The following is from our upcoming book with the title Redefining the Basics of Project Management.
Idea to Project Detailed Plan
Let us take a road trip and consider the project as our trip; forgive us for the over simplification, but we know that you will get the concept and will be able to translate it to your own environment.
Our trip will follow the methodological steps from the following illustration!
Once upon a time – a family wanted to go on a trip …
Project Pre – Launch Stage
The idea: take a road trip with family and visit two to three cities (this is the what). Purpose: have fun and relax (this is the why).
Approval (SG1): OK, a trip would be a nice vacation after this book – smiley – and it is part of our family strategic objectives, which is to explore different parts of the world.
Feasibility: the cost for the road trip to a nearby country is less expensive than flying to a far location and we can afford it (financial). We have a good car to drive (technology). We have a good driver and enough electronics to entertain the kids between cities (people). There is no competition here; sorry forgot about the mobile with interruptions from the office to compete with fun (leave strong instructions not to be disturbed). You got the idea.
Stage gate 2: The higher authorities approve the project; will prepare a PAD.
Project Launch Stage
The PAD: the PAD is brief and includes the objective for the trip, where to go, approximate time and cost … For example, the PAD can possibly include … trip to have fun and relax … will visit three cities in Lebanon … the assumptions is that the weather would be nice … constraints – pack light we are in a car …
Basic requirements: have fun, activities for the whole families including children activities, the cities to see are Tyre, Tripoli, and Beirut … emergency services for vehicle, insurance, accommodations, cash and credit cards … based on the tourist information for these cities we should consider the following attractions …
Project management plan: we expect the plan will include three cities with about five major attractions in each – fifteen attractions. On average, we can see two attractions per day then it would be about eight days trip, say 10 allowing for driving and lazy days. The cost will likely be about $300 per day for accommodations, food, fuel, sightseeing … Quality, mostly related to hotels and that would be apartment hotels since we are a family. Safety, practice safe driving practices. Health, ensure we have the proper clothes for the places being visited and some basic medicines included. Environment, trash bags for the car, so we do not through it out of the window. People/family, two young boys, husband, and wife – most of the work will be by the parents but will assign some actions to the kids. How to define the project … tourist books for the attractions and hotels, maps for driving … How to manage and control … we will monitor expenditures and the maps, but the main objective of this trip is to have fun, so NO strict control.
Approval (SG4): the project is still in line with the original objective and expectations. $3000 overall cost is within the general budget.
Project Definition Stage
Project detailed plan: the plan would include the details for the project, expanding on what we have done already
- Scope: we finalize the cities and define the attractions in each city. We prepared notes on what each city is famous for so we can purchase souvenirs. We marked the map for the road trip, with locations of all attractions.
- Quality: We did define the standard of the hotel and identified the hotels in each city.
- Safety: take emergency triangle for the car in case of break down, check the tires and engine check about the safety of the city visited and what areas not to go into at night, or day for that matter.
- Time: based on the scope we will define how many days we need at each location.
- Cost: with the standard of the hotel defined, we estimate the cost for the hotels, including any tax or service charge. We also estimate the cost of food and beverage. We calculate the distances to travel and estimate vehicle related costs. We identify the cost of the attractions.
OK – we think the idea is now clear, with a detailed project plan we would have completed the project definition. It is time for approval from the higher authority of the house.
The Rest of the Story: Project Implementation Stage
We have approval – time for implementation.
In this project, the implementation stage could be one stage; or divide into three sub-stages with each city being a sub-stage. It does not really matter in this case, but it may on your project.
Packed and ready to go!
What could happen?
During the implementation of any project, whether it is a trip or developing a green building, things will happen that would not be in accordance to plan. We call these variances or deviations from the plan.
What could these variances be?
The car is consuming more or less fuel than expected. Fuel cost along the road is more expensive than our home city. The first attraction was great and the family spent more time than planned there.
In other words, a variance could be cost, time, quality related, people related, or anything else that is different from what we outlined in the project detailed plan.
Some variances could be minor, and you decide that they are ok, no need to do anything about them. However, we could also encounter substantial variances, which we should do something about to maintain a healthy project.
For example, let us say we arrive at the hotel and find that they had raised their price by 30%, which is more than we are willing to accept. We can go to another lower cost hotel, which would resolve this cost variance, but we lose time and some comfort! Alternatively, we can accept to pay the extra cost, with an impact on the project budget. The actions we take to correct a variance we call corrective action.
A project management key principle is about preventive action and being proactive.
A good project manager should look ahead to avoid potential problems or variances. Listening to the traffic report indicates a potential traffic jam then an alternate route might be a consideration. Checking out for information about an attraction to determine the best time of day to go in order to avoid long lines, would reduce lost time, stress, and lead to more enjoyment.
These kinds of actions, the ones we take to avoid a variance and enhance the chance of achieving objectives, we call preventive actions.
Rework is usually the result of work that we did not do properly. It is also to repair a defect. This is mostly a quality variance.
For example, if we encounter a problem with the car, we would have to fix.
We use the word ‘change’ here to indicate any change to plan.
Since we are in implementation, than the project detailed plan is the main control reference point. However, a change could be to the project objective as well. In this case, we also measure the change against the project authorization document (PAD).
It is important to note the following:
We must differentiate between a change and a variance.
- A variance is a deviation from the plan that happens in relation to performing the work; then it is a performance related matter whether under the team control or not. In our trip project, arriving late to Tyre is a performance related variance.
- On the other hand, a change is a conscious decision to alter the plan. Deciding to go to Byblos instead of Tyre (a different city) is a change in the plan.
We must also differentiate between a change to the detailed plan and a change to the project objective.
- A change to the detailed plan is possible while we can stay within the project objective; we measure this against the project plan. In the trip, changing which attraction to see first is a change to the plan but remain within the project objective.
- On the other hand, we measure a change to project objective in comparison to the PAD. Such a change is likely to cause a change to the project plan as well. Deciding to conduct some business while on the trip and visit with clients is a change in the objective.
Project Close Stage
The project close stage is mostly about capturing lessons learned, summarizing our actual case including the variances and deviations, and possibly file a report for future reference, send pictures to friends, and back to our daily routine!
 Three cities in Lebanon; Beirut is the capital.
 Two points for clarifications: (1) change in the context of this book is about project change and not organizational change and (2) on construction projects; one might often use the term variation in lieu of contract change.
 These cities are a few thousands’ years old and have been continuously inhabited. They go back to the Phoenicians who settled on the Eastern Mediterranean.