TL 9000 Project Planning (4): Managing The Project

In past articles, we have discussed project planning techniques including “backward planning”, managing key milestones, intervals and contingency or risk planning. In this article we will discuss managing the plan so that you give yourself the best chance to succeed.

The project has certain outcomes that include a successful registration audit and on time delivery to a planned date.  In order to meet these objectives, it will be necessary to have a systematic method to review and revise the plan.  In order to make the plan work and hold people accountable, at a minimum you will need to identify in the plan:

•    The process owner for each phase or activity
•    The due date for completion of each phase or activity
•    Deliverables that constitute a complete phase or activity
•    A status of the phase or activity

There may be other information that you want to track during the plan such as actual completion date, revised planned completion date and comments.  You’ll need a tool to record the plan.  There are many tools available ranging from a yellow legal pad to sophisticated project management software and you need to select what works for you.  For the most part, I use Microsoft Excel because nearly everyone has the tool or can open a software version of it and most people can find their way around this tool.  I used project management software years ago, but found that I had to copy it into Microsoft Word or something else, just to send it to people.  Almost nobody had the tool or knew how to use it effectively.

An Excel-based project plan can also give you a quick status of the project if you will set up a column with a pull down that includes Red, Yellow, Green and Closed.  I use Red to mean the completion date has passed, Yellow to mean that the completion date is within a week away and is not complete and Green to mean that the activity can still be completed on time.  These, plus the “Closed” category can be sorted and summarized to give you a quick status dashboard.  You can also calculate the total plan interval and compare each status period to the amount of interval that has elapsed versus the number of completed tasks.

If the percentage of the project interval and the percentage of completed actions are somewhat close, then the project is in pretty good shape unless there are actions that specifically cannot be closed, which will be revealed by the Red, Green, Yellow status.  If the project interval is 70% expended and you have only completed 10% of the actions, then you are in big trouble.  These metrics comprise an effective, high-level status of the project at any given time.

Once you have the project plan recorded, it is usually a good idea to meet either in person or via conference call to status the plan and determine actions that may be needed to keep the plan on track.  This is where you need to be strong as the manager of the project and hold people accountable for their assignments.  Two big risks to completing the project on time can be a lack of strength on the part of the PM and/or the process owners not being open and honest about problems in meeting the plan and their resulting solutions.

We hope you found this 4-part series on project planning helpful.  If you require further assistance, please contact bclancy@bizphyx.com.

The support desk will be closed for the holidays and we will begin a new series on January 17, 2011.  Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from BIZPHYX!