Relationship Planning

This is the tenth in a series of 12 blogs that provide insight and tips on managing client relationships.  In this blog, we’ll discuss issues and solutions associated with relationship planning.

Now What?

“The problem with Heaven is what you have to do to get there.”   – Unknown

This is not about project planning.  It’s about making project planning successful.

You may also have heard the phrase “It is much easier to do than it is to plan to do.”  Our jobs and lives are so full that we feel compelled to keep accomplishing and just can’t find the time to think ahead and get organized.  We get caught reacting to fires rather than proactively installing the sprinklers.  In projects, it isn’t just important to create a solid plan, it is imperative.

By now you have:

  • Diagnosed the current situation
  • Defined the best solution for your client
  • Received approval from key stakeholders

Now it’s time to turn your attention to designing a workable, attainable implementation plan.  A little forethought and planning will go a long way to avoid the pitfalls that accompany a “ready-fire-aim” approach to implementation.

The actual planning process is really quite straightforward.  It simply describes the following considerations:

  • What actions need to occur?
  • When will each action be started/completed?
  • Who will be responsible for each action:
  • How much will it all cost?

Everyone On-Board

The real challenge in defining and holding to a plan is “keeping all the bayonets pointed outside the fort” during the process.  Since most project teams are cross-functional in their membership make-up, there may be as many planning models in the team as there are members.  For instance, Information technology people may be familiar with a planning model driven by a sophisticated software program, whereas marketing people are more comfortable with hard copy calendars and spreadsheet forecasts.

The nature of an interdisciplinary team of people with diverse skills and interests presents you with a unique challenge as a relationship manager.  this is the “formation stage” of team performance, and you must be prepared to hear all the input, involve all the players, and facilitate agreement on a planning process.

Pursue these steps with your team and the client:

  • Agree that planning is key to project success
  • Commit to a single planning model that everyone can use
  • Apply the model consistently throughout the project life cycle

Below are five phrases which could define project outcomes in just about any organization. Experience with numerous project teams combined with survey input from hundreds of project professionals suggest that the most influential factor affecting project success is shared ownership of the plan and teamwork to implement it.

Bottom line – your role is to pull the project off – on time, under budget, and exceeding client expectations.  This can only be accomplished by carefully managing relationships, in the team and among the stakeholders, while keeping the project on track and up to speed.


Project Success Continuum

Relationship Planning

Don’t waste time constructing a plan until you have thoroughly explored the needs and expectations of your stakeholders.  We have emphasized the value of managing relationships with your stakeholders in previous stages, but it is even more critical here.  If an important stakeholder hears about your project from anyone other than you, or at any time after planning has begun, you have one strike against you.

If a key stakeholder is taken by surprise, gets angry, or perhaps worst case, feels embarrassed by being out of the loop, the relationship that will be tested is with you.  It is a test you don’t want to take.

When the plan takes shape, it will include firm requirements for people and resources.  This requires a budget, and that leads to spending.  And when money starts getting spent, stakeholders pay close attention.

To remain on-board with you, they will need information in advance.  Managing stakeholder information needs is a critical part of relationship management.

Some stakeholders are part of the core team and participate in every step of the planning process.  Other stakeholders function on the project perimeter, and have roles as decision makers or influencers.

Regardless of their level of relationship to the planning process, all stakeholders must be consulted before the planning process begins.



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