Project management quick reference guide
1. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
One of the main reasons for producing a WBS is to focus your thinking. Take a top down view and document the major work areas. You can then subdivide further if the major work areas are too big.
Start with an overall project
Determine major deliverables / products to be produced. What major intermediate or final products or deliverables must be produced to achieve the project’s objectives?
Divide each major deliverable into its component deliverables in the same manner.
Divide each of these work pieces into its component tasks. What deliverables must I have to complete these components?
2. Start the project plan
1. All deliverables go into the project plan as milestones
2. A second set of milestones are the deliverables ready for QA. For example 'Brief ready for approval'. These occur close to the final deliverable but allow time for rework.
3. Add all the tasks or actions required to produce these deliverables. Estimate the time for each task.
• Don’t fall into the trap of thinking ‘if all goes well it will take #’. Be realistic. Some tasks will go to plan and some will take longer. Some may take less but these rarely cancel out the overruns.
• There will be tasks that become evident only after the project is underway. Consider making allowance in the plan for unspecified tasks. Look for any milestones along the way. Add these to the plan.
Key terms and definitions
Work Breakdown Structure
Deliverables are milestones, not tasks
Includes internal and external deliverables
things the project produces for the organisation
Things the project produces to enable the project to continue towards completion
Major areas of work within the project. One or two words.
Component deliverables to be completed for each major deliverable
completion of a deliverable. Starts with a noun.
Work packages for each Intermediate Deliverable. It must start with a verb.
Now start to add dependencies:
1. Look for what needs to be done before each step can be undertaken
2. Create your dependencies
a. May lead to changing the order in your Gantt chart to make it more logical
b. Might need to create another level in your WBS to clearly identify a group of activities
Example: WBS heading “Feasibility”. When you add your tasks and milestones, you realize that there are two major chunks of work: Plan and carry out workshops, and write a report. It may be worth creating two levels called “Workshops” and “Report”
1. You can now work out who is going to do all this work
2. Add resources to the tasks
3. Next to milestones only put one name, the person responsible for delivery
5. Review the Plan
Check the plan to make sure it is well structured. Here ten checks to carry out:
Are all deliverables included as milestones?
Do they have a quality check scheduled if required?
Is there time for rework after QA?
Are the work too big? Can you go down another level with the WBS?
Do all the tasks start with a verb
Do all the mile stone start with a noun?
Milestones keep focus, are there regular milestones?
Are all dependencies in place?
How reliant is the timing on everything going exactly as planned? Is there a buffer when something doesn't go to plan?
Are resources assigned to all tasks and milestones?
Note: Most big verbs pop open to reveal they contain lots of little verbs