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Best plan format?

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Rob Kearns
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Joined: 5 Dec 2002
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There has been a lot of discussion regarding the New CPM Schedule full of flaws Article – to move this on slightly:

I think there is a major flaw in todays planning activities in that the majority generally regard the application as the tool. This is wrong! the plan is the tool and we, the planners, are the toolmakers. The user(s)is the assigned resource. Not the PM, not the senior management the guy who does the work - without him nothing happens.
Now Ive got down off my pedestal, the question Id like to ask is what is the best format to present plans in?

I work in an RandD environment, where a general comment by the engineering team was that they did not have full visibility of the plans. Also, more worryingly, when they were put together and presented they were invariably considered unrealistic.

Considering, all these plans and reports were readily available in hard of soft copy, and every allocated resource had an input into the plans when being created and updated, it was a hard statement to agree with but there was obviously something wrong with the planning process.
Various members of the design team were questioned on this subject and the underlying problem was considered to be the presentation of the plans and associated reports.
As a trial we prepared identical plans in various formats using various tools. The dummy project consisted of around 200+ activities normally associated with RandD projects.
Various Gantts, Precedence, and Arrow plans were produced from the available demo tools. Each member of the team was then asked to assess them - not just on presentation but also in the form of multiple questions including impact of what-if scenarios. This was required for justification in case funding for new tools were needed.
The resounding ‘winner’ for the detailed plan was the one in Arrow format.
The feedback was generally due to the logic flow being explicit with no interpretation required.
Precedence came second with the Gantt well behind.
An interesting by-product of the assessment was that the Arrow and Precedence plans were also being judged for accuracy.

Consequently we moved to Arrow for detailed activity supported by Gantt for summary reporting.
This move has been successful. The development team now buy-in to programmes, their input into project development has increased and most importantly they have been hitting project milestones on time regularly. Another plus is that process improvement initiatives can be properly analysed against previous performance.

Planning wise there have been problems, as it doesn’t fulfil the corporate methodology and associated reporting so the planners have had to adapt to this. However, some have not been able to, simply due to the fact of their lack of understanding of the principals of CPM.
It infuriates me that today the main criteria for employment seems to be the ability to drive a particular planning tool. Ooops - went totally track again but what the heck!

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Bernard Ertl
User offline. Last seen 6 years 51 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 20 Nov 2002
Posts: 757
Rob,

[quote] - I think there is a major flaw in todays planning activities in that the majority generally regard the application as the tool. This is wrong! the plan is the tool and we, the planners, are the toolmakers.

The plan is the organizations tool. The application is the planners tool. They are both tools.

Now, if the planners tool is flawed, can s/he produce an effective tool for the organization? I believe that was the gist of the article.

[quote] - The resounding ‘winner’ for the detailed plan was the one in Arrow format.
The feedback was generally due to the logic flow being explicit with no interpretation required.

Thanks for sharing. This is exactly what I have been harping on with regards to transparancy. It is possible to have an explicit logic flow detailed on a bar chart, but not with current PDM systems where
  • multiple calendars can be at work on the same activity
  • time is scaled instead of showing a full 24 hours (including non-working time) to highlight differentials from the separate calendars ruling different tasks


Our project management software for oil refinery and petrochemical plant maintenance turnarounds uses a PDM user interface with an ADM scheduling engine "under the hood". Our Gantt charts are completely transparant and explicit.

[quote] - ... simply due to the fact of their lack of understanding of the principals of CPM.
It infuriates me that today the main criteria for employment seems to be the ability to drive a particular planning tool.

So you agree with the article then? I believe the authors were making this exact point. CPM methodology is being replaced by software toolsets in practice (for better or worse).

Bernard Ertl
InterPlan Systems Inc. - Project Management Software, Project Planning Software