How to avoid a disaster on your next project

Paul and Yvonne were wanting to plan the next phase of their business journey. This involved expansion into a new facility and building a larger team. In their minds they could see their business growing. They were getting excited about the possibilities. However, at every point they hit hurdles that slowed them down. When we analysed what was happening, it became apparent they were very poor at project planning. They knew what they wanted as an outcome but knowing what steps and in what order was overwhelming for them. They carried most of the details in their head or on pieces of paper. Needless to say, the project was moving slower than a snail’s pace, and not always in the right direction. They were becoming discouraged. A lot of energy was being wasted.

I often find business people often need help getting what is in their heads onto paper or some other visual format. If it is whirring around in your brain it is difficult to communicate with others and the overall picture is difficult to break down into its various parts. It becomes difficult to know what to do next. The following 7 steps is a guideline for avoiding disaster with small or larger projects.

7 steps to planning your next project

  1. Decide on the project – Get crystal clear about the main objective that is to be achieved. Create a visual picture in your mind of what the project will look, feel and sound like upon completion. If you are not so visual then make sure you write down the key elements of the completed project.
  2.  Create a mind map – (some call it a mud map) on a page of all the elements involved in the project. Do this with someone who can help you think. Priority is not important yet. Just get all the elements on the page. This is as simple as drawing 10 (or more) circles on an A4 sheet of paper and writing in each of them the items required to complete the project from start to finish. This will include: budget, hiring any contractors, communicating to team members, approvals required, supplies needed, etc.
  3. Prioritise these elements – in terms of the order in which they need to be done
  4. Allocate each element – if other people are assisting you with the project then you need to make sure they and you know who is doing each element. They will also need to be involved in the planning so you can ensure they take ownership of the task and the the timing for completion.
  5. Determine a completion date – for the whole project. Settle on a date that is a realistic time-frame to complete the project with the resources you have available.
  6. Create a Gantt Chart – this tool allows you to approximate the time required to complete each step of the project, as well as when each step can start and finish. You write each step of the project in priority order on the left hand side of the chart. You start with the end date and work backwards regarding time. This helps you know when each element must be started and complete. You may realise as you put in the detail of the Gantt Chart that your completion date is unrealistic. Better to adjust it at an early stage of the planning rather than be embarrassed with date changes closer to a publicly announced deadline.  project
  7. Follow the plan – some adjustments may be required along the way but overall you simply follow the plan.

If you follow these 7 steps carefully it will help you avoid a disaster on your next project. You can become confident that whatever new things you decide to do, you will be able to pull off making it happen.