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Michelle LaBrosse


Planning for Project Success

Improve project outcomes with a customized quality process

Published: Monday, August 22, 2016 - 14:46

Before you can do a project well, you must first make sure it’s the right one for you at that time. A project is “right” when it moves you closer to your long-term goals, aligns well with your unique strengths, and is achievable given the resources and people you have available. Once you’ve identified the right project, you need to follow a systematic process for carrying it out.

Following a consistent process that supports your strengths as a project manager will net you high-quality results time after time. The process starts by recognizing not only your project management strengths but also your challenges. Then you need to write a project plan, a document you can use over and over again for any type of project.

Your project strengths

If you have any background in project management, you know there’s an abundance of resources available for project planning: templates, work breakdown schedules, and countless software programs. Although each of these is useful, they all miss something we at Cheetah Learning have found to be essential to project success: customization.

A customized process for doing projects begins with identifying your project strengths and challenges. This will help you create a project schedule that’s realistic for you, more accurately estimates project costs and risks, and helps you identify the right people to bring on board to help.

Let’s say that you have an ENFP Myers-Briggs personality type—extroverted, intuiting, feeling, and perceiving. Some of your project management strengths are likely your resourcefulness, willingness to take risks, and ability to problem-solve creatively. Your challenges likely include attending to details, meeting deadlines, and establishing a realistic project scope. Each of these tendencies is crucial to keep in mind when you create a project plan.

Creating a project plan

A project plan should be adaptable to any professional or personal project. Ideally, it consists of five major parts: scope, tasks, risks, constraints, and team rules. As mentioned above, how you plan out each of these areas depends on your personality’s strengths and weaknesses for doing projects.

In the scope section of our plan, you spell out three major elements of your project: the objective (i.e., your goal), the boundaries (the start and end dates), and the rationale (why you’re doing this project, and who benefits from it). If you’re the ENFP project manager described above, this section will be easy for you; you’ll have a clear sense of how this project fits into the bigger picture of your goals, and you’ll likely have high ambitions for the project’s rationale.

Next, you’ll need to define the project tasks. An ENFP project manager might be tempted to rush through this section, jotting down several major components of the project without specifying any deadlines. This won’t do for a project plan. At this stage, you’ll need to break down your project into specific tasks, assign them to a team member, and—most important—set a completion deadline for each task.

The next two stages, estimating risks and constraints, are the most likely to be affected by your personality type. Simply put, if you’re an optimistic person, you’ll likely underestimate the project’s risks and constraints, while if you’re more cynical, you might overestimate these. Being honest with yourself about whether you tend toward optimism or pessimism is crucial to generating accurate estimates of project risks, resources needed, and possible roadblocks.

Finally, you need to establish some team rules. Even (or maybe especially) if you see your project team as a tight-knit family, you’ll achieve more success if you create a set of team rules for each project you undertake. Granted, many of these rules will stay the same across projects; what matters is that you and your team revisit them each time you start on a new project, and make sure everyone is one the same page, before you hit trouble.


About The Author

Michelle LaBrosse’s picture

Michelle LaBrosse

Michelle LaBrosse is an entrepreneurial powerhouse with a penchant for making success easy, fun, and fast. She is the founder of Cheetah Learning and a prolific blogger whose mission is to bring project management to the masses. She is a graduate of the Harvard Business School’s Owner/President Management program and holds engineering degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Dayton. Cheetah Learning is a virtual company with 100 employees, contractors, and licensees worldwide. More than 50,000 people have used Cheetah Learning’s project management and accelerated learning techniques.