Project / Task Planning 101

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Aniket Deolikar
Consultant, India

Project / Task Planning 101

Being a manager, in most cases, you would want your employees to come up with a plan for meeting their goal. In some cases, like where goals are really important and challenging, or when the employee is new to project planning, you may have to work together with him/her and follow the following steps to set, plan and work towards achieving the goal(s):
  1. DETERMINE THE TASKS NEEDED TO ACHIEVE THE GOAL: In the first step you find out which are the crucial components of the goal / objectives and divide it into more specific objectives and tasks. If some of the divided tasks seem too large given the resources, then divide them further into smaller parts. Some of the tasks might be completed simultaneously while some of the tasks might be sequential. So divide the tasks accordingly and make a list of all the tasks required. This will make the process more systematic and can make complex projects into manageable ones.
  2. PLAN ON THE TIMING OF EACH TASK: Describe the desired result of each of the tasks and set deadlines for the task. You should specify when a task will start and when it should end. You can use a Gantt chart to do the same where bar graphs are used to compare the task start and end time and it gives an overview of the overall duration of the project. You can mark important checkpoints along the timeline of a Gantt chart.
    You also have to keep some buffers between some critical tasks, if some uncertainty happens such as if a task moves up or is a task is running late because of a sudden bottleneck then you have to make sure that your employees adapt to the changes.
  3. GATHER ALL THE RESOURCES NEEDED TO COMPLETE EACH TASK: When people underestimate the resources and the time to complete a task, that is the time when most of the projects miss the deadline. So once you have decided the time allotted to the task, you have to access what resources you are going to need to complete that task in the allotted time. Sometimes if a task needs to be completed ahead of the timeline then you might want to allot more resources to the employee. So you have to keep in mind the buffer needed for the same.
  4. GET IT ON PAPER: Once you and your employee have decided the goal and have a detailed plan for the execution of the same, then document your findings and conclusions. The document should include the following points
    • Date of the planning meeting
    • Key points brought up during the meeting
    • Goals of the employee for the next review period
    • Description of the resources needed for completing the task
    • Timeline of the tasks and follow up meetings
  5. FOLLOW UP AND REASSESS THE GOALS: Performance management is an ongoing process so you have to regularly check the progress which is being done by your employees. Also if any additional needs are there to be completed you can add to the project and rethink a few of the points. It will also be easy for you to keep track of the progress made by your direct report. How frequently you have to follow-up depends on you and how many employees are working under you, but you keep in mind that important tasks are followed up more frequently than normal tasks.
Sources:
Heidi Grant, "Get Your Team to Do What It Says It's Going to Do," HBR, May 2014.
Peter Cappelli and Anna Tavis, "The Performance Management Revolution," HBR, October 2016

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