General Planning

Planning is determining what needs to be done, by whom, and by when, in order to fulfill one's assigned responsibility. There are nine major components of the planning phase:

• Objective: a goal, target, or quota to be achieved by a certain time

• Program: the strategy to be followed and major actions to be taken in order to achieve or exceed objectives

• Schedule: a plan showing when individual or group activities or accomplishments will be started and/or completed

• Budget: planned expenditures required to achieve or exceed objectives

• Forecast: a projection of what will happen by a certain time

• Organization: design of the number and kinds of positions, along with corresponding duties and responsibilities, required to achieve or exceed objectives

• Policy: a general guide for decision making and individual actions

• Procedure: a detailed method for carrying out a policy

• Standard: a level of individual or group performance defined as adequate or acceptable

Several of these factors require additional comment. Forecasting what will happen may not be easy, especially if predictions of environmental reactions are required. For example, planning is customarily defined as either strategic, tactical, or operational. Strategic planning is generally for five years or more, tactical can be for one to five years, and operational is the here and now of six months to one year. Although most projects are operational, they can be considered as strategic, especially if spin-offs or follow-up work is promising. Forecasting also requires an understanding of strengths and weaknesses as found in:

• The competitive situation

• Research and development

• Production

• The management structure

If project planning is strictly operational, then these factors may be clearly definable. However, if strategic or long-range planning is necessary, then the future economic outlook can vary, say, from year to year, and replanning must be accomplished at regular intervals because the goals and objectives can change. (The procedure for this can be seen in Figure 11-1.)

The last three factors, policies, procedures, and standards, can vary from project to project because of their uniqueness. Each project manager can establish project policies, provided that they fall within the broad limits set forth by top management. Policies are predetermined general courses or guides based on the following principles:1

• Subordinate policies are supplementary to superior policies.

• Policies are based upon known principles in the operative areas.

• Policies should be definable, understandable, and preferably in writing.

• Policies should be both flexible and stable.

• Policies should be reasonably comprehensive in scope.

Project policies must often conform closely to company policies, and are usually similar in nature from project to project. Procedures, on the other hand, can be drastically different from project to project, even if the same activity is performed. For example, the signing off of manufacturing plans may require different signatures on two selected projects even though the same end-item is being produced.

Planning varies at each level of the organization. At the individual level, planning is required so that cognitive simulation can be established before irrevocable actions are taken. At the working group or functional level, planning must include:

• Agreement on purpose

• Assignment and acceptance of individual responsibilities

• Coordination of work activities

• Increased commitment to group goals

• Lateral communications

All the organizational or project level, planning must include:

• Recognition and resolution of group conflict of goals

• Assignment and acceptance of group responsibilities

• Increased motivation and commitment to organizational goals

• Vertical and lateral communications

• Coordination of activities between groups

The logic of planning requires answers to several questions in order for the alternatives and constraints to be fully understood. An outline for a partial list of questions would include:

• Prepare environmental analysis

1 Edwin Flippo and Garry Munsinger, Management, 3rd edition (Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1975), p. 83.

• Set objectives

• Where would we like to be? In a year? In five years?

• List alternative strategies

• Where will we go if we continue as before?

• List threats and opportunities

• What might prevent us from getting there?

• Prepare forecasts

• Where are we capable of going?

• What do we need to take us where we want to go?

• Select strategy portfolio

• What are the potential benefits?

• Prepare action programs

• Monitor and control

One of the most difficult activities in the project environment is to keep the planning on target. Below are typical procedures that can assist project managers during planning activities:

• Let functional managers do their own planning. Too often operators are operators, planners are planners, and never the twain shall meet.

• Establish goals before you plan. Otherwise short-term thinking takes over.

• Set goals for the planners. This will guard against the nonessentials and places your effort where there is payoff.

• Stay flexible. Use people-to-people contact, and stress fast response.

• Keep a balanced outlook. Don't overreact, and position yourself for an upturn.

• Welcome top-management participation. Top management has the capability to make or break a plan, and may well be the single most important variable.

• Beware of future spending plans. This may eliminate the tendency to underestimate.

• Test the assumptions behind the forecasts. This is necessary because professionals are generally too optimistic. Do not depend solely on one set of data.

• Don't focus on today's problems. Try to get away from crisis management and fire fighting.

• Reward those who dispel illusions. Avoid the Persian messenger syndrome (i.e., beheading the bearer of bad tidings). Reward the first to come forth with bad news.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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