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Get Ahead of the Game: Applying Effective Project Design Practices from Day 0

Austin Font

The Common Result of Poor Project Design

We’ve all been on a project that has gone wrong - delays, budget overruns, impossible timelines that have caused our jobs to become unbearable, stressful nightmares. But in most cases, these issues can be avoided by implementing alignment and clarification methods from Day 0. Learning how to get ahead of these issues can be the foundation of new project design perspectives at your organization.

Gaps in Current Planning Approaches

Let’s start by talking about current approaches to project design from the perspective of a service-based industry like IT consulting. Many teams start by producing a generic statement of work with loosely defined objectives, a discovery session with senior-level stakeholders sometimes leading to impractical project goals, and a project plan outlined in some spreadsheet format to never be used again. 

So why is it that we’ve accepted these generic, minimal value-add approaches to alignment? To put it simply, there’s a gap in many team’s initial planning activities that is alignment to what the project’s true goal is and how we can get there.

Causes of Poor Project Design  

The first step to addressing this issue is to realize and accept that early alignment processes are sometimes overlooked. The unfortunate reality is that many decision makers do not view project design as a direct contributor to what makes a project successful. Instead, we’re pressured to fast forward our attention to wireframing, inventory activities, and producing quick-win deliverables to show stakeholders how fast we can make progress. However, most of us recognize that moving forward too soon can cause trouble down the road when products of misalignment arise. 

Day 0 - Designing a Good Project

Now that we agree there’s a gap at the beginning of the project lifecycle, let’s talk about how we can practically fill it. 

  1. Clearly define goals - Define goals that are clear and attainable. Only a few people in the world can state that they will deliver a new form of transportation in a couple of years and get away with it ( hint: Hyperloop ). Make sure your goals are measurable, practical, and written clearly to make sure alignment to the result is not up for debate. 
  2. Bring all important, not just senior, stakeholders to the planning table - Bring your subject matter experts to planning sessions. Whether you’re on the service side or client side, each shares responsibility in determining actions and dependencies. 
  3. Paint a picture: produce practical project plans that everyone can understand - Do not leave a planning session with a JPEG of a whiteboard or some other crude summarization. At the end of a planning session, have a decent picture of what your project will look like. The truth is, projects don’t wait for proper consolidation and signoffs. It’s best to get some type of acknowledgement when all stakeholders are together. In these initial planning sessions, produce some form of a flowchart or insightful document that tells a story of how you’ll get from here to your project goals. 
  4. Prepare for and embrace pivots - You might not see pivoting as a product of project design but it might be one of the most important points in this list. The art of successful pivoting isn't just the pivot - it's the room you’ve baked in for the inevitable pivot. Ensure that your plans have dates that include the cost of dealing with the unknown - whether it’s baked into the budget or timeline. 

Closing the Gap

It’s easy to get lost along the way when solid plans aren't determined early on. We’ve become accustomed to this because of the pressures to deliver at unreasonable speeds. Teams can do something about this by applying rigor and attention to their approach from Day 0.

Twigflo can help your project team design impactful project roadmaps with budgets, resourcing, and clearly defined tasks, within a fraction of the time. Our revolutionary mission diagrams will elevate your project designs and make all stakeholders feel informed and comfortable with your team’s approach from Day 0.

Try for free @ Twigflo.com.