Sorting Out The Project

In this and the following sections of this chapter, and in Chapters 7 and 8 on budgeting and scheduling, we move into a consideration of the details of the project. We need to know exactly what is to be done, by whom, and when. All activities required to complete the project must be precisely delineated and coordinated. The necessary resources must be available when and where they are needed, and in the correct amounts. Some activities must be done sequentially, but some may be done simultaneously. If a large project is to come in on time and within cost, a great many things must happen when and how they are supposed to happen. In this section, we propose a conceptually simple method to assist in sorting out and planning all this detail.

To accomplish any specified project, several major activities must be completed. First, list them in the general order in which they would normally occur. A reasonable number of major activities might be anywhere between two and 20. Break each of these major activities into two to 20 subtasks. There is nothing sacred about these limits. Two is the minimum possible breakdown and 20 is about the largest number of interrelated items that can be comfortably sorted and scheduled at a given level of task aggregation. Second, preparing a network from this information, as we will in Chapter 8, is much more difficult if the number of activities is significantly greater than 20.

It is important to be sure that all items in the list are at roughly the same level of task generality. In writing a book, for example, the various chapters tend to be at the same level of generality, but individual chapters are divided into finer detail. Indeed, subdivisions of a chapter may be divided into finer detail still. It is difficult to overstate the significance of this simple dictum. It is central to the preparation of most of the planning documents that will be described in this chapter and those that follow.

Sometimes a problem arises because some managers tend to think of outcomes (events) when planning and others think of specific tasks (activities). Many mix the two. The problem is to develop a list of both activities and outcomes that . represents an exhaustive, nonredundant set of results to be accomplished (outcomes) and the work to be done (activities) in order to complete the project.

The procedure proposed here is a hierarchical planning system. First, the goals must be specified. This will aid the planner in identifying the set of required activities for the goals to be met, the project action plan. Each activity has an outcome (event) associated with it, and these activities and events can be decomposed into subactivities and subevents, which may, in turn, be subdivided again. The project plan is the set of these action plans. The advantage of the project plan is that it contains all planning information in one document.

Assume, for example, that we have a project whose purpose is to acquire and install a large machining center in an existing plant. In the hierarchy of work to be accomplished for the installation part of the project, we might find such tasks as "Develop a plan for preparation of the floor site" and "Develop a plan to maintain plant output during the installation and test period." These tasks are two of a larger set of jobs to be done. The task "... preparation of the floor site" is subdivided into its elemental parts, including such items as "Get specifics on machine center mounting points," "Check construction specifications on plant floor," and "Present final plan for floor preparation for approval." A form that may help to organize this information is shown in Figure 5-1. (Additional information about each element of the project will be added to the form later when budgeting and scheduling are discussed.) Figure 5-2 shows an action plan for a college "Career Day." (Clearly, Figure 5-2 is not complete. For example, the list of activities does not show such items as "setting and decorating the tables." In the interest of simplicity and in order to avoid doubling the length—and cost—of this book, the examples shown in this and following chapters are meant to be indicative, not exhaustive.)

A short digression is in order before continuing this discussion on action plans. The actual form the action plan takes is not sacrosanct. As we will show in this and the coming chapters, not even all elements of the action plan shown in Figure 5-1 are necessary in all cases. In some cases, for example, the amounts of specific resources required may not be relevant. In others, "due dates" may be substituted for activity durations. The appearance of action plans differs in different organizations, and may even differ between departments or divisions of the same organization (though standardization of format is usual, and probably desirable in any given firm). In some plans, numbers are used to identify activities; in others, letters. In still others, combinations of letters and numbers are used. In this chapter, we will illustrate several different forms of action plans drawn from "real life." Our purpose is not to confuse the reader, but to focus the reader's attention on the content of the plan, not its form.

A tree diagram can be used to represent a hierarchical plan as in Figure 5-3. Professor Andrew Vazsonyi has called this type of diagram a Gozinto chart after the famous Italian mathematician, Prof. Zepartzat Gozinto, of Vazsonyi's invention. (Readers familiar with the Bill of Materials in a Materials Requirements Planning— MRP—system will recognize the parallel to nested hierarchical planning.)

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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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