The power of a WBS…

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

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.

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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!

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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.

 

Cover your *ss project management

This would make up the absolute minimum documentation, controls and management processes you need to control a project.

There are probably thousands of articles and papers written about what is essential in managing a project. This article will focus on gaining a semblance of control.

Projects are complex constructs that for the most part drives us into the unknown (see Project Management – 101 to make sure you have a project). I believe that the PMBOK ® is one of the most comprehensive descriptions of the art and skill known as project management.

However, my writings are focused on the learning and growing project management practitioners (maybe even some professionals) out there that may consider advice from someone doing this for a living.

For controlling or managing projects the 10 knowledge areas defined are: (names may change to protect the innocent :-))

So if you are starting out – this must be daunting, even intimidating.

Let’s have a look at what would be the absolute minimum that you would need to deliver any sort of project successfully.

  • Why? – You need to understand (not necessarily document) why this project exists in the first place.
  • What? – What is the intended result (s)? (This you definitely need to document)
  • When? – The intended result is needed by a specific time for a reason (Document)
  • How? – Is there some planning or though in existence as to how the result should / must be achieved? (Document)
  • Who? – This is a multi-layered question as it includes: (Document)
    • Intended recipients – the people who need to live with the consequences
    • Sponsor(s) – People or organization paying for the project
    • Team – People or organization that will make it happen
    • Stakeholders – Everybody affected in any way with either the project or the consequences of the project
  • How Much? – Cost is one of the most important aspects of project management and is a success / fail criteria that will be applied to measure the project (Document)

Remember the rule – Good, Fast, Cheap: You Can Only Pick Two!

GOOD-FAST-CHEAP

Ok from the info you should have now you can create all the documentation and processes you need to effectively manage a project.

RULE: Size matters in Project Management – The bigger, the more documentation, controls, and management you will need to manage the beast!!!

Documentation:

(I use interchangeable descriptors of documents that do vastly different things in a formal environment to explain the functionality that needs to be achieved.)

  • Most important is a Project Charter / Project Scope / Specification document – This is simply a written agreement between you and all the people involved that describes what has to be achieved, by what time, using which resources and costing X much. (Sponsors usually have to sign this to ensure that they pay for it.)
  • Project Plan / Schedule / Deliverable list with delivery dates – This describes what has to be done by what time, by whom, costing this much. Usually described as tasks or work packages, it is an attempt to guess what would happen in the future.
  • Billing / Payment agreement – You have to ensure that you can get the funds required before you need it.
  • Pay-out mechanism – You need to be able to pay those that render services and goods to your project.
  • Communication plan/strategy – Communication and reporting are essential to the success of almost any project. Make sure you understand how you need to communicate to whom by when with what content.

This would make up the absolute minimum documentation, controls and management processes you need to control a project.

Controlling the project from this basis becomes much easier.

 

triple-constraint

All you have to do is make sure everybody does what they are supposed to do, communicate to those that require it and DELIVER BABY – DELIVER…

Have a fantastic day – follow the blog and share this 2 or 3 thousand people 😉