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Project planning: The 5 steps to successful projects

Tim Lauenroth

“Simple, clear purpose and principles give rise to complex and intelligent behaviour. Complex rules and regulations give rise to simple and stupid behavior”

Dee Hock, former CEO of Visa credit card association

In today’s blog, we’ll give you 5 steps to help you practicing project planning more easily and efficiently. To illustrate the five steps, let’s take the example of creating a website. 

1st – Purpose: Why? 

The first and most important phase in project planning is to answer the question: Why am I doing this?   

Why questions have several advantages: Criteria for success are defined or decisions can be made faster. The motivation, as well as the focus of those involved is higher, and the options are greater. When building a website, for example, this could be to increase the visibility of the company, to attract new customers or to build an online store as an additional pillar. 

2nd – Vision: What? 

The second step is the vision. How would the project look, feel, sound, when it’s successfully running? In other words, answering the question what instead of why? 

What will this project or situation really be like when it successfully appears in the world? To stay with the example of building a new website, you answer the question how the new site should look like to require the most customers.  

Here you answer the question:  

What does the world look like, when the project is successfully implemented? In the case of a new website, for example, this could be the vision of an order generated by the newly launched website or the acquisition of a new client. 

3rd – Brainstorming: How? 

What happens to your brain automatically when it visualizes what something will look like in the future? It recognizes dissonances between the present and the future. From this, you automatically ask yourself important questions how you could close the gap between where you are at the moment and where you want to be. Phase three is about the “how”. In the beginning the ideas of brainstorming are mostly unstructured thoughts and ideas that come up and are collected. The brainstorming thoughts can be illustrated by mind mapping, for example.  

Let’s say, you have to design the content of the company’s new website. 

Questions like

  • What does our target customer look like? What are his or her interests?  
  • What content do we want to show on our website?  
  • What graphics can be integrated to make the design look high-end?  

could be answered.

All answers or ideas can be collected in a mind map. Most of the time, when you write down your thoughts, you will remember other important things that would otherwise go unnoticed. Important rules when brainstorming is not to judge others’ ideas, be clear that this is not about quality but quantity of ideas. Analyzing and filtering is counterproductive when creating a mind map and therefore only done afterwards.  

4th – Organizing 

Following the brainstorming session, when all the ideas have been put on paper, the thoughts and ideas have to be put into a logical order. Most of the time, mindmapping reveals points that are related to each other, appear several times or are similar in structure. It helps to find categories and subcategories as well as prioritizing the ideas. This helps to filter out the most important elements that will ensure the success of the website. When creating a website, the choice of design, content, user navigation, or short duration of loading times are high priorities. Less important for the beginning is, for example, the choice of line spacing for the texts on the page.  

5th – Identifying next actions 

Finally, the last step is to make decisions that will get the project rolling. Lists that define and clarify which projects will be addressed soon and what the next action is for each project. In the case of the website, considering the content for each section to be the next action or hiring a programmer who can develop the website for you. In doing so, it is most effective to assign responsibilities and set times by which items must be completed.  

You will find out, that if you are aware of these phases, it will be much easier for you to plan and successfully implement projects.  

Feel free to test timeghost 

In addition to the five phases, our time tracking tool Timeghost offers you the possibility to check your projects at any time to see if you are on the right track to reach your goal. Thereby we give you an overview of the times you use for your project. Of course, these can also be projects for clients.  

You can register with your Microsoft 365 account at timeghost and test the software 14 days for free.   

Try it yourself 

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