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Thinking Outside the Box: Project Planning Tools

written by: Jean Scheid • edited by: Ronda Bowen • updated: 7/17/2013

Most examples of project planning tools include software and spreadsheets or standardized methods to plan a project from start to end. What if you have none of these available to you or you want to be innovative? Jean Scheid looks at some non-standard project planning tools.

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    Skipping the Normal Tools

    Business Plan by Aragga Sure you need a project scope and a budget and a life cycle and risk and quality assurance plans, but can you use planning tools to develop those that vary from the norm? Sure you can, but some of these examples of project planning tools were perhaps born from the famous quote by Admiral Grace Hopper, “It’s much easier to apologize than it is to get permission."

    • Cut Down on the Paper – No, this isn’t an environmental planning tip (although it could be); it’s more along the lines of “project management with a lot of documents is not project management." Look at the project at hand. Do you really need every document on paper that is suggested by management guidelines? Half the people working on the project won’t read most of the stuff anyway, so why waste your time? Only include documents that are pertinent to the project’s goals, timeline, and outcome. If you’ve completed similar projects time after time, can’t you just use some of the old stuff instead of creating more paperwork?
    • Be a Manager – Don’t you hate those managers that always wait for the go-ahead from upper management or stakeholders before starting anything? If you’re a manager, why do you need permission to do your job? Delegate the project scope to the stakeholders and let them write it based on their wants and needs. Instruct the human resource department on the people you want on your teams, not the teams you’re assigned. Delegate planning tasks like the budget to one team and the change control plan to another. In history, those who take the lead are better leaders.
    • Plan Your Project Backward – This may be the most unusual example of a project planning tool that falls way off the normal scale. If you think about it, however, it does kind of make sense. Think like an inventor. A good inventor knows what he wants the invention to do before he begins, right? Why not take the final goal of the project and go backward to get to your starting point? You may be surprised at planning tools you can skip.
    • Be Agile, On Everything – Sprint away, managers, and use sprints to your advantage on all your planning processes. It may be sticky at first but who needs or really wants all day project meetings? If the idea behind Agile is that when it’s done it’s done, think of the Agile Methodology as an example of a project planning tool that can help you sprint to successful planning.
    • Take Advantage of Glossaries – If you or the PMO office has created project planning guidelines, they probably included a glossary to go with all those guidelines. Examine the glossary first and let it guide you to what project planning tools you actually want to implement.
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    It's OK to be Innovative

    Idea Wikimedia Commons A project management expert once said, “If you fail to plan you are planning to fail." Perhaps what he should have said is if you “over-plan" you are planning to fail. I suppose the experts developed project planning tools and software to aid managers in making a project flow more smoothly, and they’re probably right. But if you have the opportunity to implement project planning tools that are innovative, why not try them out?

    Often, society may choose the need for innovative tools for us. Tough economic times can mean that the number of resources you are allotted for any given project could make for the use of some untried project planning tools. If that expert resource you always relied upon is now gone due to costs, one planning tool, although not unique, may be to include training times and schedules for the inexperienced.

    Whether you implement some of these examples of project planning tools or come up with some new or innovative ideas on your own, the whole idea behind the plan is your ability to plan. Think of planning as a necessity, but one that can be tweaked to your liking as long as you get the job done.

    Quote Credits: Famous Quotes (6/10/10)