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Why You Need to Factor Flexible Planning into Your Projects

If the last 18 months have shown us anything, it’s that we could all do with being a little more prepared for the unexpected.

Our personal and professional lives have been rocked by disruption after disruption as staff members have worked from home, returned to the office, and, in some cases, returned to home working all over again. Meanwhile, campaigns that were painstakingly planned have had to be swiftly revised or even scrapped altogether as businesses scramble to adapt to the new landscape.

Even in more normal times, though, it’s important to build some flexibility into your plans. In sectors like digital marketing, things can change especially quickly. Companies need to be agile in their responses, with project management software that allows them to stay dynamic.

In this article, we’ll explain why flexible planning is so important and give our top tips on how to adapt to an ever-changing world.

Why is flexible planning important?

No one who’s worked in project management would be able to doubt the importance of project planning. Whatever sector your business operates in, some things will always be crucial.

For example, every project needs the following:

  • An overall goal and deadline;
  • A precise schedule showing when individual tasks start and finish;
  • A clear division of tasks among individuals and teams.

However, as anyone who’s worked on any collaborative team project knows, this is never enough. In fact, being too rigid with schedules and deadlines can cause serious problems.

For example, if each team member has a single set of tasks that they and only they must complete, with no room for deviation, having one person falling ill can throw the entire project off-schedule. Small hiccups create cascading problems, and the overall plan crumbles and collapses.

As the common military saying goes, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” By the same token, even the most meticulously plotted out projects can be expected to go off schedule at some point.

This is why it’s so important to be flexible in your plans. Of course, you can’t completely guard against error and happenstance, but you can ensure that you have procedures in place to deal with unforeseen issues as and when they arise.

One way to stay flexible is to use project management software that allows for adaptability. Here at Scoro, our software is designed so that businesses can tailor the software to their needs.

Read on: Six Steps to Creating the Perfect Project Plan

Make time for the unexpected

Think about it: before you leave the house, you tend to give yourself a little time to check you have what you need, right? The same applies to your business – the best way to avoid a crisis is to set aside some time to perform those last-minute checks and solve any problems that might arise.

However, when setting out a project plan, you don’t want to go too far when allowing for flexibility. You’ll still need to organize your project, manage resources, and allocate tasks to the right team members. Too much flexibility can lead to chaos.

To ensure the right degree of flexibility, you should:

  • Establish a hierarchy of plans;
  • Set hard and final deadlines;
  • Build in time and space to adapt.

Flexible planning and hierarchies of plans

The best way to be smart about planning flexibility is to set out your priorities. This can be easily achieved by identifying the following:

  • Mission: Your overall ambitions
  • Goals: What you need to do to achieve your mission
  • Objectives: What you need to do to achieve your goals
  • Tactics: How you will achieve your goals
  • Operations: What you will do now, in detail

While the notion of a mission is most often applied to your company as a whole, it can and should inform your approach to project management. Your mission, after all, is delivering for the client.

As you run down the list, you will have a greater ability to factor in an increased level of flexibility, even if that means abandoning what you have scheduled for today. For example, if another task will enable you to better achieve the project’s goals and fulfill its overall mission, don’t be afraid to make that switch.

Hard deadlines and adaptation

Similarly, you should distinguish between those tasks that should be completed and those that absolutely need to be.

At the planning stage, lay out lists of tasks and identify which are most significant to the overall success of your project, setting “soft” and “hard” deadlines for each task. Be sure to leave enough time between the two to allow for any adjustments you might need to make.

Simultaneously, you will need to be able to adapt to changes. The best way to approach this is by clearly laying out your processes so that team members and clients alike can understand the consequences of making changes.

Make sure you also set hard deadlines for changes, giving yourself a point of no return, beyond which any amendments would derail your overall goals and mission. Communicate these clearly ahead of time to minimize the risk of significant changes that might come too late to be acted upon.

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Choose your team wisely

Of course, project management is not just about deadlines, goals, and tasks – it’s also about managing people, which is why it’s absolutely crucial to pick the right team. It’s not enough to find the right people for the job, but be certain that these individuals can work together, take responsibility for what they do, and find creative solutions for any problems which might arise.

Once you’ve done that, step away and let them work. Try to avoid the following bad management habits:

  1. Taking responsibility for minute issues which would be better solved by other team members.
  2. Finding yourself mediating low-level disputes among team members.
  3. Micromanaging employees’ daily tasks.
  4. Over-discussing how to respond to changes and issues.

Flexible planning is all about building structures that can respond to changes. If you find yourself constantly needing to step in and respond, consider shuffling your teams around.

Note: Picking the right team is more important than ever in the era of remote working. If your company operates a home-working policy, make sure you know how to foster collaboration through it.

Read on: Teamwork and Technology: The Key to Team Collaboration

Stay aware of what’s going on

While you don’t want to be micromanaging the day-to-day operations of each of your team members, you still need to have a clear, bird’s-eye view of the overall project.

Using flexible project management software can help you oversee how each individual on the project is using their time, identify where the pace needs to be picked up, and adjust larger-scale objectives and goals as you go.

Project management software can help you achieve this with features like:

  • Real-time updates on the overall progress of tasks and projects.
  • A central dashboard showing project progress and task lists for individual team members.
  • Updates on budget forecasts and billable hours.

Features like these can help make flexible planning easier to conceive and implement than ever before. However, as with everything in management, having the right tools is crucial to success.

In fast-moving sectors like digital marketing, flexible project planning is essential. But, as noted, it is rare to find any project in any industry that doesn’t face some unforeseen change or issue as it goes on. With these helpful tips, you should be able to build resilience into your business model and ensure that you can stay on course as you navigate an ever-changing business environment.

Scoro is perfectly equipped to deal with these issues and more, so if our advice has piqued your interest, contact us today or book a free trial.