Surprise! Your Project Plan Didn’t (Plan)

Aug 27th, 2009 | By | Category: Items for Project Managers

Completing the Project Plan – It’s Not Enough

You, the diligent project manager, planned out the entire project. You hounded everyone involved to get the proper tasks laid out. You ran your Monte Carlo simulation to get the variances that were acceptable. You estimated costs, including overtime.

Later you religiously held status meetings, took action items, tracked them and watched the project move along.

However, about three quarters of the way through the project, the wheels started falling off of the wagon. You don’t know how it happened but task dates started extending and the project was in jeopardy.

What Happened To My Perfect Plan?

As Chris Vandersluis said in a recent blog, “… the focus stays too much on the planning process and not enough on what happens once the plan is put into action.” Sure you tracked the various action items, but did you updated the original project plan as you went along so that you knew the impact of each task completed on time or, better yet, the impact of a task that slipped even if it was just a little bit?

Unfortunately, most project managers quit using their project plan as soon as the original version is published. Rarely are they updated, much less new target dates established. You need to establish a baseline when you first publish the project plan and then issue updates to the plan as the project progresses. Not only will it keep you focused on the original tasks and avoid project scope creep (since the new items would need to be added to the project plan) but you can also evaluate the impacts of each task if it changes.

After all, how were you to realize that the task that slipped early in the project by just one week turned out to have a significant impact several months down the road? We can all think of simple examples of little slips causing dramatic differences later.

So think about the project you are working on right this minute. Are you collecting the actuals that you need to insure that the costs are in line?

In future posts, I’ll address baselining a project, incorporating actuals and issuing new project projections.

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