Moving from plan to action

By Generation Next Steering Committee Member Cody Bunyard
Fleet engineer, ServiceMaster

Published in the January 2015 issue of Generation Next Edition.

When taking a project from an idea to reality, there are two critical stages:  building a plan and acting on the plan. Creating a comprehensive plan or charter before taking action is the best way to simplify the action phase and keep the project team on track. This method works for any job and a great example is a football coach – who creates a game plan prior to kickoff and follows up throughout the game to ensure a win. Similar steps take a project goal and turn it into a win for the company.

Similar to a football game plan, a detailed project plan enables a company to achieve positive results. A plan identifies what must be accomplished to achieve overall success and meet the desired goals. As long as the team creates a strategic plan and works together, achieving success should be as simple as following the plan. 

The plan includes a detailed description for each aspect of the project. It should include team members, the problem statement, project scope, goals, success indicators, risks and assumptions, a strategic communications plan, and critical milestones with the expected completion timeline. Specific things to avoid are listed as outside the project scope. All goals should be measureable and time-bound. Discuss risks ahead of time and address the severity and likelihood of risks occurring. A football coach builds alternate approaches into his plan in the event his plays don’t work well. It’s important to build contingencies into any project plan for high probability risks.  

Taking the time to create a detailed project plan is always beneficial because it acts as a complete road map for the action stage of the project, just like a game plan in football. It also gives everyone a reference document to check and ensure everything continues to move in the right direction within the expected timeline. 

Prior to creating the charter, it’s important to speak with the key stakeholders who are impacted by the project outcome. This allows the team to build stakeholder expectations into the plan, increasing the chance of a successful project. After goals and deadlines are identified, make sure every party involved agrees on the time and resource commitment needed to complete the project.   

Once the project description is confirmed with key stakeholders, it’s time to complete the project charter. A standard template can often be used to create a professional project charter.  If needed, there are several downloadable templates available online that outline everything needed to create a project charter.  

Another important part of the action phase is communication. This area relates to the action phase of football – playing the game. The team and coaches must communicate to ensure the game plan is followed and that no unforeseen risks occur. A project kickoff meeting should act as the first step moving the project into action. This meeting allows everyone to familiarize themselves with the project description, goals, timeline, etc., in great detail to ensure success of the plan. Make sure everyone understands their role within the project and the time commitment, just like a football player has to know his role within a game plan. The kickoff meeting should be interactive and include open discussion and ideas.  A football coach always relies on his coaching staff to help develop a plan of attack against the opposing team and the same approach should be taken when determining the best way to achieve a goal.  

The charter should be written so that it provides everything the team needs to complete the project. Everyone can then follow the deliverables timeline and know the next steps throughout the project. Promote consistent two-way communication so the team can continue reaching milestones and overcoming any hurdles that may arise. Host a weekly meeting or call to allow time for reviews and updates and keep the project on track. For important milestones, communicate directly with stakeholders to keep them aware of progress.  

Ask the team for feedback throughout the project – you may find new ideas that can benefit the project and company.  After all project goals are reached, consider the project complete. Update all stakeholders of the team’s accomplishments throughout the project and be sure to thank everyone for their time and support. 

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