How to Organize for a Major Project


Planning can be the most important stage of a major project. Organizing the project ahead of time helps ensure that all the necessary tasks will be completed and it makes it easier to meet all the project goals without going over budget or beyond the timetable. It also makes the project less stressful for both leaders and team members, since everyone goes in knowing what is expected of them.

  • Define the goal of the project. The goal should encompass everything that needs to be done without enumerating the specific tasks in too much detail. For example, a project goal might be "To organize the house and develop and implement a system to keep it organized" or "To bring appliance x from concept to production." Set a timetable and budget for the project. Revisit the timetable and budget as you organize the project to ensure these things still make sense.

  • Divide the project into the major steps or components. In some projects, the steps may proceed in a linear fashion with one coming after the other, whereas in others, each step may be assigned to a different team so that all parts of the project can proceed at the same time. For the house organization project, the major steps might be evaluating what you need need, devising an organizational system and implementing the system. For the appliance project, the steps would include designing a prototype, doing market research, arranging for production and promoting the product. If it is helpful, give each part of the project a percentage designating approximately how much time or funding it needs so that all the percentages add up to the total cost or total workload.

  • Divide up the major steps into smaller steps if it is useful. If each step is small enough that it can be handled by a single group, skip this step.

  • Organize groups and define the group structure. For a house project, assign one or two family members to each step. For a large, organizational project, appoint team leaders and members, each with a particular task. Alternately, the group as a whole can work through the steps sequentially.

  • Divide up the individual tasks into concrete tasks within a group. For example, the step "design a prototype" for an appliance would involve steps such as "design the drive system" "design the electronics" and "design a chassis." For the home organization project, "evaluate organizational needs" would include steps such as "count the number of books stacked on the floor and calculate how big a bookshelf is needed" and "research tool racks for the garage." If the project has sequential steps, it may be more helpful to organize each step as you get to it, rather than organizing them all at the beginning.

  • Organize meetings and deadlines within each individual group and for the project as a whole. For a simple project, it may work best to just have everyone meet together once a week. For a complicated project involving a lot of people, daily or weekly team meetings combined with regular meetings between the team leaders may be the best way to keep everyone on track.

Tips & Warnings

  • Don't organize just to organize. Breaking down tasks into extremely minute steps can be counterproductive, since it wastes time and makes checking in and documenting the project more work.

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