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A Step-by-Step Approach for Planning Your Small Project
Dohn Kissinger, MBA, PhD, PMP
Profit Solutions Planning for a small project is difficult. The PMBOK ® Guide (PMI, 1996) is an impressive document, which thoroughly discusses a generalized approach to planning and managing a project. The PMBOK ® approach is appropriate for large projects. However, project planning using the PMBOK ® approach takes a long time, sometimes months. Because of this long time, some project managers of small projects are inclined to skip the planning process altogether to get to the “real” part of the project. Another problem with typical project plans is that there is no allowance for increases in duration or cost of each task. This lack of built-in schedule and cost contingencies leads to overruns in the project schedule and budget. One could ask, “What is the minimum level of planning required for a small project?” In response to this question, I have developed a seven step approach that I believe answers this question. In addition to the usual schedule planning methodology, it creates schedule and budget contingencies for the project, protecting against schedule and cost overruns. I call these seven steps The 7 Steps to Project Success™. Each step has a chart associated with it. The charts associated with each step are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. Project Success Chart™ Work Breakdown Structure Task Assignment Matrix Task duration table Project network diagram Gantt (bar) chart schedule Project budget chart

To illustrate these steps, I will use a simple small project, making a birthday cake for my daughter’s birthday, as an example. Step 1 – Project Success Chart™ The Project Success Chart™, shown in Exhibit 1, lists the factors vital to the success of the project – the project objective, the project deliverable(s), and the project success criteria. The project objective is what will be achieved by when. In our example project, the project objective is “Bake a cake in time for my daughter’s birthday party.” The project deliverable(s) are what will be delivered by when. In this case, our project deliverable is one 2-layer chocolate cake with Pokemon decorations, in time for the birthday party. The project success criteria is what will meet or exceed the expectations of each stakeholder. The first step is to list all of the stakeholders. In this case, they consist of my daughter, her parents, and the birthday party guests. The expectations of my daughter are that the cake be chocolate, with Pokemon decorations, and that it be on time for the party.

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The expectations of her parents are that the cake be a reasonable cost, and that it be available on time. The expectations of the guests are that the cake be available in sufficient quantity, that it taste good, and that it be available in time. The advantage of the Project Success Chart™ is that the elements of the project that enable its success can be communicated to the project team members in a very short period of time.

Project Objective (what will be achieved by when) • Bake a cake in time for my daughter’s birthday party.

Project Deliverables (what will be delivered by when) • One 2-layer chocolate cake with Pokemon decorations, in time for the birthday party. Success Criteria (what will meet or exceed the expectation of each stakeholder) Stakeholders Daughter Parents Birthday party guests Success Criteria Chocolate cake, Pokemon decorations, on time. Reasonable cost, on time. Sufficient quantity, taste, on time.

Exhibit 1. Project Success Chart™
Step 2 – Work Breakdown Structure The Work Breakdown Structure, shown in Exhibit 2, is one way of organizing all of the tasks in the project. The method used is to break the project objective (in this case, the birthday cake) into sub-objectives. For each sub-objective, I list the tasks...
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