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How Do I Know the Project Planning Phase is Complete?

written by: Ronda Bowen • edited by: Jean Scheid • updated: 6/16/2013

This article is part two in a series of five dealing with project questions. Here, the length of the project planning phase is discussed. You'll also find out how to stop procrastinating and get on with your project by using smart project planning skills.

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    Do You Procrastinate?

    We all do it.That is, we all become enraptured by the project planning phase of the project and forget that the project has to get underway at some point.Other times, we are so eager to get started on a project that we gloss over important project planning steps. Planning a project requires a delicate balance between over-planning and under-planning.That is, how does a project manager recognize when enough is enough? How does a project manager recognize that his desire to hit the ground running is going to be undercut by a project plan that is not strong enough to support the project?

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    Uh-oh, I Don’t Have That Information!

    Picture courtesy of Stock.xchng You will realize, quickly, when you do not have enough information and planning to support your project. A team member might ask you a question regarding a milestone or a task that you might not be able to answer. Unforeseen issues might arise in which you ask yourself, “How come I didn’t see that coming?" Under-planning is often a symptom of an over-confident project manager who thinks “I’ve done this sort of thing hundreds of times."

    To be sure you have enough information for your project to run smoothly, consider some of the following questions:

    • What is the main objective of your project?
    • What is the budget for your project? Do you have enough financial resources to cover all phases of your project?
    • Do you have the resources required for your project? If not, do you know how to obtain these resources?
    • Do you know what risks your project entails? Do you know what you will do if something goes awry?
    • Do you know what you will do if you go over-budget in one or more phases?
    • What will you do if you experience scope creep?
    • How will you ensure quality along the way?
    • How will you monitor the project?
    • How will your team communicate issues and achievements on the project with one another? When will meetings be held?

    Under-planning on a project is easy to spot because you will lack necessary information that you should have foreseen. If you find your projects are habitually in this situation, be sure to consult Bright Hub PM’s many project management articles such as Elements of a Written Project Plan in order to assist you in filling in the gaps.

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    Enough Is Enough!

    It's less easy to recognize when you are getting trapped in the planning cycle. This happens often to new project managers and to those who are managing a project in a field they are not comfortable with. There are those who claim you can’t over plan a project; however, this simply isn’t true. When you’ve fully detailed the 456th potential risk, or when every task has been fully fleshed out before the project begins, perhaps that time would have been better used getting the project underway.

    You will know the project planning phase is complete when you can answer any what-if scenario your boss, your client, or any of the major stakeholders throws at you. Remember that projects can change over time, and it’s important to have some flexibility in your plan to deal with this. You can stop planning before you plan away the ability to go with the flow.

Five Great Project Questions

This article series looks at five great project questions: Does a Project Charter Include a Scope Statement? How do I know the planning phase is complete? How can I evaluate a resource's reliability? What metrics are best for project management? and What do you do when the client wants it now?
  1. Project Charters vs. Scope Statements
  2. How Do I Know the Project Planning Phase is Complete?
  3. How Can I Evaluate a Project Resource's Reliability?
  4. Best Metrics for Project Management
  5. Clients and Deadlines - How to Handle Deadline Change Requests