Hobby Farm Dreams Hamburg MN (C) Hobby Farm Dreams LLC
Hobby Farm Dreams...a site dedicated to those who dream to farm

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Project Planning
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Project Planning

Off farm, I work in technology and much of my time is spent planning, leading, running, and supporting projects.  This is one of the areas of my job that I really enjoy.  A typical project for me, is usually between 75 and 300 person hours and typically spans no more than a couple of months.   The biggest difference between a "work" project and a "farm" project is usually the number of human resources involved as my "work" team is much larger than my "farm" team. 

Spring planting is only a few months away and we need to get the garden plan done by the end of February in order to meet our goal of having the garden planted by June 21st.  The project planning effort needed to get the garden planted is no different than adding a new program (app) at work.  Both projects begin with the project plan. 

Establish the Project Goals

I've seen more projects (On Farm and Off Farm) fail for the lack of specific and well defined goals.   Planting the garden is a great example.  On the surface, it seems simple, buy seeds/plants, till the ground, plant, water and you've got a great garden.  That could work, however you will only receive a small portion of the harvest.  Many projects, because they don't have specific well defined goals come close to achieving what you want however, end up just falling short of what you wanted to accomplish. 

When we start a project, we make a list of questions to help us build our specific project goals.  What are you going to plant?  Where are you going to plant?  What can be planted next to each other?  How far apart do you plant?  I do the same thing at work.  Create a list of what, where, when questions and use the answers to build the specific project goals.

Determine Project Milestones

A good project plan should have milestones.  A milestone is a significant event based on your project goals.  In our example of planting a garden the milestones include; Planting Plan, Garden Prep, Planting One, Planting Two, Final Planting.

Set Your Project Schedule

If we only did one project at a time, establishing the project schedule would be easy.  However, for most of us, we balance many projects both on and off farm and establishing dates can be tough.  However, to be successful, it is critical that you create a project schedule.   I typically start with the hardest question "When does this need to be done?"   Off Farm, many people disagree with this approach.  The typical project manager will tell you first estimate the level of effort, look at your resources and then build a project schedule.   Yes, this works, however, in the real world I believe this approach causes projects to take longer than necessary.   Instead, I believe that the better approach is to start with the end date, then put dates to your milestones and finally adjust the project plan as needed.   In the example of planting the garden, if we don't get the garden planted by end of June the growing season in Minnesota is too short to plant many crops.  

Supporting Plans

All projects have supporting plans.   Resource needs (human and capital), Communications and risk management.  The larger the project, the more attention needs to be spent on supporting project plans.  Typically On Farm we focus on resource needs (how much will this cost us) and risk management (what if it rain and we can't plant the garden.)  Off Farm it is critical to establish a communication plan that includes keeping the project team as well as the leadership informed of the project status.

Measure and Review

When you complete your project take the time to review how you did.  Look at your goals and milestone dates.  Did you complete what you set out to do?  What would you do different.  I find this to be the most valuable and hardest step of a project.   Typically once a project is done, you're off on the next project on your list.  My advice is take the time to review how you did.  On Farm, we typically go out for a long dinner about once a month and have found that this is a great time to review our projects.   Off Farm, depending on the project we will have a project review meeting and document the results. 

In summary, project planning is critical for the success of any project - we all know this.  The hard part is actually taking the time to create a project plan.

Written By:  Tom Rivers 2/24/2014

Rivers Critters Ranch, LLC

We own and operate Rivers Critters Ranch, LLC, which was founded in 1997.  As the name suggests the farm belongs to the animals we seem to be just the caretakers.

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This site is dedicated to those of us who have dream to farm.   Inside you will find information, stories, pictures and advice outlining the experiences of a city born family who acted upon the dream to move to the country and  live on a farm.  Join us as we share our adventures! 

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