Posts Tagged ‘project’

Unconstrained Project Planning is Best

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

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

Mindjet MindManager 8 Review in The Institution of Engineering and Technology

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

I am a Chartered Engineer and member of the IET.  So I was pleasantly surprised to see a Review of MindManager 8 in the fortnightly magazine E&T which is also published on-line.

It’s a good review, highlighting MindManager’s strengths and its percieved (high) price weakness versus the competition.  Pity it is 2 years after it was released.  I like the last two paragraphs.  Fortunately I am way past the 30 day trial, I did that in 1998.   I don’t feel anything like a BP submersible, still trying to plug some of the leaks but I have been to the depths.  I know my friends Nick Duffill of Harport Consulting and Nigel Goult of Olympic Limited have been deeper and are still drilling.   Ok double space problems in notes don’t compare to millions of barrels of oil but they are  irritating if it’s your principal daily application.

This article inspires me to re-publish something I wrote for the predecessor of the E&T magazine on using MindManager for Project Management.  I never quite forgave the IEE (as it was then) for having all my MindManager maps redrawn by their in-house graphic artist!  It was written for them in 2003 and updated in 2007.  This version of “MindManaging Your Projects” has my original mapwork. I will re-export the map which I used to write the article and publish it as a blog.  Should take 5 minutes!

p.s. One of the best benefits of membership of the IET is using the Members Lounge at the IET Savoy Place, London. If you would like a chat about anything, contact me and I will be pleased to bring you in as my guest.  Just descend the stairs at the north western end of Waterloo Bridge and cross over at the traffic lights or walk through the park from Embankment tube.  Don’t go through the entrance door on the right it takes you in to Second Life!