Seven Deadly Sins of Project Management – Skipping Over the Planning Part

Posted by Brad Egeland

So far, we’ve discussed four of my list of seven deadly sins of project management.  Let’s look at what’s been covered so far…

#1 – Taking the Customer’s Word for Granted

#2 – Trusting Team Members without Question

#3 – Leaving Your Success in Management’s Hands

#4 – Becoming Stale on Technology

For #5, we’re going to cover another one of my pet peeves – ensuring that you plan for enough planning.  Few things can be more damaging to a project so quickly than to not do an adequate job of upfront planning.  And the problem here can be two-fold…

#1 – Not planning enough before beginning the engagement

Sometimes your senior management wants a high-profile project kicked off as quickly as possible.  Maybe they’re getting pressure from above.  Possibly, they’re getting pressure from the customer.  You may be even be getting direct pressure from the customer to get started on the engagement.  There can be several ‘pulls’ that you’re getting that make it difficult to sit down and spend the proper time planning your project at the beginning – before it’s even kicked off.

This planning portion – that likely falls entirely to the project manager because in many organizations the full project team has not be assigned to the project yet – is critical because it involves getting handoff discussions and materials from Sales, creating an initial project schedule, putting together kickoff session materials, fully understanding the statement of work (SOW), performing initial resource forecasting, and planning out the project budget … just to name a few.  If the project manager isn’t allowed enough time for this type of planning to take place, then the project will not be able to start off on the right foot and the project manager will not be properly prepared to kickoff the project and start managing the team, the budget, or even the customer without some degree of frustration and disorganization.

#2 – Not allowing for enough team/customer planning in the planning phase of the project schedule

The next type of planning concern involves creating enough time in the schedule as a placeholder for the planning phase of the project.  This generally includes requirements definition and creation of some sort of functional design document.  These are critical items – and I will say once again that requirements are the lifeblood of the project.  If the project manager attempts to move the project into design and development phases without the proper requirements definition attention then the engagement is likely headed toward scope issues that will undoubtedly affect the budget, the project timeline and most definitely customer satisfaction.

It is absolutely critical that enough time be set aside in the schedule for proper project planning and requirements definition.  Shout this one from the rooftops no matter who’s pushing you to move forward more quickly.  If it’s the customer, remind them how important their $$ are and how quickly problems will arise if requirements aren’t properly documented and agreed upon.  If it’s your senior management, remind them how quickly the customer will become dissatisfied and shut down the project when the project goes way over budget or you have to present change order after change order to them to cover all of the miscommunicated requirements.  Customer satisfaction will take an enormous hit if this is allowed.

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