From creating one page to do lists, to establishing multiple-user project management tools, good planning (or lack of) is the number one reason projects succeed or fail

Good planning helps you step through a project to check its viability and capacity to create the change you really want. Poor planning helps you feel organised without any of the big ticket items really being thought through. Here are our top ten tips for successful planning.

Be as clear and concise about the project as you can. Kow what you want to achieve, who you want to achieve it – and why. This is a good place for a values check in.

Speak to your stakeholders and get them invested early. You may need support internally from your organisation, and externally from key target audiences. Get them onside now.

Get communications/marketing involved early. They can help set the tone for your messaging, and make sure that messaging goes out to the right people at the right time. Build it and they will come is not necessarily the answer – it takes forward planning and drip feeding of information.

Complete a proper business case analysis of your project, including a risk management assessment. You want costs, needs and risks – and to be able to place these against your project and organisation’s stated goals.

Who is really going to do what. Assign responsibilities for every part of the project, including staffing and risk management tasks. Put a mentor or project sponsor in place. Don’t underestimate your resource needs.

Set your bigger goals (outcomes) and break the measurable actions (outputs) required to complete them into smaller chunks. Chunking makes the tasks more manageable. Assign responsibilities and set the reporting mechanisms in place.

Establish a proper tool for reporting – whether it’s a regular WIP (work in progress) meeting with the key players, a checklist of timelines or written reports to your senior management.

Set realistic timelines, and add in some flexibility. For example, allow time for the key stakeholders to approve artwork and any required changes to be made before the printing dates. Work backwards from key dates.

Embed reviewing as part of your reporting process. Evaluate, review, provide meaningful feedback and use it.

Measure against your goals and outputs. Collect data – before and after the project or program. If you cannot measure your goals and outputs then you cannot know if the project has achieved what you wanted. Just finishing the project is not a measure of success.