Tired of cookie-cutter utility projects that seem to be performed without a clear understanding of the target beneficiary? Hate sitting through hours of meetings only to walk away with the same old cookie-cutter plan, cookie-cutter reports, and cookie-cutter implementation?
Alas! There is hope. The following are some pointers on how to improve your utility project effectiveness so as to produce a project plan that reflects the needs of your target beneficiary. Here, we explain some key steps in utility project management and provide an overview of how to improve your utility project plan through effective planning.
Step Zero: Set Goals
In order to successfully carry out a utility project or any other heavy logistical task, it is important that you have a clear set of goals and a realistic plan as to how you’re going to achieve those goals.
In order to do this, there are several steps that must be followed. For strategic planners, the strategic planning cycle is an effective way to ensure that your utility project or other task reflects the needs of those it serves.
Step One: Plan
In step one, which we’ll call the planning stage, it is important that you determine which methods will be used to gather information. This can range from in-field observation and direct conversations with community members to desk research using secondary sources, such as previous project documents.
This step should be considered a fact-finding mission where planners search for the useful information they might use later on in the project.
Step Two: Analyze
After you’ve gathered information, it’s important to form hypotheses about what you have learned. Next, it is time to collect data so that your hypotheses can be tested and refuted, or supported by available facts. This step of the planning cycle is called the analysis stage.
During this stage, it’s important to take into account all relevant data, no matter how it may contradict your initial hypotheses. If all of your data points are valid, then you can move on to the next step (decision-making).
Step Three: Decide
Once you’ve gathered and analyzed information, it’s important to make decisions about how to proceed with the task at hand. These decisions should be based on your analysis of information gathered during the previous steps.
To illustrate this point, consider the following example. Let’s pretend you’re conducting a utility project in the case study country of Laos. Your initial hypotheses are that several villages lack access to electricity and phone lines, but have easy access to internet service.
Based on your research, that hypothesis seems to be correct. You can then move to the next step of decision-making.
Decision-making is the point where you choose which information gathered during the planning stages will be used in your project and which will not. This stage is where you make informed decisions about what to do with all of this data and how it should be acted upon in order to achieve the desired project outcomes. For example, you may have found that your village lacks electricity or something else.
During the decision-making stage, you are then able to weigh all the available information before deciding how to proceed. Based on this data, you can determine if it would be most effective to focus on gaining access to electricity in order to provide improved services for the community, or if internet access would meet the needs of the people.
Step Four: Take Action
The final step of the planning cycle is to take action. This stage is where you take all of your decision-making information and put it into practice in order to achieve successful project outcomes.
For example, if you’ve decided that electricity is best suited for your project, then you can work with engineers or an electric company to install the needed infrastructure.
Step Five: Control
After your project has been completed, it is important that you keep tabs on its progress. Control is the sixth and final step of the planning cycle where you continue to monitor performance against goals and expectations.
For example, if after your project has been completed, you find those power outages are still common. At this point, it would be important to compare your initial decision-making and implementation to see if there’s a problem with the plans or their execution. If problems like these arise, then the control stage is where they can be addressed.
This article is basically talking about the steps that need to be taken when planning a project. It can be used by planners trying to design infrastructure, business owners looking for ways to make themselves more efficient.