An Introduction to Project Planning

An Introduction to Project Planning

Aim and audience:
National Societies carry out a wide variety of programs and projects. Experience reveals that a key condition for success is proper planning. This module, therefore, provides an introduction to some practical and straightforward guidelines and tools used in the project planning process. 
Since these guidelines are rather general, their purpose is to guide and stimulate thinking about project design and project planning rather than to provide a precise roadmap about how it is done. 

This module can serve as a reference document for those staff who on occasion must design projects and prepare project proposals and for those who may want to use it during a workshop where participants will be challenged to think creatively and analytically about project design and planning.
Main points:
  • Stages in the project cycle 
  • Elements of project conceptualization 
  • Elements of project planning 
  • Elements of the project proposal 
  • Elements of project monitoring, evaluation, and reporting

The need for project planning:

Planning at some level is basic to all human activity and is really applied common sense. It involves working out what you want to do and how you are going to do it. This applies whether you are preparing a straightforward and simple project or a long-term program. 

Planning involves identifying priority needs and opportunities, discussing and testing the various possible courses of action, choosing the most appropriate one (or ones), agreeing what you can expect to achieve, calculating the human and material resources needed to reach your objectives, anticipating possible problems and getting agreement among all concerned about clear targets and timetables for the work in view.

Planning techniques can address many organizational problems and opportunities, including the institutional development of your National Society and planning of disaster preparedness activities. Whether the priority is capacity building, disaster preparedness, immediate emergency action or new initiatives such as advocacy for vulnerable groups, good planning can increase your chance of success. 

It helps you analyze and assess present needs and future challenges. It gives you the means to test out various possibilities, think through the difficulties that might occur and prepare to overcome them. Good plans always allow for flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

Beneficiaries and project management:

Planning should never start and end in an office or committee meeting. Project planning should never be done alone or in isolation from those who have to implement the plans, or who will benefit from them. 

In fact, the most successful and sustainable projects make an effort to involve those who are to benefit—in all stages of project planning and implementation. It is important to find out what the beneficiaries really think about the problem and about how to address it.

Project planning:

Project planning is done to increase the likelihood that a project will be implemented efficiently, effectively and successfully. Project planning covers the first three stages of "the project management cycle.

This cycle, illustrated below, describes the various stages for conceptualizing, planning, implementing and evaluating a project and recognizes that even when a project is finished, it may provide the starting point for a new one.
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An Introduction to Project Planning
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1. Conceptualise project scope and objectives: Explore the problem, identify priority needs, consider project solutions and evaluate organizational capacity. 

2. Plan the project: Establish the project scope; clarify goals and objectives; choose the most appropriate course of action; identify the inputs and resources required in terms of people, materials, time and money; develop a budget and draft a project plan. 

3. Prepare project proposal: Present the project too important stakeholders, receive their feedback and secure the necessary material, human and financial resources. 

4. Implement the project: Implement the project by following a work-plan and completing pre-determined tasks and activities. Monitor progress and adjust as necessary. 

5. Evaluate the project: Review what has happened, consider the value of what has been achieved and learn from that experience in order to improve future project planning.

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