In this series of articles we’re discussing a simple approach for managing projects – the ten D’s of project management. So far we’ve covered Definition, Detail, Dependencies, and Duties. Now it’s time to talk about project Dates.
In the Definition post we discussed the need to ask key questions before diving into detailed planning, and we used an everyday example of planning a meal/party. In the Details post we created a hierarchy of work to be done, and in the Dependencies post we sequenced the work using a network diagram (flowchart). Duties was about assigning a person’s name to each task that we had identified during the Details step.
At this point we know what we have to do, who is going to do it, and the sequence in which tasks should be performed. What we don’t know is how long all this work is going to take, or when tasks can be expected to be completed. Notice that this is different from how which time is available. Chris may want his party in two weeks, but it’s not until we develop our initial set of project Dates that we start to see whether the target is realistic.
The first thing we need to do, is to ask the various task owners how much time they need to get their work done. Bear in mind that although Jo may only need a couple of hours to write the invites, it’s probably going to take a couple of days for her to find some time in her busy life to do the actual work. So the duration we need is two days, not two hours.
If we add the task durations to the network diagram (flow-chart) we developed in Dependencies, we can visually see how long different parts of the project will take.
We can take our understanding one step further with some simple calculations (assuming our project starts on day 1):
Notice that Create Shopping List cannot start until day 15. Even though Research Recipes could be done as early as day 10, we need to wait until Define Quantities is completed on day 14 before working on the shopping list.
As I hinted earlier, a likely scenario is that the project Dates we have developed don’t meet Chris’s expectations, and so before we publish the dates, we may need to optimize. (We may also need to educate Chris about what’s realistic and re-align his expectations!) Optimizing can include a variety of approaches such as:
- Re-visiting task durations to see if people are able to get things done more quickly.
- Adding team members to reduce task durations and/or to enable more work to be done in parallel.
- Hiring outside help, that may have more time/skills available.
- Simplifying the project. (How about emailed invites instead of physical invites?)
As we are considering ways to optimize the project Dates, notice that it doesn’t matter how quickly we Research Recipes. We could reduce that duration to 1 day, and it wouldn’t help us get the project done any more quickly.
In the next post we’ll look at the fifth D after project Definition, Detail, Dependencies, Duties, and Dates, and that’s project Dangers.