Project Planning

Planning stage of project management

Just as in carpentry where the slogan is “measure twice, cut once”, in project management the slogan should be plan, plan and plan.

Good effective planning will indeed be the key for a smooth project where goals are achieved, timelines are met, and clients are happy.

The mistake that is most often made, is the lack of planning for small projects. You will hear me say over and over that the steps to plan a small project need to be the same as if this project were a large one.

Disregarding the planning stage and moving quickly to implementation is a horrible mistake.

I assure you that the most important stage in the whole process is the planning stage. The time and effort put into developing a strategic plan that is comprehensive and effective will lead to a great result.

The stages of Implementation and Closure will follow seamlessly if the plan is in place.

For planning to be complete, there are 4 strategic elements that need to be addressed.

  1. Project Sanctioning
  2. Project Scope
  3. Estimating
  4. Scheduling

In this article I will be discussing Project Sanctioning in particular.

Project Sanctioning

Sanctioning is the act or action of acquiring the endorsement of the client prior to the project officially beginning.

The sponsor can also be called the client if that be the case and is the party for whom the project is being created.

The sponsor is basically the boss, as it is their evaluation that determines whether the project meets the goals set out. They are also the person who will give the OK for purchases as well.

Project Charter

Communication is the key to success and to achieve this a charter document is created, outlining the results the sponsor is expecting from the project.

The charter is a non-technical business document that covers things like the scope of the project, what it desires to accomplish and all the involved stakeholders.

The charter is to stick to the facts and be short and sweet.

Project sanctioning happens when the client approves the charter document.

When you are running a project yourself, you obviously don’t need to sign off on it. However, all the planning still needs to be in place with a project charter outlining the project and its requirements.

One issue that can be contentious, happens with the project “hand-off.”

It is termed “project hand-off” when someone other than the person who signs off on a project and becomes the point of contact. Real problems of communication can happen in this situation.

So, if the person delegated to work with you throughout the project is not the signing authority, it is imperative that your point of contact remains the one who signed the charter.

Here are some examples:

Example 1

Pretend that you own a salon, and you are to do both hair and make up for a bridal party at a wedding.

The bride is footing the bill; however, you get a call from the bridesmaid asking you to make changes to the original plan. What do you do?

You make sure you speak with the bride before you make any changes as she happens to be the client/sponsor as well as signing authority.

Example 2

Imagine you are a designer, and you are creating some kind of online module for a client.

Your work in the planning stage doing a budget and scoping happens to be with the executive director of the company.

The director brings in an “expert” who becomes your point of contact during the project. However, it is still the director who is the signing authority for the charter.

For regular day to day communication, it is ok to have a different point of contact than the director. However, be mindful to refer back to the director when changes need to be made and approved.

Example 3

You are a social media manager contracted by an accountant who signs the charter, and then refers you to the office manager as the point of contact.

What do you do if the manager wants changes to the plan and asks you to set-up an additional social media profile?

Once again, you should verify such changes to the plan with the accountant as the project sponsor / signing authority 

Example 4

You are an event planner engaged to put together a retreat for your employer’s key clients. A team is allocated to work with you on all the details, but once again it is the sponsor who needs to agree to the goals and deliverables and sign off on the charter.

This is the third article in our series on Project Management.

Next week we will complete this series on project management by delving more into the components of the ‘project charter’ and looking at several project management tools.


Other articles in this series include:
Project Management for Small Business
Managing Smaller Projects
Tools for Project Management

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