Project management

Projects combine skills and resources for specific objectives. A strong project plan is essential.

Projects often fail because the plan is poor or the plan is not implemented well. Ideally planning will provide enough autonomy to those delivering the activities, whilst maintaining oversight and ensuring the project succeeds.

The plan must be rigorous enough so that people know what to do - but not state every last detail in minutia. Once the framework is in place for what is essential - typically budget, timings, functionality, quality, accountability - the areas of freedom for creativity can be identified. The plan must also allow for changes in circumstances to be managed.

All involved should know what their role is and who they report to. Who is accountable for the overall project? Who is accountable for each element? Who has to sign off what and by when? One useful approach is to break the project into stages. These might include: set up; analysis; delivery stages (as many as needed by the project); review; and close or next steps. Each stage will have a distinct purpose with a natural beginning and end point.

The deliverables for each stage will be agreed at the outset. Between each stage the previous one is reviewed and signed off before confirming, amending and proceeding with the next stage. Using distinct stages helps to maintain focus on the activity that is required now, and not to jump ahead, implementing things out of sequence.

Consider: Are there clear lines of decision making and accountability in your projects? Are your project plans both robust and flexible? Are disputes within the project team effectively managed? Do your projects come in on time and within budget?