The Art of Project Management: Planning


Carl Manello

“He who exercises no forethought but makes light of his opponents is sure to be captured by them.” Sun Tzu, military strategist

In this fifth installment of the Art of Project Management series, I’ll address the importance of planning. By planning, I’m not referring to the multi-thousand-line project plan detailed in the most sophisticated of project and portfolio management tools (it’s really not at all about the tool, anyway). Continuing the Art of War metaphor, planning refers to the deliberate and well-conceived approach for framing the plan of attack. Without forethought, Sun Tzu warns, one is destined to be consumed by one’s project.

Many would agree that some level of planning is necessary, and that the planning should be correlated to the size of the initiative. That is to say, a global conversion and consolidation to a single ERP system across multiple countries obviously requires a detailed approach. However, even a small initiative (e.g., a new software release that updates the user interface) requires a plan. Read more of this post

Building Workplans at the Right Level

Slalom Consultant Carl Manello

Carl Manello is the Practice Director for Slalom’s Delivery Effectiveness solutions. He is based in Chicago and enjoys bringing actionable, tactical solutions to his clients to help them improve their delivery.

Co-written by John Kackley

In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
– President Dwight D Eisenhower

While hopefully none of us is planning for an attack, the wisdom of the 34th president can be applied to work more close to our hearts: establishing the foundation of a project. When supporting clients as a project manager, a lot of time is spent discussing what should be in a project plan. However, clients are usually not looking at the holistic planning process; they are focused on the mechanics of the plan itself and on how small to slice up the work packages. Notwithstanding Ike’s advice, the focus of this blog is on the plan itself. There is a common fear that if tasks are planned at too high a level, then critical details may be missed or team members may go too far astray before a misstep can be found.  This begs the question, “what is the right level of detail to create in a plan that makes it useful to manage a project?”

We think that it is important that one doesn’t start with the end in mind with regard to a  project plan. That is to say, you should not start with the tool or the template. A plan needs an outline. A work breakdown structure or a mind map are great starting points.

A mind map is a visual breakdown which can illustrate everything needed to be covered in the project. It’s visual, rather than linear, which makes it easier to digest. In addition, since it does not have the formality of a workplan, it can be used to discuss scope without getting hung up on workplan details (e.g., dependencies, resource allocations, work-day effort). Read more of this post


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