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What If You Have No Project Plan

Dick Billows, PMP
Dick Billows, PMP
CEO 4pm.com

When you are in a project from hell and you have no project plan…

It has happened to best of us, and it can happen at any moment. All of a sudden, you are in the middle of a project from hell, and you have no plan, literally. Maybe you started of with a sound project plan, but for whatever reason, it became obsolete.Or the plan was never updated, and has become useless. You have lost your compass, people do something for some reason, and it seems that nothing is moving anymore. I have been there. Just recently. Main Project Planning Page

Today, I want to share with you a couple of ideas and lessons learned on how to turn a situation like that around. Let me encourage you: It is hard, but it is possible.

What If You Have No Project Plan – Get the big picture back first

First of all, you need to get the big picture back into focus. What is the actual objective of your project, aka, where do you want to be when the project is done. Make it visual if you can, but make sure that people get back to that point of agreement to the scope.

A small plan is better than no plan

If your original project plan has become totally obsolete, or if you never had an actual plan (don’t be ashamed, we all know how reality sometimes work), you are in dangerous waters. However, if you are in the middle of the project with deadlines approaching, you might not have the time to re-plan your initiative. So, what can you do? Start with a weekly plan. Pick any combination of low hanging fruits or approaching deadlines that directly support the overall objective, and sit together with your team to define what has to be done next week to get there. This will do two things: First, you will identify short term objectives and give people clear instructions on what to do over the next couple of days. Second, you will identify tasks that take longer than a business week, which will be a first contribution in developing a full project plan while implementing the initiative.

Next, schedule a status briefing every week. In this meeting, you’ll follow up on the short term tasks and define the objectives for the next week. This should not be a day long meeting. An hour should be plenty. As you develop more and more tasks, you can start scheduling objectives for the next two weeks and beyond in addition to the short term goals.

The strategy here is to increase the plan horizon while not loosing sight of what has to be done immediately. After a while, you will have produced a new project plan, and you will have gained back control.

Bring back change control

Most likely, your project went down to hell because of scope creep. Oftentimes, this little devil is the root cause for all sorts of problems. Hence, you must implement rigorous change control. Don’t forget: The objective of change control is not to block every change. Change control’s main objective is to keep the initial scope in tact while not ignoring the fact that changes can occur.

If you follow these three tips, you should be able to steer your project out of hell and back into warm waters.