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When was the last time you actually created a Project Management Plan? (Not just a schedule?)

When was the last time you actually created a Project Management Plan (PM Plan) and not just a schedule? The Project Management Body Of Knowledge 4th Ed. definition;

Project Management Plan [Output/Input]. A formal, approved document that defines how the project is executed, monitored, and controlled.  It may be a summary or detailed and may be composed of one or more subsidiary management plans and other planning documents.

Formal usually means written.  Approved, should be at least by two or more otherwise it’s not approved.  You just become both author and approver. 

I’ve posted one example of a plan I created for a major project.  Refer to Fig. 1 Project Management Plan example.  This was a major corporate initiative and a large complicated project with 150 people onboard at its peak running across several business units and multiple sites in four states across the United States and a budget of over 20 million dollars. I’ve only shown the Table Of Contents to give you an idea what can go into a PM Plan.  If you work for a large company they may have a template or form to use.  Many of the large companies I’ve worked for had no formal PM Plan procedures.  The Project Manager would put together a schedule and that would become the “Plan.” There would be a business feasibility study (most of the time) but not much in the way of an over arching plan or how it fit into the company’s strategy.  From the example you can see that I showed from the top down how this project fit into the companies goals and how it fit into the site goals.  Overall this PM Plan example was a 57 page document and DID NOT INCLUDE ONE SCHEDULE OR GANTT CHART!  The example described key aspects that would be put into the Work Breakdown Structure and schedules but in itself did not contain a schedule. 

Fig. 1 Project Management Plan example for a large project, 150+ people.

Fig. 1 Project Management Plan example for a large project, 150+ people.

Key aspects of this plan were communication and organization.  Meetings were held every day. Two days of individual team meetings, then core team, next the main site leadership meeting, and finally wrapped up with a corporate meeting with VPs.  So it went week after week.  It was imperative that we structured the who, what, and when of each of these meetings.  The escalation process followed. If a team couldn’t make the decision it went to the core team, next site leadership then up to the VPs if no decision was forth coming.  

Organization was also key.  With 150 individual employees and contractors it was imperative that everyone knew who was on what subteam and who the contacts were for the many offsite resources.  One lesson learned during the project is to make sure you have the NAMES of all individuals that are assigned to your project.  In many cases the functional manager assured us we would have support so in the organization chart I added the functional group name, e.g. R&D Engineer or Quality Engineer.  When it came time to interface with these individuals it took over one week to determine WHO was assigned and accountable.

Peruse this Table Of Contents and see if there are areas you could/should capture in writing.  Are there areas that standout because they were not written down before, then they changed during execution resulting in major negative affects on your project?   If you only write down your current understanding of these items and share them with management or other team members you’re bound to generate discussion and feedback which should result in a better plan.   Who are you going to talk to for expert advice?  Are there outside influences?

Remember not to get bogged down in style or formatting.  It’s more important that you think about each of the items in the Table of Contents and even if there is nothing appropriate write “Not Applicable” it will show that at least you gave it consideration.

While this may seem a bit much for smaller projects my question would be “How much are you willing to do to improve your probability of success?”


SCRAPP™ Method or How To Integrate Your Schedule

  1.  Print out your project schedule as a NETWORK DIAGRAM.  Depending on the size of your project, this may take one “A” size sheet (8 1/2″ x 11″) or several “E” size sheets (34″ x 44″) .  Don’t be afraid of the amount of paper used.  I’ve literally covered all the walls in a large conference room using this method.  It’s money well spent.   Make sure the settings on your project software shows discrete lines between tasks. This usually means setting the software so it draws a straight line from task to task.  This is so you can trace each predecessor and successor tasks.  If it is set to only draw horizontal and vertical lines the lines will tend to run together and you’ll lose traceability.
  2. Write on each of SIX large sheets of paper (e.g. those 2 ft x 3 ft easel size Post-it® Notes) one of the following headers:  STRATEGY, CONSTRAINT, RISK, ASSUMPTION, PROBLEM (known problems), and PARKING LOT (issues to be resolved but need more info or are outside of project scope but affect the project).
  3. Begin your analysis by choosing and reviewing a starting task, a task with no predecessors. Using a yellow highlighter and a red pen, if the information is correct, highlight it in yellow to show that information has been reviewed and is correct.  Use the red pen for any corrections.  What you review for each task will be dependant upon the information you’ve chosen to show in your printout for each task , e.g. task name, resources, start date, etc.  Your project software should allow you to change this information.  As a minimum I would recommend Task Name, Resource Name, Duration and effort.  Start and finish dates are not important at this point as they will be driven by the final schedule and dependencies. If there are date constraints list them on the CONSTRAINTS sheet.
  4. Next, review the first task’s successor tasks.  If the relationship is true and the line connecting the predecessor to the successor task is correct, and going in the right direction, highlight the entire connecting line, not just a portion of it, in yellow to show it has been reviewed and is correct.  Mark any corrections or changes using the red pen. Thus if the dependency was incorrect crossout the incorrect line and draw the new/corrected dependency using the red pen.  Review the balance of the task information and mark as reviewed and correct (yellow) or corrected (red).
  5. As each task and dependency is reviewed, questions/issues/problems may arise.  If so, write them in plain English on one of the six SCRAPP sheets.   For example, if you could accomplish a deliverable three different ways, right down the one selected on the STRATEGY sheet.
  6. If during this review there are risks discovered and associated with a particular task or strategy write it on the RISK sheet.
  7. Tasks may have constraints, i.e. finish on or by a certain date or limited amount of funding, capture these on the CONSTRAINTS sheet.  Projects have many assumptions; capture these on the ASSUMPTIONS sheet.  Again, write these in plain language without all the techno speak. This is so others outside the project, mainly executive management, can read and understand it.
  8. Your project may face a known roadblock or problem.  List these on the PROBLEM sheet.  Any items that cannot be addressed immediately or require further research place on the PARKING LOT.
  9. As you work your way through the schedule every aspect of it should be discussed, e.g. “Should we proceed serially or create a parallel path?” (hint: capture it on the STRATEGY sheet).  Do not stop until ALL TASKS, TASK INFORMATION, AND DEPENDENCIES ARE HIGHLIGHTED YELLOW OR CORRECTED IN RED.  Any item not highlighted or corrected has not been reviewed.  You’ll know where you left off and where to pickup if this takes more than a day.
  10. Revise the schedule per the redlined corrections using a different filename for your schedule.  As you go through and make each correction in the software, use a green highlighter/marker and mark the red corrections on your printout to show you’ve inputed the changes.  This is because there are typically many changes and it is easier to keep track of where you’re at.
  11. Once all changes are input, printout the schedule a second time starting from step 1 above.  It typically takes 2-4 rounds before the schedule is finalized.
  12. Type up all SCRAPP paper and review with your team.
  13. Finalize and document your schedule.  Print out one page of  schedule milestones.  There shouldn’t be more than 12-15 key milestones on this page.  Combine this one page of milestones along with the SCRAPP paper. You should now have 2-4 pages, one page of milestones and the balance SCRAPP paper, that can be used as an executive summary. They should always travel together.  A schedule will never make sense unless the SCRAPP is known.
Fig. 1 Network Diagram before SCRAPP Method

Fig. 1 Network Diagram before SCRAPP Method

Fig. 2 Network Diagram after SCRAPP Method applied.

Fig. 2 Network Diagram after SCRAPP Method applied.

There are several advantages to this method:

  • It is a team building exercise with key inputs and decisions determined by the team.
  • Team members will have a higher degree of confidence that the project is achievable.
  • As circumstances change within your project you will be in a position to make better decisions because you will have previously discussed many strategies, options and details.
  • All elements of SCRAPP can and should be integrated into the Project Management Plan.
  • Lastly, when management asks for a schedule you can provide them with the SCRAPP paper and a single page of key milestones instead of 20 pages of a Gantt schedule that has little or no rigor or meaning behind it.

This method is best used for project types that are vastly different every time.  That is why this method has worked extremely well in the medical industry.  Well versed project types like construction, while able to take advantage of this method, may not extract the advantages of other project types.

How do you do schedule integration or do you?  I’m interested in hearing how others have approached this issue.

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