Unconstrained Project Planning is Best

I must have written this somewhere before but after a course I ran yesterday on running MindManager with Microsoft Project I feel like mapping it again.

Unconstrained project planning is the best for getting the most from project planning tools

I started using Project Planning software in 1988 at Unilever Engineering.  I managed to grab a PertMaster Advance box that was lying in a cupboard. I used it not just to plan but also to prepare cost estimate for projects. I was in a man hour based project management consultancy.  If someone said the plan was wrong. The required change was immediately reflected in a cost estimate change.

In 2000 I was one of 4 project managers using a pool of 40 engineers to design, programme, build and commission control systems for blue chip and utility companies at Cougar Automation.  We were resource constrained!  Every Monday we met and discussed our resource scheduling for the next week and month.  Most of the time we had the facts in front of us: resource pool utilisation plan produced by Microsoft Project.   It made it relativly easy to agree who was going to work on what when!  This was only possible if our project plans were relatively unconstrained.  Making programmer unavailable to Project X for a week because he was now going to work on Project Y had to immediately show the impact on Project X.

Why mention these experiences?  The rules I outline above were true two decades ago for me, and at the turn of the century and today.  If you want to maximise the benefit of the time used to produce a project plan following these rules will help.  Short cuts won’t.

To help search engines find this page and those with impaired vision to “read” the map, the image map content is repeated below as a text outline.

Unconstrained Project Planning is Best

1. For getting the most from project planning tools

2. Tasks

2.1 Brainstorm

2.2 Include finish and start milestones (also for phases and stages)

3. Organise

3.1 Work Breakdown Structure

3.2 Phases, Stages, Disciplines,

4. Add the minimum dates

4.1 Earliest start

4.2 Latest finish

4.3 Key milestones

5. Add Resources

5.1 People

5.1.1 Be generic e.g. Builder Project Leader Programmer

5.2 Tools

5.2.1 Bulldozer

5.2.2 Development Computer

5.3 Locations

5.3.1 Meeting Rooms

5.3.2 Building Site

6. Duration

6.1 Recognise duration is not working time it is elapsed time

6.2 Working time is person hours on the job

6.3 Add any significant non-working periods

6.3.1 Christmas

6.3.2 Summer Break

7. Add all the dependencies

7.1 Finish to Starts

7.2 Parallel and Series

7.3 Only link tasks and milestones not phases or stages

7.4 Make sure all tasks are linked at their start and finish except the start and finish

7.5 Do not link the finish to the start (that’s a process!)

8. Save


9. Calculate

9.1 Activate the Task Management Tool in MindManager

9.2 Start JCVGantt

9.3 Export to Microsoft Project or via MPX export to other tools

10. Validate

10.1 Are tasks floating in space?

10.2 Are the start and finish dates reasonable?

10.3 Are tasks running in parallel when they can?

10.4 Identify the critical path

11. Experiment

11.1 Change the finish or start date to find earliest finish or latest start.

11.2 Remove a constraint e.g. Christmas holiday!

11.3 Save a version of the plan e.g. Scenario 1

12. Adjust

12.1 Return to the Least Constrained Model

12.2 Add the dependency and task changes from Scenario 1

12.3 Add new milestones or other discovered constraints


13. Allocation

13.1 Now you have a better model, you can see who it is appropriate to allocate the tasks to.

13.2 One person is made responsible for each task

13.2.1 Too many cooks!

14. Iterate

About Andrew Wilcox

Andrew is an experienced user of MindManager who shares his knowledge and advice for free here. And provides commercial training and consulting on how to exploit MindManager and other mind mapping software applications in business, organisations and for individuals at Cabre For more information about Andrew please visit his Google + profile.

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One Response to “Unconstrained Project Planning is Best”

  1. David Bridges says:

    Great guide. I just recently started learning about MindManager when I ran across this: and the thing I like a lot is that it is very easy to learn how to use. I needed to find some good beginner guides, and your website is amazing for that! Thanks a lot for making these and sharing 🙂

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