The Third D of Project Management: Dependencies

project dependenciesIn this series of this articles we’re discussing a simple approach for managing projects – the ten D’s of project management. The first D, was Definition, the second was Detail, and this post is about Dependencies.


Project Dependencies


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.  In the Detail post we created a hierarchy of work necessary to achieve the project goals.  But this hierarchy did not include information about how long tasks might take, or when they should occur.  So we should now add dates/times?  Not yet.  We first need to consider the logical sequencing of the tasks we have identified.


For instance, it would probably make sense to research recipes on the internet before we go to the store to buy groceries, not afterwards.  It might also be helpful to know how many people to expect at the meal before we go grocery shopping.  Decorating the table/venue could be done before or after we go to store, it doesn’t really matter, but it must be done before guests start to arrive for the meal.


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.


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