This is an extract from Project Pain Reliever. I contributed two chapters and over the next four Wednesdays you’ll get to read them. Here’s the first extract.
The One-Man Plan
Hans had spent a lot of time working on his project plan. He knew what needed to be done and how long everything would take. Requirements gathering, that would take a couple of days, right? There weren’t that many users to ask, after all.
Hans proudly projected the schedule on to the wall of the meeting room. “Looking at this, we’ll be done by June,” he said to the team. Their faces were incredulous – and they didn’t seem at all pleased that he had saved them so much time by doing all the work for them.
“You’ve just got one day for budget approval,” said Claire from Finance. “You do know that the approval cycle is three weeks? And there’s nothing in the plan for training. My department is four hundred people, how am I going train them all on the new system?”
Ouch. And Claire wasn’t the only one to complain. As they went around the table, each team member picked holes in his plan. “We absolutely can’t do this,” Claire said, when everyone had finished pulling the schedule apart. “It’s idiotic.”
Hans had completely misinterpreted what needed to be done to deliver this project. He now realised that he hadn’t understood what was involved in some of the tasks, and he had even missed some out. The only good thing was that he hadn’t yet shown the schedule to his project Sponsor. He needed a new plan, and quickly – he was due to present the schedule to the Sponsor that afternoon.
You have a great project plan, with lots of detail. It’s properly documented and you have built a schedule that gets everything done by the date the Sponsor wants. However, now the team have started working on the project, it is clear that they are sticking to their own timescales and not paying any attention to your masterpiece. In fact, at the last team meeting they went as far as to tell you that your schedule is completely unrealistic. OK, you missed out the testing phase, but surely that won’t take very long? Everyone is doing what they can, and the team is working long hours to get tasks completed on time, but they are starting to resent the fact that you signed them up to this. You don’t know how long you can keep the project going when it’s obvious that the team doesn’t believe in the plan or the schedule.
- Your project team complain about the timescales.
- Tasks are not being completed on time, if at all.
- Tasks are being completed that are not on the plan.
- You are putting your team under pressure to complete tasks by the milestone dates.
- Everyone is working long hours.
- The team’s morale is falling, along with their confidence in you.
What will happen if I do nothing?
The project will get later and later and tasks are not delivered on time. The Sponsor will become more disillusioned with your ability to deliver on the promise of your schedule. In turn, you may put more and more pressure on your team to speed up – risking cutting corners and delivering a low quality product that is not fit for purpose.
Morale in the team, and their willingness to work with you, will fall. Eventually you might find that they won’t work on your projects at all, and you’ll gain a reputation for being a slave driver whose projects always run late.
You can’t plan in a vacuum. At the end of the day, it’s not you who will be doing all the tasks – that’s what the members of the project team will do. So involve them in working out what needs to be done to meet the project objectives and how long it will all take. If your plan and schedule are unrealistic, start from scratch and build new ones, with the involvement of all the right people. In summary, you need:
- A complete list of tasks required to deliver the project.
- Accurate timescales for these.
Next Wednesday’s extract will show you how to get there.
Project Pain Reliever, edited by Dave Garrett, is published by J. Ross and is available on Amazon.13/06/2012