Barbara Eden Design
Photography by Michael Firsich
5 Steps to Successful Project Planning
I once had a facility manager of a large organization tell me that his single biggest concern is that his projects complete on-time and under budget. Who doesn’t want that? I often see these two intended results missed due to late starts in the planning process.
Successful projects begin with the end in mind. Often, companies delay major facility decisions because they are too busy reacting to the demands of their business. Lease expiration dates best sneak up on those who are immersed in daily crisis management, rather than long-term planning. Today is the best day to begin planning your next expansion, consolidation or relocation project.
Melissa Lamb Brown, owner of Relocation Strategies, stresses early planning as the key to executing a successful move or renovation project. “Our clients ask us if we will be on-site for the entire move. We don’t need to be there if the move is planned properly. What you put into the planning process, is what you’ll get out of it.”
1. Begin with the end in mind. Start with your lease expiration date or the trigger date for an early lease termination date. If you own your real estate, then begin with employee growth projections (positive or negative). Include strategic initiatives where workplace design changes are helpful and necessary in supporting those objectives. Create a project timeline, including critical dates and begin working backwards from these dates.
2. Meet regularly with the team to document a written plan that includes necessary changes to support the organizations initiatives. Barbara Eden, a freelance commercial designer in Indianapolis, stresses the importance of identifying all of the decision makers, stakeholders and experts from the client’s team and the design team early in the process. Eden explains, “Sometimes there are hidden people. For example, there may be a VP of a separate organization who is not directly involved, but has something to say about the project that will impact her business division. It’s about addressing your politics early on.”
3. Consult with your vendors and other professionals on developing a strategic plan to achieve your goals within the specified time period. Your vendor partners can help you best identify timelines and expenditures that are needed to implement change. “The secret ingredient,” says Brown “is a good team of consultants including the architect, designer and real estate agent.” Other vendors can often include office furniture dealers, general contractors, property managers, moving companies, phone systems providers, IT consulting services and more.
4. Create a flow chart that includes all critical dates and create a budget detailing expenditures connected with the activities on the timeline. Brown adds “My clients want nice, productive, ergonomic workplaces, but it always comes down to what they can afford. The number one concern right now is the budget.”
Eden speaks of the importance of scheduling as she explains the importance of involvement and gaining commitment and buy-in on the schedule from all parties. “Build in flexibility and be sure milestones reflect opportunities for responses from everyone,” says Eden.
5. Review and edit your plans, goals, ideas, timelines and budgets on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis with the team and senior leadership. Work the plan. Manage the process. Hold people accountable to the plan. “The opportunity for perfect synergy from a group meeting or project is not often achieved. Meetings among people are often messy by our own nature as human beings. I have to be ready for that,” says Eden. “The bedrock for successful planning is communication.” Eden stresses the importance of group consensus on the various types and frequency of how and when communication should occur throughout the project.
IUPUI Lockefield Village
Barbara Eden Design
Photography by Michael Firsich
During the course of my career in sales and management in the office furniture industry, commercial floor covering industry and commercial real estate, I have been involved in countless projects where the amount of time and money necessary to successfully complete these projects has been severely underestimated as a result of late or inadequate planning. I am not blaming the individuals leading these projects, but rather emphasizing the importance of investing time on the front end of projects that are on the distant horizon. To this, Eden adds: “Our clients expect flexibility – their own businesses have to adjust to quick changes. This business climate can spur on-the-spot changes to projects and timelines. Having vendor partners like Milliken, who can respond quickly to these project changes, is essential to project success.”
It is never too early to begin researching and planning the next facility project. Brown mentioned working with a large utilities provider in Indiana on a project that included six months of pre-planning meetings. Brown’s client evaluated new construction, purchasing an existing building and remodeling their existing building. “We did all three on this project,” says Brown.
The best time to begin planning a new project or revising plans for existing projects is when senior leadership begins articulating a vision that will require changes in workplace design and/or real estate to support the vision. The timeline and budget will become a road map that provides structure and accountability throughout the process to complete projects on-time and under budget. Engaging a team of experts early in the process will help build a complete road map and provide necessary guidance to arrive at the desired destination.
–Michael Firsich (August 2013)