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.

 

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 😉

Project Management 102

Post aimed at positioning and considering standards and approaches to manage projects. It takes a look into phases, knowledge areas with some detail.

You should already know that you have a project and you can do some planning to get things done – From the previous post – Project Management 101.

Now moving swiftly along…

There are many standards and approaches available to manage projects: (From Wikipedia)

Approaches

International Standards

There have been several attempts to develop project management standards, such as:

For clarity sake, we will only delve into one of these “flavors” of project management – Project Management Institute (PMI). The most important next step in your discovery of what project management revolves around phases.

Phases
Phases

The phases are intended to allow us mortal beings to group things together logically that will allow us the greatest chance of succeeding. We have to remember that some learning and bitter experiences have contributed to the knowledge that constitutes the groupings.

Initiation

You have to know a few things before you really start to attack a project. These things are absolutely vital to the success of the project.

  • What MUST the project achieve (not from the project’s view, but from the client’s view)?
  • How many funds are available to achieve what (and how will you be able to get it – what does the project have to do)?
  • Who are the people involved (probably the list of stakeholders already identified in Project Management 101)?
  • Get written signed approval of your understanding of what the project has to achieve (project charter).
New Team - Fresh Young...
New Team – Fresh Young…

Planning and Design

We have discussed planning before, why again now? In Project Management 101 we explained planning to give you enough detail to define the project. In this phase, you will have to plan to achieve the results… You have to plan to an “appropriate level of detail” to allow you to manage project risk by estimating the time, resources, cost and other factors that will affect the chances of delivering the project successfully. (more on project planning)

Planning Discussions....
Planning Discussions…

Executing

Do the work that you said that you were going to do in the planning phase. This is where the tire hits tar, things get serious and things will have to happen…

  • People will have to know who does what when, why and for how long…
  • They have to work hard (I can almost guarantee you that you will not have enough time or people to get all the stuff done),
  • They will have to be accurate and precise (cannot re-do stuff here),
  • You will have to do it cheaply (yes, I know – haha).
Getting it Done....
Getting it Done…

Monitoring and Controlling

You have to constantly evaluate what people are doing…

  • Is it in line with what has been specified?
  • How do we overcome this unanticipated problem?
  • If we lose time doing this, how do we get it back?
  • If that thing now cost more than what we were told, how do we recover the extra expenditure?
  • If we pay more for a better person, will we save enough time to make it worth our while?
  • How does the client perceive all the activity?
Insider View...
Insider View…

Closing

One of three things will cause a project to close:

  • Achieved all of the project deliverables (YAY….. )
  • Stopped due to requirements shift (the reason why the project existed has changed or disappeared)
  • Will never reach the project deliverables (many reasons within and external to project can cause this)

Remember any project you can walk away from…

Project Team - Older Wiser...
Project Team – Older Wiser…

To give you some idea of how projects will tax you as they move through the phases, the line drawing below is a good approximation of how most projects behave.

Phase - Consumption
Phase – Consumption

Phew… Glad that’s over with… So I’m a fully-fledged project manager now?

Well yes and no…

To be a project manager you have to know a little bit of each of these:

The ten knowledge areas are: (Sixth Edition)

  • Project Integration Management
  • Project Scope management
  • Project Schedule Management
  • Project Cost Management
  • Project Quality Management
  • Project Resource Management
  • Project Communications Management
  • Project Risk Management
  • Project Procurement Management
  • Project Stakeholder Management

We will look at this next time…

Have to wait... for... more...
Have to wait… for… more…

Have a fantastic day…

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…