Saturday, September 29, 2012

The 5 W's of Project Planning

I recently attended a 2-day workshop in the context of planning for a big project. It was a good refresher class on the basics of project planning. Here's a summary of what I learned and relearned, different words and some different techniques - but the classic theme - the 5Ws of Project Planning:

1) The WHAT - what are we doing? Other questions to ask are what will be the desired outcome of this project? what are the key deliverables of the project?- It did take the facilitator to ask us this question atleast five times before we were able to articulate 'what we were doing in the project'. The answer to this question is not as simple as it seems especially when there are multiple people working on a project and even more stakeholders that matter. Everyone has to be aligned to the answer of this question. 

2) The WHY  - why are we doing this? why am I personally involved in this project? why am I driven to do this? - I really liked this question. It forced me to think about my personal reason to be involved in the project and how my work was going to make a difference. I think it is a very inspiring and motivating question to ask of everyone on the project team. It is also a question that can help get others onboarded to the project. The answer to this question is what will help you continue your good work on the project!

3) The WHO - who are concerned about this project? who are the key stakeholders who can impact?  - These are some of the usual questions about the stakeholders of a project. But a good way to deal with the 'many' is to prioritize and focus on the top 5. Identify the stakeholders whose opinions really matter and who can critically impact the project positively or negatively. Bottom-line,  you cannot make everyone happy all of the time. Identify the ones that you really want to make happy at the end of the project.

4) The WHICH which risks will need to be considered? - the big question - risks. The first thing to remember is that we can't deal with all the risks and there are plenty in a project. If probability (x-axis) and impact (y-axis) are plotted from low to high in a 3X3 matrix, you certainly cannot focus on all the 9 quadrants. Pick 4-5 quadrants that truly matter. Focus on risks that have medium to high probability and medium to high impact. The thing about risks again is that you can't control everything in a project. But it is important to identify and discuss the risks that can be mitigated.

5) The WHEN - when do the activities need to happen? what comes first, what comes last? what are the control gates? when will the project be over? - The interesting bit about this question was that we started to think about the answer starting from the end. The facilitator encouraged us to envision and imagine that day when the project will be over and we will be congratulating each other for the success. We were to articulate that day and identify who was the key person congratulation everyone on the team success. Again, a powerful question. It helped us identify the most critical stakeholder (the driver) of the project and also align everyone to the 'final deliverable' - the end point.