Category Archives: Project Planning

The Book of the Plan

A short (around two minutes) video blog, introducing the Book of the Plan – a comprehensive document at the heart of your project. It is fully described in my new book, How to Manage a Great Project.

How to Manage a Great Project

Go to the How to Manage a Great Project website

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon.com

How to Manage a Great Project by Mike Clayton

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Generating Project Planning Tools

One of the joys of project management, I tell people, is its potential for creativity. And as someone who loves a good management or leadership model or tool, I am always on the lookout for new ones.

A great way to generate tools is to start with the ‘elements’ of project management.

To download this chart, click it and pop back to the original blog post.

Pick the two elements that you are interested in: ideally the two that are most critical to your particular project or just the ones you want to focus on. Then create a chart of one against the other. Many of these are already standard project planning tools.

The examples in the chart below are not intended to be exhaustive and there remain gasps where I cannot immediately think of a tool. And, of course, this is just a small subset of all of the project elements.

Project Tool Chart

Negotiating Estimates

There are going to be some people who, quite properly, take exception to the title of this blog: ‘the estimate is the estimate – it is not negotiable’.

And that would be a commendable position to defend in my view; but a defence that, in some contexts, would fail. The client has their own position, just as the project planner has theirs. One is based on estimation and the other on expectation, priorities, anticipation and hope. And don’t tell me ‘hope isn’t a strategy’ – no, it’s not. But it is a very real stance many clients take.

Part of your role as project leader is to ensure that your project estimates are robust and contain prudent levels of contingency. Part of your client’s job is to screw the cost and time budget – including contingency – as much as they can… and then expect you to deliver on budget, on target and on time.

So in the real world of managing stakeholders and clients, you need a negotiating strategy that will leave you with a budget or schedule estimate that you can feel confident about. Step one, of course, is to do a robust job of figuring out your best estimate and how much contingency is really prudent, in the light of a thorough evaluation of risks.

Planned Duration or Cost

Planned Duration or Cost

Now consider your negotiating stance and add to this estimate a ‘negotiating contingency’.

Negotiating Duration or Cost

Negotiating Duration or Cost

Now, once you have done that, start your negotiation, but do not allow your first concession to exceed one half of your negotiating contingency. Likewise, never let any subsequent concession exceed half of your remaining negotiating contingency. Simple mathematics will ensure that, at the end of the negotiation, if you follow this strategy, you will always have all of your prudent contingency.

Negotiating Contingency

Negotiating Contingency


This is one of the pragmatic small-medium-sized project tips in
How to Manage a Great Project

Go to the How to Manage a Great Project website

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon.com

How to Manage a Great Project by Mike Clayton

The Four Project Stages

A short (under three minutes) video blog, introducing the simple four stage model for a project lifecycle, fully described in my new book, How to Manage a Great Project.

How to Manage a Great Project

Go to the How to Manage a Great Project website

Buy from Amazon UK Buy from Amazon.com

How to Manage a Great Project by Mike Clayton

Project Planning Poster

Tomorrow is Christmas Day: Merry Crimbo!

As my gift to you, here is another poster for you to download and print, summarising the basic planning process for a moderately complex project.

If you work on the top end of big, complex projects, this will look woefully inadequate (Where’s the earned value analysis, Mike?’). And if you work on small, simple projects, you won’t need all of this. But if you find yourself coming to grips with the basics of making your first projects work, I hope this will be a welcome early gift!

Please feel free to send this link to your friends.

As always, click on the image to download the full pdf file.

Project Planning Poster (c) Mike Clayton, 2013