I was recently asked to explain planning -- more specifically, how to get started with a plan. (I didn't ask: did they read my book, Maximizing Project Value, which has myriad commentary on planning?)
Here's my take:
First, think about this: are you leading with the solution or leading with the problem? Resolve this question in your own mind. And second, only then assemble the solution-detail team or the problem-resolution team to plan. My prescription:
- All plans begin at the end, with the "memorial" to whatever the project is.*
- It's best to wrap the memorial in a narrative, a story if you will, of what is envisioned, why it's important to do, and when it needs to get done
- Rationalize the narrative and the memorial with whatever long term strategy (and/or mission)informs the project context.
- Compose a half-dozen headlines that capture the theme of the narrative -- topic sentences of paragraphs you would write to explain more of what's in the narrative. If these can be stated as goals, all the better.
- Arrange everything by urgency, importance, and required sequence. (Actually, you may find that there is more than one arrangement possible -- thus sticky notes or whatever) Of course, you must honor sequence that is determined by constraints (walls before roof). But as to urgent vs important: they are quite different. Urgency is a temporal characteristic. Importance has to do with shades of "must have"
- Let it rest! It may look a lot different in the morning. Modify as necessary
- Decompose the headlines into how-to steps. This is where you deconflict and deconfuse the "how" from the "what". This may require a lot of SME input.
- Then, follow the standard planning steps for planning cost and schedule given in the PMBOK or elsewhere.
- Separate "means" from "ends" -- that is, separate process from memorials
- You may decide not to maintain the plan -- planning is more important than the plan. The plan may go awry as soon as it is put into play (See: MSProject schedules)
- Relect and replan when you are sufficiently off the baseline that the plan is no longer relevant.
- How are you going to explain results (elsewhere: the memorial)? In other words, what's the message to be that is about the memorial? Thinking about the message should inform the plan to get there.
Check out these books I've written in the library at Square Peg Consulting