Projects often involve many individuals, often in different departments and locations, which demands a plan that lays out who is responsible for what activities.

A project without a plan is like a baseball team without a manager. You will end up with a bunch of people all swinging for the proverbial fences when all you really need is a single. Baseball analogy aside, plans are crucial for ensuring the success of a project.

SMART Goals

A good plan starts with setting goals. More specifically, it starts with SMART goals. SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based.

What this means is a plan based on SMART goals is built on a framework with goals that are planned, clear and trackable.

When setting a goal, for instance, be specific about what you want to accomplish. Consider how you will measure success? You cannot just say, for example, that you want to increase sales of a particular product. You must assign a number to it. You want to increase sales by 10%.

Okay, so you have a measurable goal, but when should this be achieved? This is where time is brought into the equation. You want to increase sales of a product by 10% within 4 months.

Is this an achievable goal? Is it relevant to your business model?

When you build a plan based on SMART goals, you create something that holds people, including management, accountable.

Communication

Communication is critical to a plan’s effectiveness, which is why you need to consider the kinds of ways in which you will communicate with people in the project.

A few common communication methods include:

Some project members may have their own preferred method of communication. Millennials, for example, prefer texting to any other form of communication. It is therefore imperative to understand how your team wants to communicate and adjust your plan accordingly.

Flexibility

While projects based on SMART goals are, well, smart, it does not address the need to sometimes change a strategy if something is not working. The ability to be flexible and adjust your plan based on inputs from the external environment is critical.

There are often too many variables that can not be predicted, such as feedback from an external partner or customer. Plans are also built on assumptions that may or may not be true in the long-term.

If new information presents itself or is discovered, it is also SMART to factor that into the proverbial equation. Letting ideas go is often a sign of smart leadership. It is a concept that applies to smart project planning, too.

However you approach a project, the important thing to remember is that specificity in terms of goal-making is critical. If you are unable to formulate in words or numbers the goals to which your project is striving to achieve, there is very little chance for sustainable success.

Take time to plan and be SMART about it.