Process for Identifying New Dependencies

One problem you will notice with the resulting list of activities on stickies from the nominal group technique session is that many of the activities have different granularity. That is, if durations were estimated for them, some would take only an hour or two to do (like "perform software build") but others would take weeks or months (like "design production system"). The solution to this problem is to group the items in a hierarchical fashion (a /a WBS) using affinity diagramming. This just means putting all the stickies with activities that have common elements together on one part of the whiteboard, and separate them from the rest. You may have to try several different ideas for commonality. Sometimes rewriting a few activities can help them fit together better. A general rule of thumb is to have detail one level below the level that day-to-day management will occur.

The next step is to arrange the stickies into a product-oriented work breakdown structure using the guidelines discussed in Chapter 8. Arrange them into logical groupings from highest-level activities to lowest. When you get this settled down into a good representation that the team agrees on, capture it on paper (but leave the stickies up there). You will have a useful WBS from which to derive dependencies.

Next you can find the dependencies between all the activities by carefully considering each activity and rearranging the stickies on the whiteboard using the information supplied in this chapter. It is best to start with the deliverable in mind, at the end of the project. Ask the question, "What is the last thing that the project does?" Put that on the whiteboard as the final item that closes the project. Then successively work backward from the last item asking the question, "What will have to be done in order to accomplish ...?" This should keep you from adding activities that don't directly relate to producing the deliverable, keeping "gold plating" to a minimum.

Using erasable markers (because you are likely to change them several times), draw lines connecting the stickies according to the dependency types discussed earlier. Work through the whole project like this, establishing dependencies appropriate for the task. Be sure that you don't end up with any "dangles" as shown in Figure 14-9, which would indicate a string of activities that don't produce anything. The resulting dependency map is almost a complete network diagram, as shown in the bottom part of Figure 15-10. We'll look more closely at network diagramming in Chapter 15on scheduling.

Figure 14-9. Watch Out for Dangles!

Figure 14-9. Watch Out for Dangles!

To summarize the process, follow the steps below:

1. Brainstorm an activity list— Use the nominal group technique to build a list of possible activities for the project on stickies.

2. Find affinity collections— Logically "group" activities by identifying the work that must or will be performed together. The level of detail and number of high-level items will be governed by the nature of the project. Disregard duration and resources at this point.

3. Find highest WBS levels— Summarize the groupings by work product output to derive the higher levels of the WBS.

4. Capture WBS representation— Copy all the WBS information to paper. It becomes part of the project plan.

5. Find dependencies— Working from the end to the beginning, logically arrange stickies on the whiteboard. Using markers, draw the dependency relationships between activities, being careful to look for all interdependencies.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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