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  • Topic: Project management, Work breakdown structure, Project planning
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mcgh_c06.qxd

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CHAPTER

6

Much, Much, More on WBSs,
Networks, and Gantt Charts

T

he Charter is now complete. Everyone agrees what needs to be done. As they say, the “devil is in the details” and now it’s time to get to the details.
If you have never managed a project before—or even if you have, but not to the scale of your present project—you may be a little daunted as to where to begin. After the initial euphoria of the Charter signing wears off, you may experience what we professionals call a “Yikes” moment, as in, “Yikes! What do I do now?” A good project manager at this point will take a deep breath, collect his or her thoughts, go to his or her tool kit, and begin to start digging into the details of planning the project.

At this point, the project manager has to develop more detail around:






What the work is.
How long it will take.
How much it will cost.
Who will do the work.
What could go wrong (i.e., risks revisited).
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LARGER PROJECTS AND EXPERIENCED PROJECT MANAGERS

In order to do this, you must develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). This needs to be articulated at an increasing level of detail as the work of the project begins. Not to be caught in the paradigm of “analysis paralysis,” a good project manager undertakes the description of the details using an iterative approach, providing more detail and obtaining more buy-in each time the work of the project is more fully defined. T he iterative approach brings clarity to the project plan and enhances communication among stakeholders. We call this “helicoptering in.” A project needs boundaries. It will neither encompass nor do everything. What’s in? What’s out? Who’s in? Who’s out? How much? How long? What is success? How do you measure success? Who

makes decisions? What is quality? All those associated with the project—the stakeholders—must have a common understanding about the project. They need to share a common set of assumptions around many things. They need to have a common reference that will enable them to answer questions about a project’s inputs, work processes, resources, and outputs. They need a framework within which to manage their expectations. Figure 6.1 illustrates the Helicopter Approach to project planning that will guide you into a secure project start every time.

First Iteration—5,000 Feet
The first step in defining the detail should be to draw a general outline of what the project looks like. The project manager will want to start developing a picture about what the work is, how long it will take, how much it will cost, who will do the work, what could go wrong, and what to do about it. The first picture should describe the steps in the project (i.e., what the work is) in very broad brushstrokes. The additional attributes can then be layered onto this initial picture.

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5,000 Feet
Time
Costs
Resources
Risks

Initial
Step
Chart

3,000 Feet
Communicate

PARSI
Task List
Network Diagram
RM Plan – 1

WBS
Update

1,000 Feet
Communicate
PERT
Update

Change Mgmt. Plan
Strategic Comm. Plan
Ops. Comm. Plan
RM Plan – 2
Quality Plan

Communicate

Update

Go!
Figure 6.1

The Helicopter Approach to Project Planning. © Copyright 2007

Pamela McGhee and Peter McAliney.

Using the logic of “first do this, then do that, then after that do that . . . ,” develop a high level view (i.e., the 5,000-foot view) of the project. Block the project into five to seven very high-level steps. Use a declarative phrase to fill in each of the blocks such that you can describe the project in simplified terms (see Figure 6.2). The fact that there are potentially hundreds of details under each of these simplified steps is of no concern for the project manager at this time. All that...
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