Project phases – Planning sets the foundation for a successful initiative

by Paul Kesler

“Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”– Winston Churchill

The planning phase – What are the key subcomponents or activities?

The planning phase in project management is where you typically spend the most time creating the many project artifacts that come with the territory. Depending on your companies appetite and desire to have robust documentation will without question drive your planning timeline. So today I wanted to spend some time describing and reviewing what is typically found in this project phase and allow some time for reflection for some and education for others. What you find listed below are the key components found in the planning phase with a simple description and listing of the typical deliverables. One final note, these are not listed in any particular order of importance.

 1. Conduct interviews with stakeholders

Identifying who are the key stakeholders that could influence or impact the project. Think ‘who could de-rail my plan if not included upfront in the conversation. From there you typically would list all your stakeholder groups, determine their level of influence, figure out an engagement path and go from there. Communication is key here, and as expected it is better to be early than late in this category.

Key deliverable: Stakeholder analysis and engagement plan

2. Create business process flows (Current and future state)

Have a business analyst on your project team? This is where you want to use their expertise to create documentation as part of your project. In most companies, you can find the people that have been around for a while that can give you the details around current processes, how things are done, who does them, what the associated hand-offs are. A software program with flow chart shapes is very handy when you start to document. On the other hand, when you go to capture ‘future’ state processes these can be a little harder, find people that are creative in nature, conduct your sessions in smaller groups to speed up the process. You can always come back to the larger team to share the work and get feedback.

Key deliverable: Process flow charts

3. Create project requirements

Think here about getting people to describe what needs to get accomplished, and what the goals are. What is the scope? What does the business need? What business problem the client is attempting to solve? What does the customer want? Getting this done right on the first try will eliminate frustrations that might come up later.  Finding the right people to involve in these meetings is sometimes the hardest. A diverse group is needed to not only describe what you what to do but also the people that can ask the right questions about what.

Key deliverable: Requirements documentation

4. Project plan

This is where the rubber meets the road for most project managers. What is the plan to execute in order to meet your project/business goals? The who, what, when, and how. Documenting the required tasks or activities in the proper sequence, identifying who is responsible for completing them, how long and when it will happen are all key here.

Key deliverable: Detailed activity/task list with owners

5. Change management strategy

A final but very key component of the planning cycle. How are you going to get your organization to accept the change? Change management is about developing a process and a plan to not only bring about needed change but to include active procedures to negotiate the change with key stakeholders; to anticipate and minimize their resistance to the planned transformation in order for it to be successful.

Key deliverable: Change management plan

Final thoughts

We have now come to the end, and I hope this article was a refresher for those experienced project managers and insightful and educational for those new to the profession. By no means should this be considered an exhaustive list when it comes to the planning phase but I would argue that what we covered today includes many of the key components that you want to consider before moving on to execution.


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