A good and robust plan is 80 % of the project success
Reference: WA Transformation Management by Harmony, Yuji Kishira
Assuming a common project goal is clear and defined by summarizing the Objectives, Deliverables and Success Criteria (also referred to as ODSC), the next step is to make a plan for how these ODSC can be successfully realized. There is a very simple and easy, but powerful, way to do it.
Catch the 10 o'clock Train
Suppose you are in the office and you want to catch the 10 o'clock train. What would your thinking process be in order to achieve it?
"In order to catch the l0 o'clock train, I must buy the ticket by 9:55. In order to buy the ticket by 9:55, it will be better to leave here at 9:40. In order to leave hear here at 9:40, I must get this job done by 9:30. Okay, to confirm this, I will complete this job by 9:30, then leave here at 9:40, then buy the ticket by 9:55, then I can take the train at l0 o'clock."
This is a very natural way of thinking for people. They will think in a backward manner when planning and think in a forward manner when make sure those plans things happen. It is common sense, a natural way for people to think.
Making good and robust Plans
To make a robust plan is very easy, just ask the following questions:
- "What tasks must be completed immediately before this task can be started?"
- “Are there any other tasks that must first be completed?"
Simply continue asking the above two questions, staring from the final task and working backwards, until you reach the very first task of the project. When you have this dialogue, you will realize this team discussion is very effective for ensuring completion of all the planned tasks necessary to achieve the goal. This is a good opportunity for you to discover what other persons are doing in terms of preparation and procedures regarding all of the tasks in the project.
You may notice that these two questions are designed to create a logic network, using necessity-logic and sufficiency-logic; you are now creating a network to logically achieve the goal discussed in the ODSC.
Present Tense Verb + Noun
It is important to write each task in a "present tense verb - noun" structure. By doing it this way, people naturally consider the task duration and the real task description to be shared with all of the project members. But, it is more than that also. It is much easier to understand in this way. Expressing tasks in a "present tense verb - noun" structure makes people discuss in them ordinary terms, rather than using complicated technical words or jargon, which sometimes confuse and mystify other people. 5t If other people don't understand the tasks as well as you, you cannot expect their support. If you would like to have other people's support, you had better express all tasks clearly, so that other people can understand them.
During the discussion among all project members, it is effective to include experienced people's knowledge and senior management's advice, which can then be absorbed into project plans as explicit knowledge in the task network. In general, most excellent project leaders are good at communicating complex and difficult ideas in an easy and understandable manner so they can obtain other people's support. It is ordinary people who do the tasks in the most cases, so it is natural to express tasks in a way that ordinary people can understand.
Once you have completed the backward planning, the next step is to read the tasks in a forward manner. You will find it very easy to read since all the tasks are written as present tense verb-noun, with each task dependent on another, just like the scenario for project success. Read each task aloud, one by one, to confirm the task contents and the interdependencies that lead to the goal. This is a stairway to achieve the project goal discussed in the ODSC. If there are any missing tasks discovered by way of this discussion, just add them in to make the plan better.
Simply read aloud the tasks in the following manner:
"If you do A, then you can do B, correct?"
Reading these tasks is just like telling a story of the project's success, and you will see all of the members' faces smiling and full of motivation, convinced that the goal are achievable through everybody's teamwork. I have done hundreds of projects in this manner, in various kinds of industries, and I am always amazed that just a few hours of discussion can really create such a high quality task network (which had often never been made before) with exciting, "aggressive but possible" goal
You may notice here that you are checking this with cause and effect logic, making sure all tasks and interdependencies logically achieve the goal discussed in the ODSC.
High Risk Tasks Pushed Earlier
When having this dialogue, you will notice that the tasks associated with high risk are naturally pushed earlier in the timeline. Because the network is constructed in a backward manner, using necessity-logic, high-risk tasks are necessarily pushed toward the beginning. Until now, experienced people have started with the high-risk tasks, while inexperienced people have started with the tasks they think they can handle themselves, often resulting in later revisions, and proving the lessons: "More haste, less speed" or "He who begins many things, finishes but few."
However, when the project tasks are discussed among team members and involve experienced people, the experienced people will provide valuable advice, such as "Do A task (high risk task) before B task (lower risk task)." The mechanics of both tasks remain the same, only their interdependency is different. This sequence will disclose potential risks much earlier, or could eliminate potential problems in the future, since it reduces the risks dramatically.
It also follows the rule of project management discipline to do high-risk tasks upfront. It is a very effective way to systematically train inexperienced people in the planning stage, and to teach things that used to be learned only through experience.
On-going KAIZEN in the Estimation
There is a mix of tasks within a project. There are the tasks that you can estimate with relative accuracy, and there are others you cannot. There are always tasks with high levels of uncertainty, which you cannot know until you really start them.
These are the tasks that need to be started earlier in the project duration, so that the uncertainty can be identified, and the risk can be estimated. This means that the uncertainty will be dissolved in the initial stage, and your estimation will become more accurate as the project advances. This naturally increases the chances of keeping the due date. It also helps to develop forward thinking skills for project members, which is very important for the project's success.
Making a Scenario for Project Success
Here the resources and estimated durations are filled out for the project tasks. It is recommended to fill them out in a forward manner, just like making a scenario for a story of success. Who is going to do it, and for how long, will be filled out for each task, just like casting the actors for an individual scene (called tasks) in a success story.
Projects have become more and more complicated recently, involving many organizations, where sometimes the projects are carried out with a vague sense of responsibility for who does what. Sometimes it causes the situation where everybody assumes other people will do certain tasks, and it ends up that nobody does some of them, causing serious problems in the project. So, this process of discussing who does what, and for how long, is extremely important.
Simply, simply continue asking these questions:
- "What tasks must be completed immediately before this task con be started?'
- "Are there any other tasks that must first be completed?'
- "If you do A, then you can do B, correct?'
These three questions are carefully designed to make sure you achieve the goal through necessity-logic, sufficiency-logic and cause-and-effect logic respectively. It is very important to check with all project members to see if the network can logically achieve the goals. If everybody agrees with it, it will really be a roadmap of the logical steps to achieve the goals. While the goals are very aggressive, all members ore convinced that there is a logical way to succeed (with the buffer being the source of teamwork), and their motivation will be increased.
If you discuss this within your project, you will realize that the assignment of resources is extremely important. Depending on who does the task, the duration will be significantly different. It may take a long time if you only assign engineers, but with the involvement of a senior manager, it may help to reduce task duration dramatically. But there is more to it than that. The discussion may disclose a situation where one engineer is being exploited for a variety of tasks, and alternative resources would be beneficial. Sometimes you will face the situation where several people raise their hands and say, "We'll take this task," since everybody shares a common goal and responsibilities from knowing the ODSC and the buffers. Since the contents of tasks are more clear, senior management can easily understand what they have to do to make the project successful. This concludes the stairway to the success.
Reference: WA Transformation by Harmony, Yuji Kishira
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