PostHeaderIcon The Power of Rapid Planning Workshops

Accelerating Capability...Beyond Training

For all the millions spent on project management education, significant improvement in the way projects are actually planned and managed remains an elusive goal for many firms. While formal training is (or should be) an excellent foundation for improvement, it is not the greatest means of turning knowledge into sustainable, collective action – which ultimately, is what most organizations actually need.

Beyond Training

Rapid planning workshops, in contrast, do just that. They offer one of the single most powerful methods, (especially post-training), of embedding effective project management methods and tools.

Conducted in a live intense planning environment with the project manager and his/her core team, they are explicitly dedicated to evolving a high quality mission-critical project to execution-readiness as fast as possible. Properly designed, skilfully-facilitated workshops can compress planning time from weeks to days, by fully focusing the team on their project without productivity-sapping distractions, and by elaborating overall goals into detailed, tactically-viable, fully-resourced integrated schedules, all under the guidance of an expert facilitator, (ideally from the PMO).

Project planning is an everyday occurrence but the quality of the output is too often suspect – and the stealthy precursor of unnecessary strife, poor productivity or a troubled project. Repeatedly exposing project teams to high impact, structured planning, results in profound acceleration of both their projects and the organization’s project management capability.

Follow the Process

A typical planning workshop agenda should be tailored to the project’s needs and the organization’s own methodology (if it’s adequate) and might include activities such as:

  • Define objectives (tactical targets)
  • Define scope (deliverables, exclusions, completion criteria)
  • Create WBS (tasks, ownership, completion criteria)
  • Assign resources (staffing)
  • Develop schedule (dependencies, estimates, constraints, critical path analysis)
  • Optimize plan (schedule/scope/resource constraints and tradeoffs)
  • Manage risks (identification, assessment, responses)

These are really just standard planning steps but the trick is in how they are actioned in the workshop using a mix of large/small group collaboration, flipcharts/Post-Its, templates/software and real-time analysis/quality control/adaptation for maximum impact. Any project can benefit from these structured sessions; larger projects can typically get to the lowest level of appropriate detail (potentially thousands of tasks) within just a few days. Team alignment, a credible plan and knowledge transfer – for maybe less than 2% of the total effort to execute the project. Its a great return. And done right, by institutionalizing rapid structured planning as an operational norm, the biggest winner is the organization.

The global state of project management would be infinitely improved if just a fraction of organizational training budgets were allocated to properly standardizing high impact planning practices.

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3 Responses to “The Power of Rapid Planning Workshops”

  • Joycelyn says:

    Fantastic publish, I anticipate up-dates by you.

  • John Krivacic says:

    This is solid material for rapid development. Based on 30 years of system development and IV&V experience, I have come to the conclusion that the thinking processes of the project manager (PM) can significantly affect the success of a project. Titles in our LinkedIn group such as Todd Williams, “Tomorrow’s Project Manager (1-9-11)”; Antonio Elianti’s “The Heartbreaking Power of Context,” (1-24-11) and articles on his website on entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation; and Gina Abudi’s – “Have You Tried Coaching?” and “Improve How You Manage Your Stakeholders (9-9-10)” suggest individual thinking processes must be tuned and refined for PM success. Paul Graham’s “The Top Idea in Your Mind”, Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule”, and “Best Way to Use Last Five Minutes of Your Day” attempt to offer practical techniques to select problems. See http://www.paulgraham.com/ . Obviously issues do come up during a project over which the PM has little or no control. But well-established mental processes will help the PM address these issues quickly and adequately.

    On the front side of a project, the effectiveness of these processes helps to determine the adequacy and understandability of requirements through the questions posed by the PM during elicitation and review stages. While the content of the requirements are based on the input of subject matter experts, the PM must facilitate this input and validate the testability of the requirements in a thorough and logical manner.

    Checklists provide a formal structure to assure the many attributes of the requirements are adequately addressed; but the checklist is not sufficient to address completeness and interdependencies of the requirements. Checklists have been developed assuring requirements are covered for system, business workflow, hardware, etc. by notable experts such as Karl Wiegers and Gerald Weinberg. Andy Jordan in a Jan 25, 2010 of http://www.ganthead.com addresses missing or unspecified requirements in “Requirements for the Unknown.” The unknown requirements or workflow paths are frequently missed because of the size of the effort to elicit them and/or various pressures to move quickly to the next tasks or phase of a project.

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