In project planning, there is a tangible difference between what is appropriate and what is a tendency. It is appropriate to catalog deliverables which outline specific and tangible outcomes of the project, to incorporate specific and data-supported measures which detail how the deliverables will operate, and to highlight specific exclusions which protect the project from sliding into no-where-land, over-promising that which was never intended.

It is tendency, however, to plan at 50,000 feet. That’s where this week’s project tip comes into play. This week, batten down the hatches: build a plan that will ensure you secure — and maintain — sponsor approval.

Whether your project is in the capable hands of 2-3 of your closest team mates, or driven by a core team and expanded teams beyond them, you will need to have the right pieces in place to ensure you have executive and sponsor buy-in, and maintain it for the duration of your project.

The Wisdom of the Crowd
You have a team for a reason. They bring the expertise of their representative fields. Use that expertise and have the team define the breakdown of work; resist the urge to do so yourself. At the end of the process, the team will back you when you submit a project plan with the confidence that all necessary work is documented, and you will have more credibility in scope discussions with your sponsor as a result.

Time is On Your Side
You may have been handed your latest project in emergency status, but you must still take the time to plan. In fact, in emergencies, it is even more important to have a plan to fall back on when all else seems to be crashing down around you. Two to three days of focused planning up front will help you build your plan, and provide context of your project within the organization. Your sponsor will be more likely to support your efforts knowing where the project is going from the start.

The Devil in the Details
Best practices in project management dictate the components you should have in your project plan based on the size of the project you are managing. In general, the bigger your project, the more detail is required in the plan. To be safe, always error to the conservative. For example, while a full Work Breakdown Structure may not be recommended for all but medium projects and larger, the visual layout of deliverables and tasks on a small project may help your team make connections about the nature of the work they had not considered previously.

Status: Go
The number one habit you can build into your routine as a project manager is to love and live by your status reports. You build political support and good will by keeping your sponsor informed of your activities on the project. As a result, you will have a team member in your corner as a lobbyist, a driver for you and your team’s success to complete your project on time, on budget, and on scope.

For more, visit cadencemc.com and download the Cadence Responsibility Matrix and Schedule in PDF. They are both key tools in defining work, fighting tendency, and getting your project started right.

Do you know your Sponsor? Join Cadence in San Jose, California for the two-day Project Sponsorship seminar, taught by the experts: Randall Englund and Alfonso Bucero, co-authors of the book, “Project Sponsorship: Achieving Management Commitment for Project Success.” For more, visit cadencemc.com.