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MindGenius Project Planning: Guiding Lights

Recently our friends at MindGenius introduced us to their fantastic new e-book: Mission Controlled - The 5-Step Guide to Planning Projects, and over the coming weeks we'll explore the 5 steps in project planning that will help stack the odds in favour of success!

Step 1 - Understand What You Want to Achieve

One of the most common mistakes we see all around us is people and organisations diving straight into the 'planning and doing' stage of a project, without first taking the time to evaluate and articulate the overall reason for starting in the first place. Whether you're talking about a mission statement, vision, or whatever you want to call it, the important thing is that you take some time to clarify what you want to get to in the end. Only then can you plot an accurate route to achieving it.

MindGenius illustrate their point with the story of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The games were declared a resounding success with 1.2m tickets sold and the project costs finishing £34m under budget. The audit team citied 'a shared vision agreed by the strategic partners allowed partners to work towards a common objective' as one of the main reasons for this success.

MindGenius therefore suggest that we start with the end in mind and ask ourselves simple questions: Why are we starting this project? What do I expect to happen after investing considerable time and effort on this? What does success look like?

The facts speak for themselves. According to a Project Management Institute 2015 report, the primary reason for failures in 30% of cases was due to the 'absence of an adequate vision or goal for the project'.

The terminology may vary, but it boils down to the same thing: a statement that reflects the core of your idea. It is worth spending time to craft this in simple language for all to understand, so that you can win hearts and minds. Equally valuable will be using it as a reference point for decision making as the project progresses. MindGenius call this the 'guiding light' and suggest key elements of it are: the reason, need or rationale for the project, objectives, key requirements, and expected outcome. These should be balanced with clarity about constraints, assumptions, timescales and project resource requirements.

It is easy in a hectic world, with massive workload pressure, to convince ourselves we don't have time to stop at the start and get clear about the end point. However, if we don't have a clear idea of that end point, it is difficult to take a compass bearing on the journey to establish if we are still on course. We therefore risk spending lots of time, energy, and money working very hard, but in the wrong direction!

You can view and download the FREE e-book from MindGenius here: Mission Controlled - The 5-Step Guide to Planning Projects

What are your tips for getting clear understanding at the start of a project? Why not leave your ideas in the comments below!

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Graham leads training and client services at Biggerplate.com, and writes here about mind mapping for businesses, training workshops and facilitation.
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