We have all heard the phrase ‘If you fail to plan, you plan to fail’. But seriously, at One TEAM, the biggest mistake we see teams making is failing to prepare for a project. Planning is arguably the most essential phase as it sets a solid foundation to take the project from start to finish.
This begs the question, where do you start? These five simple steps will show you how to get prepared so that you are set up for success and a smooth project journey.
First, you’ll need a Project Charter. Why?
To summarize, a Project Charter is a document that states a project’s purpose and value. It makes the project official. A Project Charter will document information like:
- What is the name of your project
- Who is leading the project and team to completion
- What is the overall goal of the project and the objectives that need to be met
- Are there milestones that need to be reached
This charter is critical to ensuring that everyone involved understands the true objective of the project, and can communicate about it effectively. Here’s a Project Charter template we’ve created to get you started.
Next up, the Project Plan
Now it’s time to dig down into the details. Spend time taking all of the ideas bouncing around in your head about how the project will run, and laying them out on a page. It doesn’t need to start organized, just documented.
Then start mapping it out in a Project Plan. Take what needs to be completed and define a logical order for it to occur. The more detail, the better!
Now that you have an outline of your ideas, it’s time to bring in other people’s opinions and experiences. Your team will have the best insight into how the work should get done, how long each task will take (make these deadlines realistic), and who on the team is best suited for each particular task.
Top tip: There are thousands of different project management methodologies. At One TEAM, we are partial to Smartsheet; they have an excellent Project Plan template.
To ensure everyone is kept updated on project progress and that communication is strong, you’ll need a tracker. We recommend using a RAID log and a RACI matrix.
RAID log (Risks, Actions, Issues, Decisions)
Creating a RAID log gives your team (as well as leadership and stakeholders) a central place to find out who made what decision, when it was implemented, and why it was chosen. It also ensures risks are tracked.
This is important because it helps you:
- Predict any problems that might arise
- Prepare the team to handle setbacks
- Prevent delays
- Support the success of future projects
“It takes forever to make a decision.” “I am responsible for tasks but do not have the authority to complete them.” “Decisions are reversed a week after they’re made.”
If these issues occur in your project team, the odds are that the entire project effort is struggling because of a lack of clear roles and responsibilities. A RACI chart can be an excellent tool to help solve this problem. RACI stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed.
(R) Responsible: People in this role are responsible for completing the task or deliverable.
(A) Accountable: The person in this role has the final authority on (or is accountable for) the task’s completion. IMPORTANT: There can only be one accountable individual per task to ensure streamlined results.
(C) Consulted: This role is an adviser to a task. For example, a team may consult with a subject matter expert or an outside department not directly involved in the project. Consider advisers carefully, as having too many people in this role can stretch the task timeline and raise the risk of poor performance.
(I) Informed: Informed team members are kept up to date on the activity output or task completion. Identifying those who need to be informed can be difficult, so consult various roles to determine who needs the information.
If you followed the steps above, you’ll have created a strong foundation for the project to kick-off from. But before blowing the whistle, ensure your team is fully oriented on the work at hand, on how they’re expected to work together, and on the project charter.
Remember that preparation never ends; you should continually plan as you progress through the lifecycle of your project. The documents we’ve recommended will help keep you on track!
Lastly, all projects and teams are different, and a one-size-fits-all approach hardly ever works. With an estimated 8,000+ project management methodologies to choose from, figuring out what’s right for your team can be very time-consuming. If you’d like support preparing for and realizing a project, One TEAM’s experts are on hand to help. We can map out the road to success and then journey there, together.