Systematic planning and monitoring are decisive elements for the effective and successful implementation of any project. That is particularly true for the implementation of complex wastewater management projects that comprise a broad range of interlinked activities and outputs.
Project planning refers to the process of setting up a project for success: establishing the scope and requirements, defining objectives and the steps necessary to attain them. This usually involves - but is not limited to - planning for managing human resources in terms of availability and skills, managing budget elements and costs, defining procurement processes, establishing project documentation, setting up project communication, developing a systematic and active risk management strategy, etc.
The purpose of project monitoring is to gain insights into the project’s progress by comparing actual vs. planned progress and to support effective management, decision making and learning. For project monitoring to be useful, it needs to be set in place right at the beginning and followed-up during the entire project implementation.
See our practical experiences, lessons learned, and recommendations below.
Why you should care
Effective project planning and monitoring is a decisive factor in timely, on-budget and goal-focused delivery of the project and helps you make efficient and effective use of your team.
What really matters: Lessons learned & recommendations
Different levels of planning with different levels of detail
Wastewater management projects are complex and comprise a broad range of interlinked activities and outputs. To maintain an overview and ensure that work can be effectively coordinated, a work plan for the overall project implementation cannot go into the same level of detail as plans for individual activities. For instance, the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) process for a project typically requires more than 30 steps and sub-activities. Yet in the case of ISSRAR, the ESIA was only one out of approximately 50 activities.
To cope with this complexity, ISSRAR developed an overall work plan on the activity level and clearly defined deadlines, intended results, lead responsibilities, and available budgets for each activity. On this basis, the respective activity leaders were responsible for developing their individual work plans to achieve the necessary results on time and within the budget provisions. When taking this approach to planning, it is vitally important that any delays are communicated as soon as possible.
Dealing with issues and conflicts through agile management
Conflicts and sensitivities that emerge on the side of the stakeholders can affect and delay a broad range of project activities, including planned activities in the target community. Dealing with them requires consultation and coordination with the respective stakeholders.
It is therefore imperative that the project team promptly communicates any issues that arise, while maintaining the flexibility to adjust existing plans and improvise as needed. Keep in mind that insituations like this, project staff may not be able to work on their assigned tasks for a while. To avoid project resources being drained by continued salaries, staff can focus on administrative tasks (reporting, etc.), support other project-related activities, or work on other projects for the time being.
Coordination, coordination, and coordination
Given the dynamics of a complex (and usually politically charged) sanitation project, regular adjustments to operational planning are needed. Such adjustments may have implications for a range of team members and their respective activities and work packages.
To avoid duplication of efforts, several coordination mechanisms should be established, including regular team meetings, regular individual progress-monitoring meetings between management and team members, as well as quarterly strategy/planning meetings. In the case of ISSRAR, monthly updates were distributed to summarize the most important developments and lay out their implications for all team members.
All of these mechanisms should be used by the team to regularly update both work plan and timeline to ensure that everybody knows what each team is working on and that interlinked activities are well aligned and coordinated.
Systematic management of project stakeholders
Managing a variety of project stakeholders requires significant effort and a systematic approach to ensure that key actors are adequately consulted and informed.
For this purpose, several measures are helpful, including an institutionalized review of the project’s stakeholder map in every team meeting, the allocation of focal points for key stakeholders, the tracking of follow-up tasks with each stakeholder through regular progress monitoring meetings with team members, as well as allocating sufficient resources to coordinate communication and follow-up with stakeholders.
- Do you apply the right means for planning the overall project implementation and individual activities?
- Do you maintain an overview of progress to effectively coordinate different tasks?
- Are you following an agile project management approach that maintains flexibility to adjust plans, improvise as needed and deal with emerging issues and conflicts?
- Have you established proper coordination mechanisms to adjust operational planning to the complex dynamics sanitation project?
- Have you considered that significant efforts are required to manage project stakeholders and to ensure that key actors are consulted and informed adequately?