A Simple Project Management Recipe

Hello again.  I thought you might like this general list of project planning activities from this project manager’s point of view.  When I am not working from or building an organization’s project management process, this would be my starting point for getting my projects done in a systematic way.  This list is not really written for IT projects, it is more of a general place to start and a basic series of steps to consider doing along the way. If someone asked me over lunch to talk about the general things I do as a project manager, these would be my basic discussion points.

A General Project Management Recipe:

1. Analyze the project environment and create a stakeholders list. Identify who your stakeholders are, their expectations about the project and the impact of project success

2. Define the project scope. Your priority is to identify the customer needs. Remember, it is not the customer’s responsibility to clearly identify their needs – it is the PM or analyst’s job to help the customer identify their needs.

3. Prioritize what’s most important on this project. Identify what the priority is: Time, Cost, Quality and/or Functionality. Remember you can’t have everything be #1. If these elements of the project are all fixed, then this is a perfect formula for project failure.

4. Evaluate the project’s feasibility.  Look at whether the project is worth doing or a “must do” based on legal or regulatory drivers. Analyze the business benefits as well as the associated costs.  Perform a strategic risk assessment. looking at high-level risks that are inherent to the project.

5. Formulate your project objective. Write the goal statement using the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, why) + any known or suspected constraints.  Build a list of key project deliverables and break them across high-level project ohases if you can.

6. Create your Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). Use the Phased or Discipline approach to a WBS.  Make sure tasks andactivities identified support the delivery of the key deliverables that you previously identified.  Look for anything that is missing, and make sure you haven’t added in any extra stuff to deliver the project scope.

7. Estimate what things will take. Base your estimates on your past experiences, subject matter experts (SME), surveys (Delphi technique), three points (a,b,m) and probability statistics (expected value and standard deviation).

8. Create the precedence network diagram and build a schedule. Link activities in logical order from start to finish and identify the project’s critical path and duration.

9. Optimize project schedule. Lather, rinse and repeat until it looks reasonable but don’t spin your wheels.  Add in the correct task relationships: F-S, S-S, F-F, S-F.  Put in any lag and lead times if necessary.  Identify your task types (Fixed-duration, Fixed-work, Fixed-Units) but don’t make it too complicated.

10. Assign your resources and perform some analysis to make things work right.  Create a resource list of human and material resources. Assign those resources to the schedule tasks based on best skill set that fits the task at hand.  When assigning resources, specify the objective of the task and expected output(s). Address over allocation of resources by smoothing or leveling.

11. Review your project plan. Perform tactical risk analysis. looking at the risks that are brought about by how the project plan was created and how tasks were scheduled. Focus on critical tasks by ranking schedule-related risks and focusing on top 20% – 25% of them.  Integrate your changes into the project schedule and plan.

12. Decide if it’s a Go or a No Go.  Present the project schedule and plan to management and seek approval.  If things are go, then baseline your project plan and get started. If things are a no go, you wil have to tweak and rework the project plan and sschedule and then seek re-approval.

13. Track your project progress. Update the project schedule on a regular basis and compare actual and baseline performance. Document any variances and address them as needed.

14. Close your project. Document any lessons learned and populate the project archives for future reference. Thank your team and customers, then you are on to your next assignment!

I realize this is a simple view, but it’s a good place to start with a simple road map of what should be done.  I hope you find this simple project management recipe helpful!

Susan Weese

Related Training: Project Management Classes

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