Before a project begins it's a good idea to have a clear plan of action and milestones clearly outlined. This allows you and your employees to have a clear sense of direction when dealing with the many challenges of working on a project.
Plans of Action and Milestones
Plans of action are great ways of setting up for projects that require a large amount of work. They allow for you to spell out the work that needs to be completed in a reasonable time frame so that you and your employees have a definitive way to complete the project in an orderly fashion. Typically, when setting up plans of action, what you're doing is dividing work into sections that can be labeled as milestones.
Milestones are the goals that you and your team aim to meet in order to keep a project moving at a steady pace. Milestones create a clear goal for you and your team to work toward and then another after that. Work will flow a whole lot smoother with clear goals in mind.
List Your Needs
Laying out your plan of action is essential. List all the work that needs to be done, designate the work to the right employees or specialists, and determine and reserve any locations or equipment ahead of time. Whatever you might need, list it before you begin the project.
Giving yourself a clear list will help with estimating the amount time and work that needs to be completed. Knowing any special equipment and work reserved and scheduled ahead of time will allow work to flow smoothly. It will also prevent headaches that occur from scrambling to make these accommodations later on.
Divide the Work
When setting up your milestones for your plan of action it's incredibly important to divide the work up in some way. This can be done by separating what you consider is the most important, most time-consuming work in similiar groups or by dividing the work into parts where the work is similar to the benefit of the specialists.
Use your best judgment when dividing up the work. It will help a lot when prioritizing your work and setting your milestones.
Prioritize Your Duties
When developing your plan of action and creating milestones it's important to recognize what work is the most important and what work needs to be completed in a timely manner. Take the list of all the work that needs to be done and order it concisely from most important tasks to least important. ORder those items according to when you are actually able to complete that work.
For example, you might need to use a printing service that is only available before an important meeting to draw up several figures. Logically, the printing service will fall higher on the priority list even though it is not the most important duty available. Use your best judgment for these situations.
Acquire Necessary Tools
A great way to keep your plan of action and milestones organized is to find great project management tools that you can use to create. There are hundreds of different systems, programs and methods to help you keep your project on track, so definitely shop around for something that fits your needs and the needs of your project.
There are several articles on Bright Hub that list some of the best project management tools that can be found: Project Management Software Tips & Reviews
Create a Back-Up Plan
Even if you have prepared your plan of action as carefully as humanly possible there is always the chance something will go wrong. Don't stress yourself out planning for every scenario. Instead, focus on the worst-case scenarios and anything else that can be prevented easily.
Having back-ups creates confidence and security when working on a project because it removes an element of stress that could otherwise affect the project or your team members.
Distribute the Plan of Action
Using the milestones you've set, you can create a print-up of the basics for your plan of action. This can be in the form of a schedule or in a similar fashion to a syllabus and distributed to your employees or for your personal reference.
This helps by making the deadlines and amount of work required for each milestone clear and public knowledge. When empployees know your plan of action and milestones that you've set, they can then begin to plan their schedules around getting their sections of the projects completed ahead of time, which will help with morale.
Ask for Employee Input
Asking for employee input might be a bit of an unorthodox strategy, but allowing your employees the chance to add their input to the project is a huge morale boost and can help create discussion.
Discuss the different limitations of each employee and what is a reasonable way to go about getting the work done on time. Apply what is discussed to your plan of action so that you can create appropriate milestones for each.
Offer Incentives for Completing Milestones
Another great morale boost for employees and yourself is to offer incentives for reaching milestones on time or ahead of schedule. This will give employees the drive to complete goals quickly and correctly. This is a great way to utilize milestones unique to your plan of action and to your employees' benefit.
It's best to spread out incentives or even wait until the completion of the project to allow employees to redeem the incentives to avoid any unnecessary distractions.
Credits and Sources
All images are used for promotional purposes only and are listed in the order they appear in this article.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/black_friction/473370616/sizes/m/in/photostream/ from Black_Friction
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccheek/3541938877/sizes/m/in/photostream/ from Mccheek
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaaronfarr/5042845338/sizes/m/in/photostream/ from Jaaron Farr
http://www.flickr.com/photos/richard_jones/2342709729/sizes/m/in/photostream/ from Richard Jones
Sources of information for this article come from the writer's two years of experience with and study of project management.