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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Common Mistakes in Project Planning Process

This is something that a lot of Project Managers sometimes forgot it when planning projects, and I see some project managers overlook it. It’s obvious when you point it out, but that’s as long as you are not in the pit with the alligators.

Monitor & Control Work Appropriately

I was once in a situation where the scope of my project was constantly changing. This happens on all projects of course, at least those of any size and complexity. It’s a natural process. This one was particularly bad.

One day, I asked myself how much time had been spent in replanning activities. How much time had the other project managers spent? The project controllers? Myself? What is all this re-planning costing us in terms of schedule, dollars, and quality?

Then the obvious hit me. The project team had also been impacted of course. They had to sit down and re-estimate tasks, consider impacts of the changes, etc. Every step of the way. Where was this tracked?

Nowhere.

Nowhere?

This goes back to a common mistake when constructing a WBS and defining the scope of your project. Sure, you have a “project management” element at level 2 in your WBS. Do your engineers charge there when their attention is diverted away from getting things done and instead goes towards project management related activities?

After all, the time they spend re-planning with you is deducted from the time they would otherwise have been doing design work, writing code, or whatever their real job on your project is. If they record that time appropriately, you can use it. If they just charge it as normal work, it’s a lost opportunity.

But Why Track It Anyway?

I’m not advocating you track this for the sake of it. Only track what makes sense. This gives some benefits you may want to consider:

  • It helps you know what the impact of re-planning is to your project. By not hiding this diverted work alongside the real work, you can know the impact to schedule, budget, and quality.
  • It helps you manage your stakeholders. Solid data about past impacts to project work resulting from massive scope changes can help ensure change requests are submitted and approved only when the value outweighs the costs.
  • It helps with better estimates in the future. By really knowing what it takes for you and your team to respond to scope changes, you can now include the estimated impacts of this inevitable project activity, instead of missing deadlines or going over budget because you failed to factor change into your project planning.

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