The power of a WBS…

Shortcut to get to a full project overview and develop integrated management plan

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Project management is a complex skill/art to master. It is my endeavor to assist those new to the field to gain “hindsight” driven insight into what makes projects more successful.

Today we are going to discuss a reasonably technical element – Work Breakdown Structures (WBS).

The name is even daunting, but I can assure you that it is quite simple once you have grasped the concept, and the benefits are numerous and powerful.

So what is it?

What does it do?

How can it help me?

The way in which you should approach this is as follow:

  • Can I break up my project into smaller (logical) pieces? E.g. if you bake a cake you can separate preparation, baking and decorating quite easily.
  • Ok now if we look at these pieces, are there logical pieces inside of them? E.g. in preparation there are 2 other pieces – wet ingredients and dry ingredients that have to be mixed separately (depending on the recipe of course)
  • Carry on until it stops making sense or all the pieces have been broken up into elements.
  • If I ignore outside influences, what do I – and my team – have to do to achieve success in each of the lowest pieces? E.g. all the dry ingredients have to be mixed BEFORE the wet ingredients. As a general rule, you will now be in the task or actions level where stuff has to done by people.
  • If it becomes clear that you may have missed a piece (measure the ingredients) simply add them in on the level that makes the most sense.

wbs1

What has happened here is astonishing:

  • You have actually planned the work that would be required to achieve the overall goal in a structure and logical manner
  • You have determined what has to be done in some sequence (e.g. measure before mix)
  • You can see where tasks can occur simultaneously (e.g. switch on the oven and gather ingredients)
  • You know that there are dependencies (e.g. you cannot pour the dough into the baking pan before you have greased the pan.
  • You have an idea of the time (work and duration), the number of resources (ingredients, equipment, and people) and sequence of events – I would call that a basic schedule with time and cost management capability.
  • You know what can be measured – when, where, who… – I would call that a quality and milestone plan you may even want to base your communications plan on this…

I know this sounds like stuff you have heard of before, but if you do this early enough (it’s never too late) in your project, you will be able to isolate the areas that you and your team are not too clear about. You can now focus on these areas to gain the knowledge or information required to properly plan – I’m so sorry, would this be your risk log?

I promise you just knowing what you don’t know is justification enough to do the exercise.

Every document and tool (e.g. Project Charter, Scope of work, Schedule, Resources plan, Communications plan, Quality plan, Risk / Issue management plan, Cost management plan) now have a BACKBONE from which they can be developed.

If the WBS is used in developing your project management infrastructure, you will discover that you have an integrated management plan.

If that does not impress the boss??????

integrated-management

The most important benefit that the WBS provides a project team is – – – – UNDERSTANDING!

join-our-delivery-team-

Now you and your team simply have to get up, show up and execute…

Please follow, share and comment. I love to hear from you.

 

Project Management – 101

You have just inherited something that everybody calls a project…

What do you do, where do you start?

Ok, so someone that you know knows someone that did a project once and you have just inherited something that everybody calls a project…

What do you do, where do you start?

This post is aimed at addressing the most basic elements of project management. These topics are:

  • What is a project?
  • What are the most important things to know?
  • What are the most important things to do?

Whoooooo… slow down…

Let’s make sure you are busy with a project…

NOTE: I have included project speak (terminology) in brackets and italics.

What is a project?

Ignoring all the well-defined definitions about what projects are, let us look at what it means to me and you…

Checklist:

  • Is this a one-time occurrence? (does not happen often or regularly)
  • Is there an agreed or understood set of outcomes or results?
  • Is there a time limit on achieving the result?
  • Is there funds or money (budget) allocated specifically to achieve the results?
  • Has a group of people been specifically tasked to achieve the results? (outside normal working situation)
  • Is there someone specific or a specific group that would receive the results?

If you can tick more than three of these, you have probably been infected by the project bug…

 

A new victim...
A new victim…

What are the most important things to know?

Obviously, there are some things you should know or have:

  • List of results or outcomes (deliverables)
  • Know when the outcomes should be delivered or completed (end date)
  • Understand how you can get your hands on the money (budget)
  • Know who is involved with the project (stakeholders)
  • Some knowledge of how these results can be achieved (content expertise)

Now that you have all this the most important rule of all – People = Results

Contrary to popular belief, projects are not about schedules, milestones or cost analysis…

It is about getting other people to help you achieve results

 

The real reason...
The real reason…

What are the most important things to do?

Have a meeting – ha-ha got you… Actually… it’s not that far off…

Look out here it comes… the most dreaded word in business today…

COMMUNICATE

Who should I communicate to? (Sorted in what I think represents an order of importance)

  • People that will receive the outcome, results, deliverables or benefits. (project clients)
  • People or person who hired or tasked you to do the project (project sponsor)
  • People who will assist you in achieving the deliverables (project team)
  • People not on the project that you will have to use to achieve the results e.g. Human Resources, Procurement (Project Stakeholder)
  • People who will make sure the project is on the right track e.g. Auditors, Steering Committee (Project Stakeholder)
  • Other people who are affected by the project OR can have some influence in achieving success (Project Stakeholder)

Make sure that you understand what the clients really want, how does that fit in with what the sponsor has asked you to deliver, does the team have to understand what needs to be done?

If you can simply get these communications bedded down, the project will immediately start going in the right direction.

 

Ideal project manager...
Ideal project manager…

So now that we have done the communications, we can simply sit back and watch the action… Where is my remote?

I’m so sorry… NO…

There is this other thing…

PLANNING

Planning is a way of figuring out the following: (a sequence that would work under the majority of conditions)

  • What do we need to achieve? It is very important to understand what you are expected to do and what you are not expected to do? What would fall “outside the project”? (project scope)
  • If there is a lot of work, chop it up into logical or sensible pieces. Arrange these pieces of work in a way that makes sense to all the people involved in making sure the project is a success (work breakdown structure – WBS).
  • Look at these pieces of work and decide which will have to be done first, because some pieces will need it to be in place before others can occur e.g. house walls must be erected before you can put a roof on. (sequential or logical arrangement)
  • Try and get an accurate understanding of how long (duration) each of these pieces of work will take to complete. Consider when the project has to be completed (end date) and try to work backward from there. (scheduling)
  • Now we can add people to these pieces of work (human resource management). Remember to include the people that you will have to hire in for expertise, workforce or any other reason.
  • We have a big pot of money (overall budget) that we should now divide between the work packages. Include what you have to buy (procurement), who or what you have rent (procurement and services management) as well as the people that will be working on the project’s salaries and wages. Add the unusual stuff like travel cost, hotels, visa’s, food, venue hire, insurance, furniture, … (Preliminary and General – P&G)
  • Making sure that each of the work packages delivers a usable and functional output is obviously important. How you and the project team will ensure that this is going to happen is called quality assurance.
  • If the project team can come up with a list of things that can go wrong (risk analysis), it would help a lot because you will then know what to look out for.
  • Amazing as it may sound the stakeholders will want to know how the project is doing. So we will need to find a way to communicate to all these people in a way that THEY can understand, on a regular basis…

Congratulations… You have completed a project plan…

 

Planning - How to...
Planning – How to…

But wait… some stuff doesn’t fit together… we don’t have enough people, money, time… OH MY GOODNESS…

Because you only have a certain amount of money (budget) to hire people and stuff (resources) to achieve the goals within a specific amount of time (duration), it is almost inevitable that there will not be enough of one these elements (constraints).

 

Project Management - Explained!!!
Project Management – Explained!!!

Welcome to project management…

Just a note…

 

Next time...
Next time…

Have a great day and remember to smile…

A Plan – What is it?

Everybody and I mean everybody, tell me, you and everybody to plan for… (Insert – the future, your life, career, love life…)

That leaves me with the question – Do you know what a plan is? I mean really understand what the different elements of a plan really are?

Definition: A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective. It is commonly understood as a temporal set of intended actions through which one expects to achieve a goal. – Wikipedia

So from the definition above, we know that a plan should have:

  • Goal, Objective or outcome (list of deliverables)
  • List of steps or actions (May include logic like dependency and predecessors)
  • Time (Labour, elapsed time and duration)
  • Resources (human, capital, time and objects)
  • Value measurement (Quality statement and benefits)

If you have all this, it should all come together like:

Ta Daaaa… end of Lesson…. Thank you, come back next week…

Plans lead to success
Plans lead to success

But, I’m stuck over here:

Where to start a plan?
Where to start a plan?

I don’t know where to start… There is just soo much stuff… See:

Unplanned Plan
Unplanned Plan

It looks NOTHING like the plans they put forward…

Where do I start? What do I do?

Ok so, you twisted my arm.

Finding the right goal
Finding the right goal

Element 1 – Understanding the objective

Here are the most important steps to execute to end up having a plan (with all the good stuff inside).

You call this help? What does Scoping mean? Please translate this into ENGLISH…..

Step 1 – Know what you want. Know exactly what you want. Include the stuff that you don’t know to make sure that somewhere, you can build it into the plan where you make a decision once you fully understand if you want something or not. Most importantly – write this stuff down to allow you to come back and check against the original goal.

Step 2 – Look around and figure out what other people with similar problems have done. Get more than one possibility and be genuine in evaluating the level of success each of these possibilities offered. Most importantly – don’t discard anything now, you don’t know what the probability of success in your situation is.

Steps 3, 4 and 5 – Apply (theoretically) the possible solutions in your situation. Consider the impact, cost, duration and estimate how complex it would be to make it work. Most importantly – estimate what the realistic chances are to achieve success with each of these options.

Step 6 – It should become clear now that some of the solutions will work better than others for you in this situation. Select the one with the best chance of actually working. Most importantly – walk away from the discarded options and channel all your energy into making sure that the option you have selected will work.

Element 2 – Figure out what to do next

Amazing as this may sound, we have the capacity to build stuff in our minds and we can then work “backward in time” to get a clear roadmap or path to reach a goal.

Step 1 – Visualise the goal as if it has already been achieved. Make this picture as clear as you can. Take it to extremes like experiencing the emotions of achieving this objective; smell it, hear it, see the sun glinting… Most importantly – visualize the completed or finished result.

Step 2 – Get a realistic understanding of where you are now. Get honest, don’t soft-soap or be gentle. Most importantly – understand that this is your point of departure. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Many have achieved great things from starting in humility with nothing and little to no opportunities. You have already seen your future…

Step 3 – Find the shortest route to achieving the goal. I cannot stress this enough… Most importantly – the shortest route requiring the least amount of resources and time almost always returns the best results. Things like motivation, endurance, and determination become significant issues when you travel the scenic route…

Step 4 – Identify the big moments. On this road that you are about to travel, you should find places where you can “stop and recuperate”. It is almost exactly the same as driving a long distance. You need moments to just stop and reflect. Most importantly – choose the rest spots looking back from the goal to the starting point. This perspective will allow you to see things as if they have already occurred and your perception of these rest-spots will result and not problem orientated.

Step 5 – Fill in the gaps. Now that you know what the main moments are; fill in the details from where you are now to the first big moment. It is almost impossible not to start filling in the blanks between the next moments. Most importantly – just get enough detail down between the next moments to stop wondering about them. Focus on getting the detail of reaching the next moment. Understand that you will have to repeat this step every time you reach one of the big moments.

Elements 3, 4 and 5 – Time, resources and value are related

Now for the big surprise…. These three things are interrelated and interdependent. So if you want to travel from point A to point B very fast, you will need a fast car, which cost lots of money. Should you want to get there in style, well those cars are expensive too. If you are the champagne, caviar, and first-class jet set; I hope that you understand we are talking big money now.

You may elect to go the dirt cheap road and simply arrive at point B; you have to pace yourself here… Both ways… Most importantly – choose the car well. Too expensive and you don’t have enough money to make it to the end; too cheap and the car may not see the end…

So you need to look at the items listed in the “what to do next” section and attach time, money and resources to each one…

End Game

If you have written down all the stuff that you have decided, elected and seen, you will now be in possession of something that will answer these questions:

  • What
  • How
  • When
  • Where
  • Who

Congratulations – You are now the proud owner of a well designed, well thought through plan that presents a very high probability of success. You will now be able to communicate clearly to yourself and others what you are doing and why; know when to do what as well as constantly know what will happen next.

Welcome to the world where you can now say to other people…..

You are a winner
You are a winner

I hope you enjoy this journey and would like to invite you to comment, share and splash this around…