Two ways to Improve Your Project Planning

Blog 14-05-2021

The objective of a project is to deliver the expected outcomes to an agreed cost and an agreed timeline. A project is often deemed a failure if it delivers late or significantly late from its original agreed implementation date.

It is a fact of project management life, that many projects are delivered past their original planned end date. There can be many reasons for this including:

  • Over optimistic project team or project manager
  • End-date dictated to the project team
  • Unclear scope
  • Poor estimating of individual project tasks

In this short blog, we will look at two ways of improving the estimates in a project plan, i.e;

  • Collaborative planning; and
  • Delphi estimating

Planning should be a Collaborative Process

Some project plans are produced almost solely by the project manager. He or she lock themselves in a darkened room and emerge with a complex Gantt chart. This ‘autocratic’ way of planning and deriving estimates is very unlikely to produce a plan with realistic estimates. There will also be very little buy-in from the project team as they have not been involved in developing the plan.

A better approach is for the project team to work together to plan the project. This will improve buy-in and develop a better, more accurate, and realistic plan. In addition to this collaborative planning approach, a Delphi estimating technique should be used to develop even more accurate estimates.

Delphi Estimating

In this simple approach to estimating, sometimes called Delphi estimating, you take a task, or a set of tasks, and assign two project team members or subject matter experts to estimate the tasks. The two individuals or two teams conduct the estimates on their own, with no conferring. You also appoint a facilitator to manage the process.

Once the two estimates are completed the two individuals or teams meet with the neutral facilitator to compare their estimates and assumptions. If these two different estimates are close, then the estimation job is complete, and the project team can have confidence in these estimates. If, however, the two estimates are not close, then the two individuals or teams redo their estimates independently. In this second round of estimates, each estimating team understands the other team’s estimates and the assumptions that have been made. Their second set of estimates are then produced using this knowledge. The estimates derived in round two are likely to closer than in the first round.

You can have more than two rounds of this estimating process. This partly depends on the complexity of the project. Even two rounds of estimating will result in a more realistic plan with improved buy-in from the team.

Summary

If you collaboratively undertake project planning and supplement this by using the Delphi estimating technique for some of the more complex or uncertain tasks, you will produce more accurate estimates and a more viable plan.

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