Planning is a vital activity whether you are engaged in a client project or an internal one. Time allocated to internal process improvement projects is often very little because they don’t have obvious revenue generation like client projects do. Let’s explore why Planning should be an indispensable phase during a common internal project – tapping into the greatest assets of new employees.
Why this Should Be Important to you
For better or worse (mostly worse), we have likely all come across project members so excited about generating solutions quickly that they neglect the vital planning activities. They abandon proper planning because they feel the steps are obvious. The obvious commentary here is that something can only be created according to plan if there is in fact a plan. One might be surprised at how often a solid and complete plan does not exist. A few hours of work generating a plan using Microsoft Project or a similar competing tool will usually save many more hours in unclear requirements later in the project.
As the saying goes, timing is everything. Give new employees enough time to go through the Onboarding package properly, without being rushed onto live projects. This can be a difficult discussion with upper management who is looking at the revenue generated by each employee, but it is necessary. Think of a 12 week Onboarding period as an investment. Yes, those are 12 weeks when the new employee is not generating revenue. Waiting a few weeks to make someone billable is a no-brainer to me if the reward is profitable projects that bring huge value to our clients immediately after those few weeks are over. The alternative is letting new employees be confused for a year or more because they did not have a solid foundation.
How to Effectively Deploy this Strategy
- Create a plan using Microsoft Project or a similar tool.
- Adjust the plan as risks and issues are identified. An example of what this might look like is the following image.
A project plan requires use of a few best practices. Here are some key items to notice about the image above:
- Tasks should be categorized into a hierarchy of Tasks and Sub-Tasks so we can track detailed activities and how their completion contributes to the percentage complete of the main task.
- It is helpful to include both Baseline Start and Finish dates and Actual Start and Finish dates. This allows us to track how efficient we work and how good our estimation of effort skills are.
- Be sure to capture tasks and dependencies that should completed by multiple people working in tandem or by a resource outside your Onboarding group.
Planning is an often under-appreciated activity, but I hope it is now one that you will always take time to complete. It will inevitably save you time, money, and potential issues in the long run. It also has the benefit of creating something tangible that executives and the whole organization can rally around.