A checklist for project success
Managing any project requires optimising three interwoven factors; time, cost, and quality. At this fundamental level all projects are the same, the myriad of project details is where the differences lie.
Project goals range from simple to extremely complex. The purpose of a project might be to manage change, work on a process, develop a product, or undertake construction. Industry, workplace culture, and other differences have an impact too.
Many people start a project thinking they have considered everything and there won’t be any major issues to deal with. Then later, when things go awry it’s external factors that get the blame. It is rarely external factors causing the failures, delays and over-runs in a project. Doing a detailed analysis of many projects showed us that in 90% of cases, internal factors including people, processes and controls cause the issues.
Using a proven set of principles is how projects are successfully managed. Combining a thoughtful approach and thorough preparation sets up a project well for resolving the challenges, issues, problems, and risks which will threaten to derail it in every phase, from initiation through start up, planning, execution, and closure, to post-completion evaluation.
Getting started on your project
We all know the challenge of starting with a blank piece of paper. While projects rarely start without a problem to solve or an innovative idea they are always challenging to plan and organise.
There are so many decisions to be made, people to get on board, supplies and expertise to be brought in, processes and plans to be put in place.
It is unlikely that a checklist could be developed to provide you with a complete guide to simply tick off each action for any project you undertake. So, use this checklist to get thinking about what, why, how, when, where, and who will be involved in your project. Let it prompt you to think beyond what it suggests, spark research you need to do, and help in deciding what you need to do, and do not need to do, to manage your project well.
A project planning checklist
Reminder: think about what, why, how, when, where, and who for each item.
Processes and plans
Processes and plans formalise your thinking about managing the project and communicating how the project will be managed. Prepare simple to the point processes and plans which say how you will do things, focusing on quality of information not quantity.
Project management plan
Scope management plan – including what is out of scope
Change control management plan
Quality management plan
Risk management plan
Cost/budget management plan
Resource allocation plan
Communication plan and matrix
Human resources plan
Your involvement in the project might commence before or after any one of these have been thought about. You may need to create them, refine them, or be lucky enough to be handed exactly what you need.
A draft project charter briefly describing the scope of the project and provide an overview of what will be done
Strategic alignment of the project with the organisation’s direction
Business case for the project
Approval for the project
Executive support and do people know that it matters
Organisational history of projects or the subject of the project which it is relevant to consider
Funding and authority to spend
Governance arrangements – executive sponsor, steering committee, etc
Co-ordination and leadership requirements
Project roles, responsibilities, and organisational structure which make it clear who is responsible and accountable for each aspect of the project
Clarity of purpose, authority, delegations, and powers
Accountability, KPIs, and performance
Identify the stakeholders who need to be involved or informed
Identify and recruit the participants in the project
Secondments into a project role
Hired for the project or backfilling in other positions
Advisers, subject matter experts, and suppliers
Training to do project work
Training to implement project outcomes
Suitable communication channels
Tools and resources
Project team IT requirements and access
Project management software
Workflow and collaboration software
Record keeping system
Reporting tools – dashboards and other data presentation
Accommodation and equipment
Project kick-off announcement to staff and a project team meeting
Protocol for team communication
Meetings, on-on-ones, and other team communication events
Task lists, assignment, briefing, tracking, monitoring, and reporting
Monitoring and review, status, and progress reporting - expectations, templates etc
Keeping the organisation informed
Communication with suppliers
Risk management and compliance
Finding and minimising risks is an ongoing project management task which needs to be incorporated into the project’s work plans
Identify key risks, mitigation, and contingency plans – internal and external risks, lack of skills, supply delays, competitor activity etc
Identification of compliance requirements – legislative and regulatory, professional standards, Australian Standards, quality management, contractual, organisational policies and procedures, etc
Quality - set quality levels, how quality levels will be achieved, testing, auditing, etc
Need for inspections, approvals, or legal assistance
Controls to monitor and manage risks and compliance
Determine if project risks should be included in the organisation’s risk plans and monitoring
Protocols for risk and issue management and escalation
Checking your plan
Cross check the plan for completeness of entry into all relevant project planning documents, accounting for all necessary activities including management, issue resolution, quality, risk, supply, etc
Scrutinize dependencies for overlaps, adequacy of lags where needed, and inbound and outbound inter-project dependencies being accounted for.
Review timing and availability – holidays and staff availability are accounted for, and workloads do not exceed the capacity or availability of project managers or staff.
Check adequate lead times have been allowed on supply and approvals.
Examine the adequacy and coverage of the project controls
Assess if contingencies are adequate to protect the critical path.
Don’t forget, as you review the list, to think in terms of what, why, how, when, where, and who will be involved in each aspect of your project.