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Home » Project Management

Project Planning: Creating a Strawman Plan

Submitted by James Higginbotham on May 24, 2006 – 5:36 pm2 Comments

It may be early in the life of your church project, but often you have to provide a timeline for a project to your stakeholders. This early timeline is sometimes called a strawman project plan, since it “stands in” for the real project plan and is designed to be easily “knocked down” by something more substantial later. A strawman plan sometimes starts as a “blind stab in the dark”, as it is generated early to get a project started and to elicit comments from other stakeholders. To generate a strawman plan:

  1. Select a start or end date: if a target end date is required, from from the end backward, otherwise select a feasible starting date in the future
  2. Add high-level tasks to each milestone and estimate the work of each task
  3. Mark the estimated time for each milestone to be fully completed given the estimates of the high-level tasks
  4. Document your assumptions about how you arrived at these dates (number of people, budget, skillsets, requirements, etc) and any risks that could jeopardize your project
  5. Verify that the timeline matches external needs and timelines and that it is feasible

With your new strawman plan, you can begin to ask the key questions at this stage:

  1. Do we have enough time to finish this project? If not, what part of the iron triangle needs to change?
  2. Do all stakeholders agree that this strawman is valid based on current assumptions? If not, document the changes and revise the strawman plan
  3. Have you prayerfully considered if this project should continue? Often, God will use this phase of the exercise to steer you in another direction or show you that the timing isn’t right

These questions need to be asked of yourself, and during a meeting with your stakeholders, as a go/no go decision is made for your project. Keep in mind that multiple meetings may be required, as you may have to perform more research to answer any outstanding questions raised by your stakeholders. Place enough time in your strawman plan that you can be certain that it is feasible based on what you know now and the assumptions you have documented. Things change, but finger pointing can be avoided by setting the proper expectations during the life of the project – this plan is the starting point for these expectations!

Finally, remember that for your project to be successful, you need to have buy-in from your volunteer team as well. This plan will be the primary communication device for your team of staff and volunteers – it is a living plan that will be constantly updated as you learn more. Use this plan as a communication tool, update it often, revisit your assumptions and risks, and ensure you always have buy-in from your team. In the end, you will have done a great job of managing your team and your stakeholders and have a great chance of being successful!

[tags]project management, timelines, project plans[/tags]

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