9 Best Practices for Avoiding Project Planning Mistakes

by Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt)

Project PlanningIf your team is in analysis paralysis, and you are having problems getting your project going, here are nine best practices to avoid the subtle traps in planning:

#1: Plan your plan! After initiation, and after the project charter has been crafted, take the time to think through what needs to be anticipated and accounted for so that unwelcome surprises don’t surface as you are executing and controlling the plan.

#2: Make sure you have inputs necessary to get the project done. The deliverables produced after initiation become inputs into the planning phase. Some companies call those gate reports, or gates that ensure proper inputs.

#3: Create and communicate the project plan and schedule. Make sure everyone knows who is doing what, when and where.

#4: Implement process. Project management is only one aspect of a project; process management is the other, and it’s the project manager’s responsibility to implement process. A process is a standardized, documented, communicated way of implementing project plans, and is the most effective and efficient way to run a project.

#5: Create and update your templates. Have you ever been in the middle of a project and when a template is pulled you notice some of the resources listed left the company years ago? Or, maybe you referenced an organization that no longer exists.  Update templates in the beginning with accurate information, so that no one is cutting and pasting old information.

#6: Set up a repository. A repository on your server or online mobilizes documents and files for your team so that they can add their own, reference and collaborate on documents.

#7: Get sign-offs. It’s very important at every phase to get certain sign-offs so that people aren’t questioning why something is being done. If someone does ask, you can show them who signed off and when.

#8: Ensure everyone on the team knows who is doing what, when and where. You’ve probably been approached in times past for information without being aware you were on someone else’s project plan or schedule. Apply the same courtesy for your team and stakeholders, so that everyone knows the task and deliverables they are responsible for.

#9: Know who you need and when. In the planning phase, determine what type of thinkers will be important to the project. You need people who are going to think of the details, who will further craft more detailing into your plan. You also need people who are going to help you find pitfalls, areas of risk or possible failure and where to have a plan B in place. You also need people who are inventive, who can produce creative ideas.  Projects need thinkers who can find different ways to get things done.

If you found these tips from Jennifer Bridges, PMP (formerly, Jennifer Whitt) of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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