We have got a project! To successfully complete our project with all the required content, within the set budget and timeframe, we need to do a lot of things right.
One of the most crucial things for a project’s success is building a work plan.
Building a Project Work Plan?
The two basic things that should be included in the plan must answer the following questions:
- What tasks do we need to do in order to perform the entire work content that is required in the project?
- What is the timeframe for each task?
There are other details that we can add to the work plan, such as:
- How much does each task cost? – This will allow us to know about budget usage.
- Who performs (or who is responsible for) each task?
Project Work Plan – Is it a Project Schedule?
Building a project work plan means writing a project schedule, with one major difference: when writing a project schedule, you need to define the logic of the project’s method of execution, or in other words – the work order. To do so, we must ask the following questions about each task:
- Which tasks precede this task? Meaning, which tasks should be completed so that we could begin this one?
- Which tasks come next? Meaning, which tasks can begin after we complete this task?
A little bit, but nothing serious.
What Software do I Use to Write a Project Work Plan or Schedule?
A known saying is that the most common scheduling software in the world is Excel. 😊 Excel does allow you to write the list of tasks and the timeframe for each task in a user-friendly manner, and even add the cost of each task and the responsibility for executing each task – meaning, it allows you to write a work plan. Nowadays there is plenty of software for work plans with added capabilities, e.g., tagging executable tasks, tagging executed tasks, adding details to each task, comments, notes, etc.
But such programs have no automatic and digital option to describe the links between tasks; which tasks precede a certain task. This already demands significant manual work by the document drafter: color games, graphics, self-calculation of dates, and dependencies – and the chances of an error are high.
For such purpose, scheduling programs were developed. They include the entire work plan system and inter-task logic. The most common programs today are MS Project and Primavera – a schedule that is written in a scheduling software has a certain configuration, called Gantt.
What do the Words “This is a Good Plan” or “This is a Good Schedule” Mean?
The simplest and most direct answer would be a work plan or schedule that describes reality. No games. This is how we wrote it – and this is what we want and intend to perform. There are numerous schedules – pretty ones, colorful ones, executive schedules… But if we don’t actually intend to work according to them – they are not good schedules.
How do I Write a Good Schedule or work plan of project ?
This question should be asked in two parts:
(1) Who should participate in the scheduling process to write a better schedule?
The principle answer is that anyone who participates in the project should be involved in the schedule building.
This has two important reasons:
A – a schedule (in this context – the work plan) is a commitment to execute a certain task by a certain time. Meaning, it is a commitment by the performers to the project. If someone is not participating – they are not committing either…
B – the bigger the project is, the larger and more complex the work plan and schedule are. Anyone not involved in building a complex schedule ‘loses hands and feet’ in the schedule, and in other words – loses the grip between schedule and reality. At that moment, the schedule becomes a ‘bad schedule’. This is why, when building a good schedule, project managers must be involved in the entire schedule building process!
Wait - What About a Schedule Consultant?
Don’t consultants need to be involved to write a better schedule?
The schedule consultants provide technical knowledge of software use and the professional knowledge required to build a work plan or schedule. If it is not a largescale project – you will probably build the work plan and/or schedule on your own. If you feel like this is ‘too much’ for you – it is probably the right time to find a schedule consultant.
Here are some examples of different projects and the elements that participated in building the work plan or schedule:
- In a ‘site promotion’ project, the participants will be the site owner and the professional website promotion agency. To promote the site, they will build a work plan together – what will be done each month and which topics to focus on. There is no link between the tasks that are being done in the various months, which is why they do not really require a schedule with task dependencies, and Excel will meet those needs.
- In a ‘software building’ project, meetings will be attended by the project manager, team leaders, and possibly some or all team leaders will also bring along the team that is supposed to write the code.
- In a tower project with 40 floors above ground and another 6 underground, every schedule building meeting is attended by the project manager on behalf of the client (the project developer) and the project manager on behalf of the primary contractor.
- For meetings on the plans, the project manager will attend with the planning manager.
- For scheduling meetings related to aluminum and glassworks, the CEO of the aluminum and glass work constructor will attend together with the constructor’s project manager.
- For scheduling meetings related to systems, the systems manager, plumbing manager, A/C manager, and power manager will attend.
- Similarly, meetings will also take place with the finishing works contractor, elevator contractor, special works contractor, carpentry works contractor and more.
(2) What are the rules for building a good schedule and work plan of project?
There are basic logical rules that, when spoken of, result in an “Ok, well… That is obvious” type of comment:
- Only say true stuff. Real-time estimates, real links. Pretty clear, isn’t it?
- Raise a flag and say something whenever you find something that does not make sense in your schedule.
There are professional technical rules for the schedule. The basic ones include:
- Every task, excluding the completion task, must have at least one successor task.
- A chain of tasks has only one completion task.
- The chain of tasks should have one starting task.
- A link represents execution priority.
- No loops!
- Set non-workdays, e.g., Fridays and Saturdays, holidays – all of the holidays celebrated by the people who take part in your project, and special days (if any). Obviously, work should not be allocated to such days.
- And many more…
Question: How can I know all of the technical rules? Isn’t there something that can check the technical aspects for me?
Answer: Today we have HCP Go, HCP’s Project addon. With one click, you can analyze your schedule file – and get a free report with your results!
Work plan of project- Milestones, Safety Margin, Reflecting the Project Structure: What a Project Manager Needs to Know
And… there are other, highly fundamental issues:
- Defining milestones – milestones are the project’s test points, by which the project execution progress can be tested. The defined milestone duration: 0 days. Generally, completions of significant and/or principle content execution in the project are defined as milestones. For instance, in a building – completed execution of the base structure will be a milestone.
- Defining a safety margin – the general rule is to define a safety margin for a milestone that constitutes 20% of the required execution duration to execute the required content for the milestone. In other words – if the project’s execution requires 10 months of work, then an additional 2 months of safety margin should be set (20% of 10) and the project should be planned for completion in 12 months, including the 2 safety months.
- Setting a fine/reward – we are all powered by negative or positive motivation to do something within a certain time. The reward, which is positive motivation, greatly affects all of us and generates a good group dynamic. The fine, which initially constitutes an element of fear or threat, in many cases turns into a point of conflict and dispute, generating a terribly negative project dynamic. In my opinion, losing a reward would often be considered as a greater fine than the fine itself.
Reflecting the project structure – project managers have their own understanding of their project. The schedule – Gantt – has its own “understanding” of the project. The interesting question is whether or not these two understandings are identical. If they are – excellent! If they are not – something should be changed. Either the project manager’s perception or that of the Gantt. We can ask the project manager for his or her opinion, but how would we know what is in the Gantt? This is why the HCP app exists. Running an HCP analysis would provide a project path histogram within moments – which conveys a lot about the Gantt structure – click the link for an explanation about the HCP app:
For additional information on critical project paths, click the link for an explanation – MS Project Critical Path.
Did you like what you’ve read?
Do you know someone else who’d like to read the article? Please share!
Want to add or ask something?
With pleasure! You can do so here in the comments.
Want to tell me something? Mention it at the beginning of the comment and it won’t be published