Why do we need project planning for the small tasks that an Academy school undertakes each year, each term, or even each week? Do we really need such a depth of planning to ensure success?
The simple answer is, yes.
When things go right, hindsight will show us that planning was unnecessary, that things just happened at the right place and the right time, and everything was brought to a successful conclusion. But hindsight tells only a fraction of the story, the one path that was actually taken rather than all the paths that could have been taken. When things go wrong, hindsight can help us to see where they went wrong; but it is not hindsight that will stop things going wrong next time, it is planning.
It is when things go wrong that the true effect of a “small” task is realised. When it goes wrong, a task is not measured in terms of the work needed but in terms of the consequences it produces; and most communication projects have wide-ranging consequences. A prospectus, for instance, is not just a statement about what the Academy offers, it is critically and comparatively reviewed by prospective students and parents, by other schools, by members of the general public (who may have specific reasons for publicising the errors), and by Ofsted. Careers can rest on the standard of publications and the public image of the Academy that they project.
A Project-based Approach
A project-based approach to tasks has many advantages:
· It establishes a plan against which the ongoing success of the project can be judged. Problems can be identified and dealt with early, before they turn into crises.
· It allows the plan to evolve in a controlled way. Planning gives you a path to follow, but if you stray from the path you are lost; project planning is about ensuring the rest of the journey always starts from where you are now, and not where you should be now.
· It involves everyone with a stake in the project, and helps them to understand that their contribution has to be timely and accurate to ensure good delivery.
· It helps people to remember that thinking must precede doing: thinking after doing leads to wasted effort, sudden design changes, and it increases the risks of failure.
· A planned project is much more likely to achieve success than an ad hoc task-driven approach.
When looking at the projects given on this website, remember that they have been set out to encourage good practice. It may well be that your Academy’s practices will need adjustments to the plan set out. Every adjustment should be treated as a possible risk, but by identifying the risks you can often avoid them.
If there is a particular project that you would like to see listed here, contact me at the email address above, and I will do my best to produce an appropriate project plan.
A successful project requires that everyone knows their role and responsibilities. In particular, four roles need to be undertaken:
· PROJECT OWNER: this is the person who reports to the Principal and Governors on the success or failure of a project. It is usually a member of the Senior Leadership team. In the case of large or high-profile projects, it will be the Principal themself.
· PROJECT MANAGER: this is the person who makes decisions on content, and who makes sure the project stays on track. The Project Manager makes sure the stakeholders deliver the content they are responsible for.
· PROJECT LEADER: this is the person who coordinates all the inputs needed for the project, chases stakeholders for content, and ensures the final product is delivered. The Project Leader keeps the Project Manager informed of progress and alerts them to any problems.
· STAKEHOLDER: Stakeholders are responsible for one part of the project, usually a piece of written content. Their job is to deliver what is required when it is required.
In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
I have learned from my mistakes, and I am sure I can repeat them exactly.
Men often oppose a thing merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike.