A project well prepared is half done!

21 June 2016

3-month delay following bad project preparation, a classic

The majority of companies jump immediately into the execution of their project once the contract has been signed. The project kicks off as they hit the ground running. All goes well. At the first major unexpected issue, an analysis of the causes is made, the search for a solution, discussion with the parties involved, the project starts to be delayed.

After our 10 years of experience in carrying out projects, we have observed that the vast majority of these unexpected issues may be avoided thanks to good project preparation. Unfortunately, companies dedicate still fewer means to this preparation phase. Is it because they under-estimate the importance, or due to a lack of know-how? Whatever the reasons, this preparation phase is of utmost importance and contributes at least 50% to the success of the project.

As in the sports industry, this preparatory phase is fundamental in the context of high competition. For example, footballers rely on this phase to prepare their physical condition, develop their game tactics and acquire the automatisms of collective games.

Project teams, like football teams, need this preparation phase to work on their coordination and plan their activities before kick-off.

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Of what does this preparation phase consist

Underlying the project, there is an idea, and ambition. Each actor interprets it through his own experience, such that there are as many scenarios as there are actors. As a result, it is necessary to ensure a convergence of the project around the stakes, goals and scope, so as to constitute the right project team and an operational plan. The preparation of the project adheres to this perspective of convergence, formalising these elements to align all of the actors in the company, from the managerial team to the operational teams. This allows each actor to assimilate the stakes of the project, their own goals and their contribution so that the project will be a success.

There are several approaches according to the sector of activity of the company and the stage of development of its project culture. The quality of the preparation is very heterogeneous and is based on the methodology and the know-how of those involved. From our experience, we recommend formalising first of all the stakes and goals. This exercise delineates the framework of the project (scope of the work, resources, budget…) and identifies the vague points to be clarified.

 

Of how to design a successful operational plan

After the convergence of the stakes and objectives, it is worth addressing the operational plan. This plan begins with the creation of the project team, identifying the best actors (in terms of behaviour and skills) and formalising their roles and responsibilities in the project.

The definition of the major phases of the project should follow. It is a matter of defining the deliverables, the activities, the milestones and identifying the key contributors of the company. It is important to carry out this work in collaboration with the project team and its key contributors to obtain their adhesion. The existence of a project methodology in the company proves very useful and allows for a considerable time gain.

The formalisation of these deliverables and these activities in terms of time constitutes the project schedule. This construction of a schedule has the advantage of allowing an overall view. It allows for the synchronisation of the different activities of the company in the project, the identification of the critical path and the calculation of a realistic duration for the project. It is a roadmap to be followed and updated during the executive phase.

With this roadmap, it is advised that a portfolio of risks and opportunities be created. The creation of this is to be done with all of the involved parties to anticipate in an exhaustive way the hazards and to define the associated plans of action for which they shall be responsible.

The preparatory phase ends with the definition of the project management as well as the key indicators for driving the project trajectory. For this reason, visual management is a very efficient tool in this regard. It is easy to implement and allows for the teams to be federated.

 

The project management plan

The duration of the preparation phase varies according to the type of project, from a number of months to several years. In our experience, we recommend dedicating 15% to 20% of the time to this phase, to ensure that it is properly completed. The deliverable expected is the formalisation of the ‘project management plan,’ which gathers the whole of the key deliverables necessary to kick the project off well.

 

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