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The following series of five emails describes the five most common project management mistakes.
Have you ever attended an end-of-project meeting on a project that had major problems? If you have, chances are that one of the major themes you will hear is that we should have spent more time planning.
Five Project Management Mistakes
#1: Inadequate Planning
I have heard project managers say that the time they spend planning could be better spent actually "doing the work". This is not right. Before the project work begins, the project manager must make sure that the work is properly understood and agreed to by the project sponsor and key stakeholders. The larger the project, the more important it is that this information be defined formally and explicitly. When you think about it, many project problems can be traced to problems in planning. These include
Poor estimates based on not understanding the totality of the work.
Lack of scope change management because scope was not properly defined to begin with.
Issues occurring because of poor risk management.
Missing work because the schedule is not thought out.
Not understanding all the stakeholders involved.
It should not be surprising, then, that the best way to avoid this problem is to do a good job of planning the project up-front. There are four main components to the planning process.
Defining the work. You need to understand the nature of the project including objectives, scope, assumptions, risks, budget, timeline, organization and overall approach.
Understanding the schedule. You should create a project schedule before the project starts. This is needed to help you determine how to complete the work, and to estimate the total project effort and duration.
Estimating costs. You and the sponsor need a good estimate of costs before the project gets going.
Agree on project management processes. This will include how the project manager will manage scope, issues, risks, communication, schedule, etc.
People ask me how much time it takes to complete the project planning. The answer is "sufficient". You need to spend the time to define the work, create a schedule, estimate the costs and set up the project management processes. If your project is small, this should not take much time. If your project is large the planning may take a log time. In other words, planning is scalable based on the size of the project.
Spending time on good planning ends up taking much less time and effort than having to correct the problems while the project is underway. We all know this to be the case. We just need to practice this on our projects.