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Project Planning: Coordinate Workflow

“If I establish a coordinated workflow, then my project team is operating effectively, but I am not sure how to prevent a tactical error in the execution phase.”

I am not much of a football fan and that’s a possible understatement, but I do remember the total devastation of the people in 2006, when Tony Romo fumbled the ball as he tried to catch the snap and set the ball down, in the game against Seattle. Romo was so close, it was 21-20 in favor of Seattle, and a field goal could have won the game for the Cowboys, but it wasn’t to be. He messed up the handoff and any amount of scrambling couldn’t have saved the game.

Fumbling is not limited to sports, it sometimes happens in the middle of projects too. The plan can be in place and the instructions clear, but the ball still dropped in the handoff between team members. So, why do such things happen?

In football, there are a million moving parts, there are all the tactical variables on the field as well as so many more present before the game even starts. The same can be said for project planning and project management, so it is important to go in with an understanding that you can do everything right, but sometimes the project still fails. This is because there are so many pieces, and there are only so many opportunities where you can ensure that the ball is in play, but this reality doesn’t mean you can’t increase your chances for success…

A couple of the most noted reasons for project failure are over allocated resources and unreliable estimates. This is the tactical side to creating a project plan. On a project plan, estimates are very often guesstimates on how long it took or cost me to do this last time. Having a completely inaccurate estimate can lead to a flawed schedule, increased risk, or an inevitable likelihood of overshooting the budget. To accurately estimate how long or how much a project takes requires a little research as well as capacity planning. In other words, understand the skills available to you and the effective resource limits of the organization.

You need to know how many projects your team can be working on at any given time, before the duration time taken to complete the task, needs to be increased. At the same time, this should give you a better idea for when to increase your contingency time or project risk budget. This process should also shed some light on understanding who should be given this task- who has the time and skills to complete this task?

No one ever said a touchdown is easy every time. Understanding your team’s capacity takes lots of effort to understand, so having access to good historical data on previous projects is a major bonus. When making estimates you should be trying to gather as many points of reference as possible, before putting pen to paper. Simply having your team members guess is never going to be as accurate as reviewing similar projects, understanding the capacity of your team, as well as having them give you a number.

So, we agree? It is important to build a coherent, accurate, and logical plan. Yet, all that can still be for nothing if you don’t have good leadership and management practices. This is the more strategic, pregame preparation, to being a leader. It is you, the customer, and the sponsor gathering project information, creating a charter, and strategically aligning the project. Defining the final deliverable in these processes is integral to accurately creating your budget and schedule, but your team should be part of the preparation too. They should be right next to you as you are building your project plan, because it creates genuine ownership, motivation, and understanding.

As you empower your team, consensus becomes more and more valuable. Reaching a point where everyone agrees, means that you not only have a higher chance of getting the job done, but that any fumble in the process with be avoided that much more.

Having coordinated workflow, where people understand the process as well as know the project was planned correctly, means that your team and your business unit is operating efficiently. This translates to fewer project failures, more opportunities to be innovative, and who doesn’t want that? Now, let’s pass that ball and get a touchdown!

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