Thursday 3 February 2022

The Art of Project Planning

Why do we call it art? 


If scheduling were a science, then all projects would be ready on time! But that's not the case, unfortunately... 


Moreover, the inability to meet deadlines is becoming an increasing problem, so people began to believe less that it is possible to meet the deadline, and began to treat everything with a greater degree of distrust.

Honestly, the art of scheduling is based on experience, and the more of it you have, the more clearly you can make it. However, you can still make a clear plan if you follow these simple rules.

Principles of scheduling:

Rule #1: Never give unprepared or rash answers, that is, do not promise what you will not be able to provide.

Scheduling, on the one hand, is a prediction, and on the other, it is the management of expectations. If you are forced to choose a date "on the go" at any meeting, it is safe to say that this date will not only be erroneous, but you will also get it for it. A deliberate answer, when you have enough time to evaluate all the factors, is a much better option. A date taken from the ceiling will not be useful to anyone, especially to you.

Rule #2: Get rid of uncertainty at every opportunity.

The more specifics your plan is, the more accurate your schedule will be. If you don't specify functionality or other elements in your plan, then you will, at best, only be able to define them in your schedule. You should not exaggerate too much, because you can set a balance. If you detail assignments that don't affect project timelines, then you're most likely wasting your time.

Rule #3: Consider many uncertain situations to deal with deviations.

No matter how well you define your project or how accurately you plan it, you'll still encounter inevitable uncertain influences that can ruin your carefully crafted plan. People get stuck in dead ends, equipment breaks, other external factors create such a force that can prevent you from meeting the deadline. In order to have some kind of insurance, you must build a reasonable amount of time into your schedule for unforeseen situations, thereby you can deal with unexpected delays.

You should also allocate this extra time to your schedule, rather than just adding it to the end of the project. If you have a period of time defined at the end of the project, some degree of uncertainty will persist. By dividing the time and distributing it throughout the project, you allow yourself to have options and opportunities to manage the project closely. You can also reuse the remaining unspent extra time if you need it throughout the project.

Rule #4: Select the correct level of detail.

When scheduling, you should choose the right level of detail. If you're going to demand daily reports from your team members, then you should schedule a plan by day. Then everyone will have a single concept of what needs to be achieved and when.

On the other hand, if your project has large amounts of time dedicated to similar activities, testing, for example, is likely to be better if you record 1-2 months of testing in one record. The details can certainly be shifted to the team, it all depends on what degree of control you need.

In most projects, the work can be detailed by week. This means that tasks are scheduled based on the number of weeks allocated to them. Weekly task assignment is more convenient for many, as completing a task by the end of the week seems more normal than completing it on a Monday or Tuesday.

By planning day after day, you can create too much extra time for unforeseen situations. If a task needs to be completed by Wednesday, but due to any difficulties it has not been solved, then it is unlikely that it will be completed by Thursday, even if someone from the team gives such predictions. It's more likely to be a couple of days late and end sometime around Friday, which means completing the next few tasks next week. 


If the plan is broken down into days, then you'll spend all your time managing the schedule rather than managing the project. On the other hand, if you plan everything by the week, then it will be much easier for you to cope with such small deviations. If something is not completed by "Monday of the 21st week", then the implementation can be postponed for 2-4 days, but other subsequent tasks will not be moved, and therefore the plan will not be changed (depending on the level of prudence).

The only exception is when it is necessary to speed up the project. This can be achieved by making shorter deadlines, down to days or even hours, regarding the completion of tasks. A higher level of control implies a higher level of attention, and in this case, you will also load yourself with this work. At a more detailed level, you need to pay more attention to individual tasks to ensure their completion.

Rule #5: Prepare for the unexpected.

Project management is the art of managing the unknown. Often, events and conditions that you did not foresee can interrupt the execution of your project. Your job is to take them under your own responsibility. Plan for the most possible delays and deal with them if necessary. If experience or instinct tells you that some kind of work will create delays, then predict it, add some time and make sure that you will have an adequate amount of resources if necessary.

A good way to deal with this is to implement some express risk management. By predicting likely risks and prioritizing them, you'll be able to better deal with the unexpected. It's also a good idea to find someone who can help you in assessing the risks of the project.

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