In theory, planners should be excellent project managers – but that doesn’t mean it’s always so. What does it take to run a planning project effectively
Organisation, forethought, awareness of context, ability to see where resources are needed – these are qualities integral to both planners and project managers. So it should be straightforward for planners to transfer their skills to project management as their responsibilities grow, shouldn’t it?
Not necessarily. For, although you may have many of the skills required to be a successful project manager, it pays to understand the additional skills needed. These include people management, the capacity to assess risk and to evaluate technology, budget management, and adaptability. It also helps to have an organised framework in which to apply these skills.
An orderly approach
All approaches to project management will stress the importance of breaking the work into more manageable parts. This will begin by separating the entire project into stages, such as:
- Stage 1: Set parameters
- Stage 2: Develop the project plan
- Stage 3: Implement
- Stage 4: Review
The number and type of these stages will vary according to the kind of project you’re managing and the methodology you use. For example, Prince2, devised by the UK Civil Service, adopts seven stages from starting up a project to closing it. It provides a detailed framework for thorough higher-level management of complex projects, and is ideal for the kind of large-scale strategic planning undertaken by TAYplan, the strategic development planning authority for the city regions of Dundee and Perth.
Pam Ewen, formerly strategic development manager of TAYplan, describes Prince2 as “essential” and her description of the TAYplan approach to project management illustrates why she felt the need for such a tool.
“At project inception a four-year project plan would be agreed by the board and joint committee, and this would run to project completion,” she says. “Progress was monitored against this; the project plan timescales were fixed and the reporting on this dealt with any deviations. Project task plans were prepared well ahead of each key stage, drilling into the detail.
“Where required, task delegation notes were issued to provide effective delegation,” she continues. “Risk planning was reported regularly to the board. Resource planning was undertaken nine months ahead of key stages. Meeting dates were set 12 to 18 months in advance aligned with the project task plans. Once this was done once, it provided a platform for the next TAYplan.”
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