Experienced project managers know that soon after initiating a project, the next set of implementation strategies and skills involves the ability to see both the forest and the trees simultaneously. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) Guide sets forth a sequential, but overlapping set of procedures to follow when looking for a best-practice approach toward orchestrating a complex project
While the first process group (Initiating Process Group) allows a project manager to get a clear view of the entire project landscape, the Planning Process Group provides guidelines for assembling all the layers of details needed to fill in the landscape of the project through one successful phase of completion after another.
In order to keep progress moving according to specified goals and objectives, the PMBOK® puts forth these key elements included in the Planning Process Group:
A Project Management Plan is a detailed report indicating the chain of events that need to happen throughout the project. This includes a timeline and clear communication with stakeholders about how the entire project in all its phases will be “planned, executed, monitored controlled, and closed.” (PMBOK®)
Tailoring client/stakeholder needs with the objectives the project requires may necessitate additional adjusting as the project gets underway. Understanding and documenting all project requirements aids in clarifying expectations.
Producing documentation to define the scope of the project which may reflect any changes is important to maintain stakeholder confidence and client trust.
Subdividing large projects into more manageable smaller ones allows stakeholders to identify on-going progress and allows the project manager to make mid-course adjustments as necessary.
Developing the specific list of actions that will need to be taken to achieve benchmark goals is essential for putting proper teams in place at the right time with the proper resources.
Scheduling teams to complete work and setting the progress in place with all the details needed to complete the work objectives takes a great deal of coordination with many project constituents and may involve shifting objectives and phase scheduling.
Estimating costs accurately is a skill that comes with increasing practical experience. Coordinating all estimates needed to complete each phase of a project requires great attention to detail and a well-developed set of multi-tasking skills.
Creating accurate budgets means having the experience to know when to add in allowances for probable weather delays, change orders, or other details gained through experience with similar projects. At every stage of the Planning Process Group documentation is necessary, but in the estimating and budgeting areas, project managers need to be able to understand the details logically to secure quick and trustworthy authorization from related stakeholders.
Factors like risk, cost performance baseline, organizational and environmental factors all affect the potential plan quality. Obviously the goal is to assure the highest possible quality. Assessing the details to secure quality throughout each project phase may involve re-adjusting program goals and procedures.
Having a staffing plan in place that coincides with each phase of the plan and involves all details of creating working teams to support project goals and timeline requirements is imperative.
Communication related to changes, progress reports, and budgetary adjustments need to be on-going so that constituents and stakeholders remain invested in the successful, high-quality outcome of the project. Establishing the expectations around communication supports the positive tone of the project as a whole.
Accurate risk management procedures can save money and time over the length of any project. Documenting the risk management process for a project supports good communication strategies with stakeholders and clients.
The procurement process involves detailed reports indicating decisions related to costs of items necessary to complete a project and deliver effective results.
Developing the skills and the knowledge necessary to be more cognizant of overall project goals, while at the same time effectively tending to the small, day to day details of a complex project, is at the core of what separates good project managers from excellent ones.
While much of a top project manager’s skill set will come about through years of experience, on-going education and strong professional networking can leverage increased opportunity and success as well.