How to Do a Project Plan That’s Forced Upon You
Friday morning…the sky is blue, the grass is green, and the weekend is only a handful of hours away.
It was a great week at work as a huge project just came to a close and a brand new project started that’s going to keep everyone busy for months. You spent some time with a new junior project manager on your team in teaching them how to do a project plan and feel good about the progress she is making. You are just on the verge of leaning your seat back, putting your hands behind your head, and your feet on the desk.
And then the President of the company rushes through your door. “All Hands on Deck!” he says. You cringe when you hear those four words come from his mouth. You know that all hands on deck means only one thing – your plans for the weekend just changed. All hands on deck is super secret code for “somebody just committed the company to something that is going to be next to impossible to get done with our current schedule and resources but we’re going to do it anyway.” You’ve lived through this nightmare before and know how the story ends. Why does this happen?
They need revenue
This trap will usually spring itself on smaller, cash-flow strapped companies. They may be coming up to the end of another payroll cycle and they are having trouble meeting this expense. It just so happens that the sales person at the company has been working with a potential client that will put a 50% down payment on their project if the company can commit to it being done on a certain date. “No problem”, says the owner of the company as he is looking over the checkbook as the end of the month approaches. “We can get this done by that date with no problem at all…”
It’s a great strategic move
This trap will usually spring itself on mid to larger size companies that are looking to dominate a particular space in or break into a new market. The sales person goes to the President of the company and says “If we can show this feature at the upcoming trade show in two weeks, we’ll bust the doors wide open and the rest is for our taking”. The President replies with, “We can get this done by that date with no problem at all…”
The potential for future work
This is the most insidious of the three reasons why you may be forced to learn how to do a project plan with a date that is already given to you. The potential client says something along the lines of “If you are able to meet this date at this cost, then there’s plenty more work where this came from.” You know the rest of this story. Your company busts it butt to get the work done and then the client can no longer be found. How disappointing. You can go down your predefined list of reasons why this project that the President just brought to you can’t be done by the mandated date. “Too much going on, not enough resources, too many other priority 1 projects, behind schedule, the team is already working overtime…”, you respond. His response? “Do we really want to have this conversation?” which means this conversation is not going to be had and the date is non-negotiable. Here we go again.
How to do a project plan that is forced upon you
You’re the type of person that likes to make lemonade out of lemons, so here are a couple of suggestions you can use to get closer to being able to meet this date.
Consider a phased approach
It’s a reasonable question to ask whether every aspect of this project has to be delivered on that date or if there are only certain features or elements of this project that need to be delivered. You may be surprised and glad to hear that what they really need by that particular date is really only 50% of the project. The second half of the project can be implemented over the next two months. Still not ideal, but it’s much better than what it was when you were trying to figure out how to do a project plan with such aggressive timelines.
Does the client have resources that can help?
Your project team may be entirely consumed on the last over-committed project. But, there are certain elements of this project that the client may have resources that can be used to assist. This may be important work that requires Subject Matter Experts from their side to accomplish and not necessarily the technical side of things that only resources from you company can accomplish. You can offer to train, manage, and monitor their work which will allow the project to move along that much faster.
Do you have more experienced resources that you can apply to this project?
There are varying levels of skill sets people have in the company. We all know that the more experience someone has the faster they are able to accomplish a task. You may be able to find someone in your company that can get done in 40 hours what would take a junior level person 80 hours to complete. There may be some re-prioritization and negotiation that needs to take place to pull this off, but the results could be worth the effort.
You may have a relationship with an outside group of people that you have done business with in the past. You know and trust their work and they understand what you expect and require. This may be a good opportunity to call upon that relationship to accomplish this additional work at hand. This allows your internal teams to move forward with the other projects they are working on and have two parallel tracks of productivity up and running at the same time. Will this cost more money? No doubt. But, this is something that management will need to consider as a viable alternative depending upon how fast they need this project to be complete.
Consider crashing your schedule
You have the resources available and they are all equally trained and able to do the work, then you may want to consider adding more people to the plan to meet the date. This does mean that they will be pulled from other important activities that they are working on. Also, you don’t want to add too many people because there is a point of diminishing returns when there are so many people involved that everyone starts tripping over each other and the project slows down.
Fast track you project
Fast-tracking is another option when you are looking how to do a project plan that meets a predefined date. There may be some activities that are occurring in sequence where one is scheduled to be done before the next one starts. You can review the plan very carefully to determine is any lag at all between tasks to make sure as many tasks are being done in parallel as possible. Is there one good answer when it comes to knowing how to do a project plan with a date that has already been determined? No, but, you can use some of the guidelines and principles above to at least get in the ballpark.
Employ the power of technology
There is one good answer when it comes to managing your next project that is given to you with a date already…ProjectPlan.com! Try ProjectPlan.com FREE for 30 days and see how this powerful planning software will allow you to consider all the ‘what-if’ scenarios that are possible to map the shortest route possible from starting your project to ending your project.