lives. He has been publishing The Leadership Connexion blog since August 2018.