Brad Egeland has a nice post about planning. He mentions three benefits of Planning:
- Reduces uncertainty
- Increases understanding
- Improves efficiency
This is a good starting point, Planning is Good. But why is Planning good? First what is a Plan?
A Plan is a strategy for the successful completion of the project
The plan describes the "path" to the end. The Plan describes what "done" looks like. Not only at the end, but along the way to "done." The Plan describes the increasing maturity of the deliverables of the project. The units of measure for the maturity and when a specific value for this unit of measure should be present. This means the plan has a sequence of increasing maturity.
The Plan is NOT a Schedule, which is time based. The Plan is seqeunce based, relationship based, and maturity based. The Schedule tells us "when" this maturity should appear.
Here's an example of a "Plan"
The Plan shows the increasing maturity of the deliverables, moving from left to right. How at each point along the path to "done," the dependencies are related, and how they support the final deliverable.
At the points of assessment, there needs to be a set of assesment criteria to assure that the planned maturity has been reached. These measures of progress to plan can be Technical Performance Measures, quantities of material, or some other type of measure.
Turning the Plan into a Schedule
With the Plan established, at least in the first version - since Plans do change, we need to Schedule the work to cause the deliverables (intermediate and final) to appear.
In this diagram the "Plan" part is represented in the Program Events - the capabilties that are "planned" to be present at each assessment point in the project. The "Accomplishments" needed to provide these capabilities are defined in the "Plan." The "Criteria" for each of these Accomplishments - the measure of compliance with the planned maturity - are also part of the "Plan."
With these elements - arranged in a hierarchical structure, the "Work Packages," that perform the work are developed. The sequence of the Work Packages are the top level of the Schedule. The work inside the Work Package can be sequenced as well. But the starting point for the schedule is the sequence of the "Work Packages"
Once the "Work Packages" are sequenced, a Program Master Schedule is the result.
This is the master level sequence of work that is not Time Phased - a schedule. Below the Program Master Schedule are Intermediate and Detailed schedule. Each defining increasing details of the work, down to the Work Packages and the Tasks or activities within the Work Packages.
An Intermediate Level schedule might look like this.
At the Intermediate Level, the dependencies that connect the major deliverables - the increasing maturity deliverables - are show. Below this are more levels of detail. The Master, Intermediate, and Detailed schedules are actually ONE file (.mpp in MSFT Project).
There are tools like, Chronicle Graphics and Kidasa Milestones that can be used to make nice Program Master Schedules from the detailed and intermediate MSFT Project schedules.
But in the end all this startes with a PLAN - a Strategy for success and the measurement points along the road to that success.