The Second D of Project Management: Detail 8 comments

Project DetailIn the first post of this series, I discussed how project management can seem overly complex and difficult – hard to visualize, and we started to discuss a simple structure for managing projects – the ten D’s of project management. The first D, was Definition, and this post discusses the second D, which is Detail.


Project Detail


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.  Assuming we’ve now written some kind of project Definition document, perhaps a Project Charter, we now need to document all the detailed tasks that need to be accomplished – the project Detail. So we should start making a long to-do list?  No.


We need to start more strategically. Let’s get started with just the major components or phases of the project.  In our meal example this might be:

  • Research Food Options
  • Determine Meal Logistics
  • Prepare and Issue Invites
  • Procure Groceries
  • Procure Other Materials
  • Prepare and Serve Meal
  • Cleanup


Do we create this list sitting by ourselves?  No.  We invite the major stakeholders to participate so that a) the information is more accurate b) we have better buy-in.  Note that we aren’t concerned with dates, or timing, or even responsibilities at this point in the planning process.  We’re just documenting work that needs to be done.


Having documented the work at a high-level, we take each of the items in our first list, and repeat the process.  For instance, Research Food Options might break down into the following elements:

  • Talk to likely guests about food preferences
  • Ask likely guests about diet restrictions
  • Check on local food sources
  • Document limitations/restrictions of kitchen, if any
  • Research interesting meals on the internet
  • Documents skills/preferences/limitations of cook/chef


You’ll notice that many of these items could easily be detailed further, to a third level.  Ask likely guests about diet restrictions could be expanded to Ask Chris about diet, Ask Toni about dietAsk Jo about diet etc.  Now we are really into the project Detail, but we didn’t start here, we worked our way down, effectively creating a hierarchy of work. In project management “speak” this is our Work Breakdown Structure.  It describes all the work that needs to be done to complete the project we Defined earlier, but in a hierarchy not just a long list.  Taking this approach reduces the likelihood we miss important tasks, and makes a complex project more understandable.


How Much Project Detail?


How much Detail do you need for your project?  I don’t know.  It depends.  The more Detail you have, the better control you have.  Probably, the more important (or risky) the project/meal, the more project Detail you will document.


In the next post we’ll look at the third D after project Definition and project Detail, which is Dependencies.


About Kevin Archbold

Kevin Archbold, PMP, PMI-SP, has over 30 years of project management experience with large and small organizations in a variety of industries, including automotive, nuclear, telecommunications, trucking, IT, recruiting, mining, construction, and government. Kevin has presented at local and national levels within the Project Management Institute (PMI), is the winner of a local chapter PMI Project of the Year Award, and is the current president of a PMI Chapter.

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