A recent post on a Scott Berkun's Blog pointed to a post on the topic of Gantt charts in project management. While the charts of Henry Laurence Gantt (1861–1919) have a long history they also have several flaws for modern project management. The mere presence of a set of bars showing activities that cascade from left to right implies that progress is being made in the project.
This is not the fault of Mr. Gantt's charts. It is a human fraility to belive that the passage of time equals progress. And since the chart both the pasage of time and the completion of work through the coloring in of the body of the bar, thne progress must surely be being made.
In almost every representation of the Gantt chart the dependencies between task is not shown in any explicit manner. Or at least in a manner that can call attention to potential problems.
Integrated Master Plan / Integrated Master Schedule
IMP/IMS is both a concept and a notation. The underlying concept of IMP/IMS separates work “tasks” from the accomplishments and criteria for delivering these accomplishments to the customer. This approach is the basis of “performance based” management systems. By starting with the “end in mind,” IMP/IMS provides the tool for subordinating our natural urge to define the work before the outcomes are identified.
It’s more than just “understanding” what done might look like, it’s defining what “done” means — in some form — so when we get there "done" can be recognized and verified. This approach creates the success criteria before creating the tasks (the work activities in the Gantt Chart) needed to deliver that success. The problem with the “task first” approach is that “done” is not always well defined in the beginning, but rather is defined as the result of the effort consumed in the tasks. Not defining “done” in the beginning means that no one will recognize it if it ever comes around. This does not mean the plan is inclusive, complete, and unchanging. Quite the contrary. But the plan and the resulting scehdule (there is a difference between a plan and a schedule) is a representation of what "done" looks like in terms of accomplishments and the criteria for judging those accomplishments.
The agile approach is to let “done” emerge as the project proceeds. This sounds interesting, but needs to be turned into specific actionable outcomes to deliver on the promise of faster, better, cheaper product development. Although the resulting IMS may look like a Gantt chart it possess several distinct attributes:
- The fundamental principle of IMP/IMS is to define what done means, so that done will be recognized, and done can be verified along the way. This definition can be incremental and iterative, but it is a clear, cocise and agreed on definition of done. One that all the project participants can share
- Incremental, iterative, and even “emergent” development work processes are independent of this approach. For each increment, the accomplishments and their criteria must be defined in such a way so as to assure that at the end of the increment, the person paying for the work is satisified. No "almost done," no "80% done," no "well we tried reall hard to get done."
This approach provides a framework for the Project Manager to define done in measureable terms, by setting up the criteria to judge the progress of the project. Project Management is not Project Control, it is the ability to recognize we’re getting off track and “manage” the project back toward the goal of “done.”
- Define the components of the project through a project data architecture, a common numbering system for all these components and a roll up linkage from tasks to events.
- Connect the horizontal and vertical architecture of the program through a traceability diagram illustrate the relationship between cost and schedule in ways “obvious” to the stakeholders.
- Tie the performance of the program to “Performance Based Payments” through measurable deliverables.
The focus on “events” replaces the focus on “tasks.” Tasks are still present by they are an enabling activity not a project management activity. Without a clear and concise description of what is to be delivered, tied to the plan, with measurement criteria the program has no way of knowing how the project is performing. The emphasis on “performance” and “maturity” is the core of IMP/IMS.
This is a fundamentally different approach than “task based” planning, where the focus is on progress to plan for tasks, critical path analysis of the work remaining, and resource management. IMP/IMS does not replace this focus. It simply puts it in the proper position – as an enabling process to the strategic goal of defining “done” in measurable terms.
In many projects, processes, disciplines, functional activities are seen as the major schedule elements.
- Gather requirements
- Produce detailed design
- Develop software
- Test software
- Deliver software to customer
are typical functional boundaries between project phases. What is missing are clear and concise definitions of “done.”
IMP/IMS provides you terms like “design,” “test,” and “verify.” But they will have past tense verbs attached to them. “Done,” “completed,” “verified.” This may seem trivial at first, but there are subtle changes in how the project plan describes the work. If there is an accomplishment defined using the term “completed,” what is the criteria used to assess the completion of this accomplishment?
Next, what are the tasks that need to be performed so the assessment criteria can be evaluated? This is the core of IMP/IMS is an indented description of the work to be performed and the physical evidence that progress is being made.
The emphasis on “performance” and “maturity” is the core of IMP/IMS. This is a fundamentally different approach than “task based” planning, where the focus is on progress to plan for tasks, critical path analysis of the work remaining, and resource management. IMP/IMS does not replace this focus. It simply puts it in the proper position – as an enabling process to the strategic goal of defining “done” in measurable terms.