Your boss has asked you to organise the company annual gathering. The budget is $50,000. The event must be held in the next three months.
You will be responsible for arranging flights and hotels for overseas staff, arranging an off-site venue, booking food and drink including choice of special menus, arranging entertainment, motivational speakers, video and sound system and a hundred other details.
Where do you start? How do you make the plan? How will you ensure it all gets done successfully, on time and within the budget?
The good news is: You don’t need to panic
The event is a ‘Project’ and there is a discipline called Project Management that will help you to set clear objectives for the event, create a realistic plan, and work together with your team to see the plan through to successful completion.
More good news is that completing a project like this is a very satisfying and rewarding challenge that will help you in many areas of your life and career.
Projects have three phases: Initiation, Planning, and Execution. Let’s take a look at each stage to see how we can use some simple techniques to help with planning and managing the proposed event.
1. Initiate the Project – Get off to the best possible start
Your boss obviously wants the event to be a success. You therefore need to find out exactly what he means by ‘success’; otherwise you will never be able to say whether or not the event was actually ‘successful’ once it’s all over. Success in a project usually means:
- Completing the project on time
- Keeping to the allowed budget
- Delivering the project exactly as it was defined Satisfying the needs of key project stakeholders
Go and ask your boss to define ‘success’ for this project. Why is it being held? What is the expected outcome? You really need to know why the event is being held, and what is the justification for spending the $50,000?
Ask what you can do if things start to go wrong during planning and execution. Can you delay the event? Can you spend more than the estimated budget if necessary?
Authorisation to Proceed
Get your authorisation written down, and sent to as many people as possible in the company. You want everyone to know that you have been entrusted to take charge of the project, you have authority to spend the budget, make decisions, and you will be held accountable for the results.
Ask yourself “who is involved in this event” and “who will be affected, or could use their influence over the event” and write their names down. This is a list of project stakeholders and it is your job to manage their expectations.
The Kick-Off Meeting
You need a team to help with running the event, and it’s your job to keep them motivated and performing. A proven tip to get things off to a great start is to hold a kick- off meeting. This is where you can explain to your team members and their managers why we are holding the event, how we will measure ‘success’ and, of course, to motivate everyone at the start.
2. Plan the Project – Create a realistic plan to run your project
Create a Work Breakdown Structure
Get a list of requirements for the event and call your team together to arrange the requirements into groups and then break these down into smaller pieces of work that can be realistically planned and managed. This is a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), and is the foundation for all the planning to come.
Estimate Time and Cost
Use the Work Breakdown Structure to estimate the time and cost to get each piece of work done. Add them all up. Is this within the time and cost limits? If not, then you need to revisit your plan to see if you can save cost or time.
Plan for Risks
What could go wrong? What could go very well? Brainstorm with the team to come up with a list of risks that might affect the project. Think about the impact of a risk if it occurs, and the probability that it might occur, and decide what to do about the risks. You might, for example, arrange to hire a tent if there’s a high risk that it might rain on the day.
Get your plan approved, and we can move on to project execution.
3. Execute the Project – Get the work done
Your job now is to keep your team motivated and committed to your project, and to continue to manage those stakeholder expectations.
Make sure you manage at the right level. You need to know what the team are doing, without micro-managing them. Give regular status reports so that everyone knows how well your team is progressing. Track any issues that need to be fixed before they become problems. Reward people when they perform better than expected, even if the reward is a simple “thank-you”.
After the event has finished, hold a review meeting where you document all the lessons- learned for the benefit of future planning, and you’re done.
Many projects fail because the person in charge doesn’t follow a step-by-step process like the one outlined here. They simply jump in and get going without any plan, and end up fire-fighting all the time and trying to recover from situations that should have been foreseen from the beginning.
Follow these simple steps, and you will be well on the way to running a successful project.
Author: Peter James Gilliland, PMP®,
Project Management Professional, Speaker and Trainer