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June 10th, 2003  

Productivity Tips Newsletter
For Better Results, Goals & Success


This issue offers a fresh perspective into the different 'worlds' of effective project management.

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Better Manage Your Projects: A How To Guide (Part 2 of 2)
from Priority Management

In Part One, we learned that the dependency factor (each project task has predecessors and successors) causes significant challenges that we don't often find in the Operations World.

On a day-to-day basis, most knowledge workers' planning is relatively simple. We keep track of our appointments, our to-do lists and information. Some of us even go so far as planning out the time and priority factors to get us through a challenging day. And yet this planning is still perceived by a lot of folks as purely optional. Many of us abdicate the responsibility by simply reacting to the constant demands of ringing phones, drop-in visitors, e-mail, etc.

However, in a project, planning is mandatory. Due to the complexity of having dependent relationships between the various tasks, a project has to be well planned out in order to create the most effective and efficient schedule. That schedule has to be based on the logic relationships demanded by the dependencies. Then the all-too-few resources need to be coordinated with that schedule. By definition, an assignment only becomes a project once the plan is created and documented so it can be easily and accurately communicated.

In the Operations World, we are all familiar with the basic planning and organizational tools. We have calendars, to-do lists, notes and files. There are paper based organizational systems as well as electronic systems. Some of these tools are less formal - Post-its, backs of business cards, etc - but that's another story.

For projects, we need all of these tools and a whole lot more. The complex nature of dependent work requires more sophisticated tools such as PERT Charts (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) or Network Diagrams, Gantt Charts, Work Breakdown Structure, Earned Value Analysis, etc. Unfortunately there are a lot of project workers making the fundamental mistake of trying to manage a project with only a half-filled toolbox. We are comfortable with the tools we have. We try to hammer nails with our fists!

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In day-to-day operations we make countless change decisions. The telephone call doesn't get made; we leave a voice mail, or remind ourselves to call back later. Then we move on to the next priority.

In a project, this kind of change will almost always have some downstream impact. Once again, dependent work is more complex. We not only have to cope with the immediate aspects of the change, but we also have to analyze the affect it will have on each of the successor tasks and the overall schedule. And how does that seemingly insignificant change impact the people who are supposed to be working on those other tasks?

Have you ever noticed? The people who most often inflict sudden changes in a project do so from an Operational perspective? In other words, you manage to handle changes almost instantly in your Operational World. Why not in a Project? Why indeed!


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