Express course "Project Planning"
Does project planning apply everywhere
Any activity of a company or an individual can be divided into two states:
- I am doing something now;
- I will do this in the future.
The first condition is very popular in trade and procurement:
- buy right now ;
- order right now ;
- call right now .
A dozen tasks that need to be done right now fall on you . As a rule, these are “five minutes” tasks, although sometimes preparing for the task itself may take more than a couple of hours. If this happens, then the whole stream of tasks that need to be done "right now" stops until the short task is completed. However, in some mythical way, all such tasks are "resolved" by the end of the week.
An activity in which there are tasks appearing “right now” and which need to be done “right now” or “today” cannot be planned, it depends solely on external factors of influence and is of a short-term nature. The only thing that applies with this approach is registrationtasks and its results, so that it can be delegated or raise the story in the event of contentious issues or assess the effectiveness of the contractor.
Another condition refers to the planning of their activities or the activities of a team, company. If, when a task arrives, you put it off with the wording “I will do it in the future”, then the question immediately arises: In the “future”, when?
If your task queue is empty, then the “future” for doing new work can come right now, but what will happen if there are already ten tasks delayed for the future?
Will she be added to the tail of the line? And if its priority is between the fifth and sixth tasks? Well, if no one asks you: “when will you do my task?”, Then you can simply put her turn and continue to do the current work.
If your task line is kept within a dozen, then you can be congratulated, the speed of new work and the speed of its completion is about the same, and you do not need to change anything in this system and plan.
Let's take another situation, a task is brought to you and the director passing it on is interested in “When will you do it?”. then two questions appear immediately:
- How much time does it take to complete a task?
- When can you start the task?
from the answers to which the answer to the most important question "When will you do it?"
As soon as you start trying to answer such questions, you can be congratulated, you have come to the need to plan your activities.
Where does planning begin?
The simplest plan is a list of tasks:
- Task 1
- Task 2
- Task 3
Today you do the first task, move the list up, do the second and then the third. To the question "when will you do my task" that you put at the end of the list, you can show the list and say, "When I finish all these, then I can do your task too."
The approach is good, you can say to everyone “I plan my activity!”, But will the task manager be satisfied with this answer?
I think that in the absence of other options, he will have to be content with this. But, in fact, he wants to hear the approximate date when his task will be completed.
This approach is often used by people who care only about what they are doing just now, according to the concept of "live today, there’s no reason to bother with any managerial blizzard." And as a result, the task manager, promising someone some timeline, simply calls the numbers from the ceiling and crosses his fingers hoping for "maybe they will have time."
If the task manager is more meticulous, then he will be able to compel you to say some number of deadline estimates, which of course you will take "from the ceiling" based on your experience in solving similar problems.
And of course you will miss, about two, three times. And when the director comes to you with the words “Well, how is it, Vasily, you promised and did not have time. You're setting me up. ”You will feel guilty, though, and you and the newcomer will both realize that the numbers were taken from the ceiling.
Nobody likes to feel guilty, guilt can be manipulated. And when you want that the next time this does not happen again, two options are possible:
- When requesting a deadline, hide behind the wording “I don’t know”, “after those on the list”, or
- To think how to improve the quality of the assessment of the complexity of what has not yet been done.
If you choose the second path, then congratulations, you have a need to plan your activities.
We draw up a plan, evaluate the timing
There is a need for activity planning, but how to implement it? Making a plan!
The plan is our recorded assumptions regarding:
- What do we have to do;
- how to do;
- how long does it supposedly take and
- who will do.
Why precisely “presumably” ? Because, meanwhile, as you write down what needs to be done in the task and who will do it, a thousand different events can occur that affect your plan and the intended executor.
For example: he may suddenly become ill, he may be moved by a bus (see the bus factor), the customer suddenly decided to refuse this work, the government issued a law requiring licensing of your activities, another company released a product that simplifies your work, you have been allocated additional resources. Each of these small moments can both increase the time frame for the work and reduce its volume.
In the most optimistic scenario, we can assume that these events will not happen. And then we can build a plan:
- Task 1, the expected completion date of 3 days, performs Basil;
- Task 2, the expected completion date is 4 days, performed by Peter;
- Task 3, the expected completion date is 2 days, performed by Victor.
Our expectations will be 9 people / days for 3 people, and the whole plan can be fulfilled presumably in 4 days.
When a team together begins to do work, it turns out that:
- Basil does not know the specifics of the work and constantly asks Peter (+2 days, total 5 days);
- Peter has to be distracted from his task and explain to Vasily the main idea of his task, but he is a professional and therefore completed the deadline (3 days);
- Victor found that it was possible to reduce risks in the future, and for this he spent an additional 2 days solving an additional problem (+2 days, total 4 days);
As a result, the implementation of the plan instead of the expected 9 people / days took 12 days (5 + 3 + 4), that is, we missed the mark for 3 days, and in fact the volume of work increased by 30% of the planned amount. However, according to the calendar, it took 5 calendar days, which means that the next work will not start earlier than Monday of the next week, which leads to an increase in terms by 75% (7 days instead of 4).
If, on the basis of your plan, you promised some timeline for the task director, then again a situation will arise when they accuse you of "You promised, but did not fulfill it."
And here again there are two ways:
- First, roll back to previous positions with the words "And what is the use of evaluating, anyway, the assessments will not come true / are not true.", Or
- Second, learn to take into account the difference between the planned volumes and terms and the actually spent resources and time when planning a new job.
If you choose the second way, then congratulations, you have a need for risk assessment.
Improving the plan
In the previous section, the planned volume and terms increased due to two factors:
- volume estimates are generally very optimistic;
- unaccounted risks worked.
It is human nature to always give optimistic estimates of time, especially when the task manager expects to hear less time. Or, when assessing the volume of work, only personal experience in performing a similar task is taken into account and the experience of the actual contractor is not taken into account.
In a quick assessment of the amount of work in most cases, the risks are not taken into account at all. The risks are different, there are those that require a bit more time to eliminate, and there are those that can bury your project.
The progress of the project is mainly affected by a relatively small set of risks that occur regularly, but they are constantly forgotten to take into account.
I will give a few of them that everyone faces:
- The risk of availability of resources - Peter who was needed by Vasily is very busy at this moment, so Vasily had to wait;
- The risk of incomplete task assessment - when evaluating a task, all factors affecting its performance were not taken into account;
- Performer qualification risks - the assessment was given in terms of its implementation by an expert, but in fact it was performed by a beginner, which led to training costs.
All these risks can be reduced to one: Risk of accuracy of planning assessment. Taking this risk into account can be expressed as a “planning accuracy factor” . If we take into account that:
- principles for estimating workloads rarely change,
- the project team rarely changes and
- the nature of the work performed does not change,
That, the obtained calculations of the coefficient for the previous stage of work or the previous project can be taken into account when calculating the plan of a new project or stage of work.
The planning accuracy factor is calculated on the basis of the history of the work performed, as the ratio of the planned time to the actual time spent.
planned_volume accuracy factor = -------------------- actual_costs
planned_volume - the amount of work in man-days;
actual_costs - costs in calendar man-days.
Taking into account the planning accuracy factor to estimate the planned volume of work allows a more accurate completion date.
However, if you simply perform the calculation taking into account the planning accuracy factor, this will also be an optimistic forecast estimate, it does not take into account the onset of the most important risk: an increase in the volume of work due to the incompleteness of the task.
In order to calculate it, it is necessary to assess how much the initial volume of work has grown relative to the actually completed:
actual_volume volume_increase coefficient = -------------------- initial_volume
actual_volume - the amount of work at the end of the project or stage of work in the planned person-days.
initial_volume - the amount of work at the beginning of the project or stage of work in the planned person-days.
By itself, the coefficient of increase in the volume of work is a static value, however, if we take into account that the trend towards an increase in volume will continue in the future, then it must be taken into account as an influencing factor.
Thus, the most likely time for completion of work should take into account: the initial volume, the coefficient of accuracy of planning and the coefficient of increase in the volume of work. Such a term will be called "pessimistic . "
The formula is as follows:
initial_volume calendar_term = ----------------------------- x volume_increase coefficient x week accuracy factor x command
nachalnyy_obem - the initial amount of work in man / days
koeff_tochnosti - planning accuracy factor
koeff_uvelicheniya_obema - zoom ratio workload
week - attitude to the working days in a week, as well 7/5
team - number of performers
So our example from the previous section will have the following layout:
- the expected plan is 9 people / days;
- additional work - 2 days;
- other risks - 2 days;
- actually spent: 12 people / days;
- days spent on the implementation of the initial plan: 10 people / days;
- planning accuracy factor: 9/10 = 0.9;
- volume increase ratio: 12/9 = 1.33.
If we go back and make a forecast for the completion date, we get:
9 calendar_term = --------- x 1.33 x 1.4 = 6.2 calendar days 0.9 x 3
Thus, our forecast showed that the work will take a week.
If the project does not have a history of completed work, then when forecasting a negative scenario it makes sense to take 50% of the volume as risks for increasing the volume, that is, the coefficient will be equal to 1.5.
Thus, when predicting the timing of the completion of the project, taking into account the main risks, the forecast can be optimistic , without taking into account the increase in the volume of work and pessimistic , given the upward trend in the volume of planned work.
Resources are the same, projects are increasing
So, you have already learned how to assess the most probable date of completion of the work phase. But the number of projects begins to increase, and competition for projects begins for the same artist.
It becomes necessary to queue projects and shift the start date of the work until the desired employee is released. For example, there is a web studio, and everything rests on one cool designer, a client comes to us and we are ready to approve the contract, but the question arises: “What are the terms for the client to promise?”, Which depends on the answer to the question “When will the designer be released?”
Q In our case, the designer is a limitation of the entire system.
In order to answer the question about the accessibility of the designer, it is necessary to calculate an optimistic and pessimistic forecast for him - just as it is for the work stage, but taking into account the individual plan of tasks, which includes the tasks of all ongoing projects.
What to read on the topic
- Extreme Programming: Planning Kent Beck, Martin Fowler;
- Moving target and trembling hands. Maxim Dorofeev (slidecast);
- “On time and on budget. Critical Chain Project Management »Lawrence Leach;
- Theory of Constraints.