Your 90-Day Project

Yesterday I wrote about a 21-day project structure. Today I’ll outline how you can use a similar approach for a 90-day project. 

If it is impossible to limit your project to 21 days, your alternative is to complete the project in 90 days. Constraining the project to the smallest possible timeline ensures focus and enough sustained energy to complete the work. 

The 90-Day Project Plan is as follows: 

Week One (Project Definition) 

In the first week of your project, you will define the change that will be made and how the project will be completed. The steps to take are:

Define your project charter. (2 hours) The project charter for a 90-day project is a short (one- or two-page document) that tells the project’s story. .The charter records the following information:

  1. It identifies the person who has authorized this project, and who is paying for it. This person is called the sponsor.
  2. A statement of the change that is being made. 
  3. An overview of the current state, the pictured future state, and the steps that you will take to get from the former to the latter. This could include a project schedule, budget, and scope statement. 
  4. Lists of stakeholders, risks, communication actions, and adoption or transition actions. 

Create Your Project Schedule (10 hours.) The project schedule is important for two reasons: 

  1. It will keep you from overstepping the scope of the project. 
  2. It will give you a monitoring tool that can tell you how on-track you are with your project. 

To create the project schedule, don’t start by figuring out how long each piece of work will take. Start with a ‘work-breakdown-structure.’ A work-breakdown-structure (WBS) defines the amount of work that has to be done. The WBS will tell you how much work needs to be done to create the change you are embarking on. Once you have defined your project scope, you can estimate the amount of time each block will take. This then becomes your schedule. Building the WBS and the schedule should be done in collaboration with all of the project stakeholders. This is not an activity that you would do on your own. 

Create Plans (10 hours) At the beginning of your project, spend the time to define your communication, risk management, spending, and stakeholder management plans.

Week Two and Three (Testing the Solution) 

Now that you have a work breakdown structure, you can get feedback on the solution that the project stakeholders designed. In the same way that you created prototypes and fired bullets, then cannonballs with your 21-day project, you will start with a minimum viable product and see what feedback the stakeholders can give you. 

At the end of these two weeks, you may find that you have to rework your work breakdown structure and project plan based on new ideas and insights you have gained. 

Week Four Through Eleven (Do The Project Work)

After your prototypes and learning, you will have a clearer view of your path to success. Use the following eight weeks for short 2-week ‘sprints’ to get specific work done. Use your project plan and work breakdown structure to ensure that you are on track for your overall project. But each sprint should have the following structure: 

  1. At the beginning of the two weeks, determine the work that will be completed in 10 days. 
  2. Complete the work in 9 days. (Even if you have ten days of work, you should be able to let the stakeholders see the work as early as possible. The more time they have for feedback, the better.)
  3. Have the stakeholders test and give feedback on the delivered work for the last three days of the sprint.

Follow this pattern fanatically. Your success in the first two weeks will feed into the most important tasks to be addressed in the next two weeks. The work breakdown structure and schedule will keep you on track so that you don’t slide off-track and miss your 90-day target.

Week 12 (Project Close)

The last week of the project is similar to the last week of any other project. Your job is to ensure that change the project enables ‘sticks.’

  1. Produce final instructions or documentation. (2 hours)
  2. Formally hand-off operation of the solution to the user. (1 hour.) The project sponsor should be part of this meeting. You can schedule this meeting before the project starts. This ensures that the sponsor is available and motivates you to stay on track with your 21-day project plan. This meeting includes three important components: 
    1. Project hand-off. This is the moment that the change becomes part of operations. 
    2. A monitoring and reporting discussion. Who will report to the project sponsor the benefit of the change that has been made? What will this look like? How often? What format? Who is sent a copy? 
    3. A lessons learned discussion. What could we have done better? What went well? What needs to be done yet? 
  3. Close the project. Celebrate, and move on to the next project. (1 hour.)

A 90-day project structure will help your focus and ensure that everyone stays motivated along the way.