Key Principles of Planning

Below are some (not all) key principles for the planning of any project which can also be applied to any type of work that requires planning. Rather than slavishly following these principles in detail for every
project, be it small or large, it is very much about applying a degree of common sense in terms of how much rigour should be applied depending upon the length, nature and cost of the work

1. Scope – consider what are you trying to achieve? – think at the high level, what are the outcomes
or products to be delivered? E.g. To set up a new warehouse ready for operations. Agreeing scope is
about setting expectations, a “failed” project is more often than not where scope has not been
properly agreed or has changed along the way without full agreement.

2. Build – using any one of a variety of tools, build a schedule that breaks down the scope into
smaller chunks or deliverables that can be managed easily but yet when combined add back up to
the overall product/s to be delivered.

3. Describe each deliverable – formally describe each deliverable so that the specification of what is
to be delivered is unambiguous and everyone understands what level of quality is required and who
will sign it off.

4. Stages and milestones – for longer and larger projects consider breaking the work down into
stages and incorporate review, sign-off, “Go-No-go” milestones along the way so as to check quality
and compliance at each stage. If a project becomes unviable at a given stage it can be closed down
at that point rather than continuing onto delivering something that no longer makes sense.

5. Link activities that are dependent on others – ensure the schedule tasks and milestones are
linked so that it makes sense as a sequence of work e.g. you cannot commence the ground floor
build until the foundations are in place. Linking a schedule in this way also means if something is
delayed then the knock on effect can be understood in advance.

6. Who will do the work? Do you have enough resources to carry out the work? “Mr Nobody” and
“Miss TBC” are fictional characters who don’t exist and all work will need an owner. If you don’t have
enough people then you may need to phase the work.

7. Share the plan – involve others in the planning, particularly the people who are the experts and
have done similar work before since their knowledge will help you build a more realistic schedule
sooner rather than later, keep them involved with updates on progress – collaborate!

8. Agree and “Baseline” the schedule – once the plan is agreed as “doable” then “baseline” it.
Baselining is taking a snapshot of your starting point, it’s like having a route map to follow and stay
aligned to. Without having this snapshot you will find it difficult to measure whether you are on
track or if you have veered off course against time, scope or cost.

9. Track, update and adjust – the schedule needs to be updated weekly or more often for most
projects. Tasks that have been missed need new dates to aim for – they cannot be achieved in the
past, conversely tasks that have been achieved ahead of time need to be recorded as such. Keeping
the schedule up to date provides the vital information of what has been achieved and how much work is left. With the baseline available to compare actual progress against, it is possible to deduct whether the project is over or under performing and likely to come in on time, to cost, scope and quality.

10. Close the project and learn the lessons! – one of the most important but rarely undertaken
stages in a project is to capture the lessons of what went right and what went not so right! If you are
planning on repeating the project or similar projects or just want to improve your estimating for
future work then you will need to fully close the schedule and take the variance information from it
and adjust your base templates accordingly. E.g. if a task was estimated at taking 8 days when it
actually took 10 then that task in your standard template for that type of project should be updated
to take 10 days effort in future. This will improve the accuracy of future projects using it.

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