There is a wide range of proven planning tools that can be used to support the project management process and provide the means to monitor and review project plans over time.

Here I will outline five of the most useful planning Digital Prämie Berlin tools for health and social care projects.

Plus, minus and interesting

This is a simple technique developed by Edward De Bono for “weighing the pros and cons” of a decision. It’s all about listing the pluses of a plan in one column, the minuses in a second column, and any points of interest in the third column—these can include any implications or uncertainties you want to consider.

Each point is then assigned a positive or negative score. For example, if you, as a manager, decide to establish a new internal training program, a plus point for this plan could be “Existing training does not meet employee needs” and you could rate that as a +4. A minus could be “limited resources to commission more or better quality training” and could be rated -4. Points of interest could include “recent complaints from employees about current training” with a score of +2 or “it’s a big job to take on” with a score of -3.

All awarded points are then added up. If the total is on the + side you can proceed, if it is on the – side caution is advised.

Force Field Analysis – understanding the pressures for and against change

Force field analysis is another approach to looking at all the forces for and against a decision, or the pros and cons. Its particular value is that it helps you develop a strategy to support your project. This means you can strengthen those forces that support a particular course of action and reduce the influence of opposing forces.

How to use this tool:

  1. In the middle of a piece of paper, describe your plan or proposed change
  2. List all forces for change in a column on the left side of the paper and all forces against change in a column on the right
  3. Assign each force a score from 1 (weak) to 5 (strong).

Using the same example described above, a force for change might be “Opportunity to involve staff in reviewing and developing a new program” with a score of 3. A force against change could be “Shortage of staff makes it difficult to allocate time for evaluation” with a score of 5.

Once you have a visual picture of the forces being used for and against your project, add up the scores to decide whether to proceed. Then you can consider how to tip the balance in your favor and increase the likelihood of success.

There are two options for action in this phase:

  • reduce the strength of the forces opposing the project, or
  • increase the forces in favor of the plan

Often the best solution is the first option; Attempting to push through change independently of opposing factors can create its own problems. People often resist change all the more if they feel forced by it.

Gantt charts

Gantt charts are probably the most well-known project management tools, and they provide a clear visual picture of a project’s planning and progress.

First, identify any tasks that need to be done, activities that need to be completed, resources that need to be found. A simple example is setting up a newsletter. The list of tasks would include:

  • plan overall goals
  • Identify contributors
  • design draft
  • Find advertising/sponsorship

Second, create a timeline for the estimated duration of the project (12 weeks in this case) and then give each activity a separate line. “Overall Goal Planning” can take two weeks to complete, so the line is drawn to represent this.

You can color-code the timelines as blocks to indicate the nature of the activity, assign responsibility to different team members, or review achievements. And you can view the cost in a column at the bottom of the timeline for each activity.

However, there are limitations, especially when a project becomes more complex. In practice, you often can’t do one task at a time, or even one at a time. Some activities Digital Prämie Berlin need to take place simultaneously, or to use the technical term ‘parallel’. Some tasks must be started before others and certain tasks must be completed before others can start – these are called “dependencies”.

Critical Path Analysis

This planning tool takes these factors into account to give you a more complex visual picture. Critical path analysis is a very logical and effective way of planning and managing projects where multiple things need to be done simultaneously to get to the next stage. It shows in diagram form what to do and when. You can expand the chart to reflect the scope of your project and apply timescales and costs to each activity and resource if needed.

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