New Year, New Projects, New Directions = a New Plan
You are very likely in the process of planning where your company is headed next year. If not, it’s time to get started. Looking ahead is an important component of good leadership and project management. At the highest level, it is determining goals and objectives for the organization. These goals are translated into business unit priorities for each team through estimating planned projects, identifying process changes, and determining the people and resource needs to deliver on the plan. If your organization has a project management office (PMO), this work may be led by them. If not, you will need to determine the team members, dollars, and technology your budget can accommodate – as well as how to maximize productivity to achieve your goals in the coming year. Done well, you will deliver the best utilization, prioritization, and budget plan your team has experienced.
Is this where you are right now? Good! With the holiday season upon us, there are precious few weeks to get this important work done. Changes take time, require collaboration across teams, and benefit from the contributions and buy-in of many. If you start too late, you may miss key details and not have enough time to engage colleagues then deliver a plan that has been sufficiently vetted and tested.
What do you need to consider?
1. Advancing Your Mission
The first consideration as you face a new year with new planning, new enthusiasm, and new resolutions is the mission for your business. While the overall mission will remain constant, the work required to advance progress towards achieving the mission is likely to shift and change because of industry and marketplace trends. Your job is to keep the team focused on the plan and delivering on objectives. To prioritize projects for the year, here are several litmus test questions you’ll need to answer:
- Will this project help us make positive steps toward where we want to be?
- Can we support this project with the technology we have?
- Is this project a fit for our budget and our spending plans?
- And, perhaps most important, do we have the right people for this project?
You can say “yes” until you’re blue in the face to the first three questions, but if you don’t have the right project team members available now, it could take you six days to six months (or more!) to find the right people. As we emerge from the pandemic, the talent marketplace is recovering quickly so staffing your team is going to be harder in the coming year than it has probably ever been. As a rule of thumb: if you don’t have the right team now to take on a given project, don’t assume you will anytime soon. Make plans now to resource your team to deliver on critical work planned for the new year. And importantly, ensure your planning and project management technology supports effective resource management. Many tools do not consider resource availability and fail altogether at estimating work. Choose one that does this well and the efficacy of your planning will improve materially.
2. Accurately Estimating Time
If you want to make changes, then first ask yourself, do I have enough time? Can I have the right staff in place in time to support the effort or do I need to invest in reorganizing and/or reskilling? Answering these questions with confidence requires resource leveling and an accurate estimation of work to be done. The right way to do this is by establishing ranged estimates that reflect the real-world possibilities that some work will take more or less time to complete, and circumstances will emerge that impact anticipated productivity of those responsible for the work. Ranged estimates involve application of best case/worst case scenarios and how much effort you think it will take to complete each project and tasks underlying that project. An investment in resource leveling and in estimating time required for work will deliver a plan you can trust. Confidence in your plan will also help to secure a budget for needed technology solutions or additional talent necessary to achieve your organization’s mission.
3. Prioritizing Your Team’s Work
Effective planning will set your team up to be adaptable as priorities change throughout the year. Project prioritization is about focus – when to start work and where to allocate which team members. Let’s face it, all teams are resource constrained. Careful consideration of resource availability and applying your talent to the most important work will ensure your team is making the best use of their time and skill sets.
Do your people know what to work on each day? Do they suffer from the distraction of morning emails, drawing their attention to what looks urgent and away from what is most important? If so, you are not alone. In fact only 52% of executives say their employees’ time allocation matches company priorities.
Prioritization is critical work, but it doesn’t need to be hard. To ensure the right people are working on the right things at the right time, I’d recommend reading more about prioritizing. With some effort and application of these ideas, you will emerge stronger than before. Win – win.
Planning and positioning your team to focus on the right work in the new year is never easy. But it can be fun and will be rewarding as you achieve the success I know is within your grasp. As you consider the degree of planning, process and technology changes that may be necessary, I implore you to look over the past year and consider your level of success. Did you deliver on promises? Were projects consistently completed on time? Were customers satisfied? Were team members productive and proud of work completed? Is there room for improvement in one, or all these areas?? The last thing you want to do is be status quo or stagnant. Improve your game! Enhance your team’s productivity! Deliver higher quality and consistent on-time performance! Leverage the best tech that enables ranged estimation, effective prioritization and resource management and your team will perform to its true potential.
What are you planning for the new year? If you aren’t planning yet, then start now. It isn’t too late to pursue an improved process with a technology solution that will enable confident planning and higher performance. Tell us where you are, where you’re going, and what changes you see for your organization as you prepare for the upcoming year. And cheers to a successful 2022!
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience. He has been named the “#1 Provider of Project Management Content in the World” with over 7,000 published articles, eBooks, white papers, and videos. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV.