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Posted by on Oct 2, 2012

“Resistance is Futile, You Will be Assimilated” – Carefully Contemplate the Collective

When do we Project Managers start thinking about the collective? Maybe it is at the very beginning of a project when the idea is still fermenting in the mind of the sponsor. I discussed that in my previous post, Before Charter (B.C.) Project Management. The most obvious place to think integration is at the beginning of the planning phase. Here we have a cloudy, limited understanding of what success should look like and it’s time to create clarity.

Planning answers several questions: Who needs to be informed? How will change be handled? What must you do? When will you do it? What will it cost? What could go wrong? Is everybody on board? The PMBOK® Guide depicts the intersection of Process Groups and Knowledge Areas and suggests the interactivity and interdependence of Project Management – the beginnings of the collective.

Who needs to be informed?

The Communications Plan comes to mind. Also, if we haven’t identified the WHO (stakeholders), then our communications may not be complete. The essence of communications is to identify WHO needs to know WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW and WHY. Creating and maintaining the Communications Plan clarifies reporting, performance measurement, permissions, and identifies where influence may be necessary. It may be necessary to create both good news and bad news criteria. Although, I’m sure you’ll never need the bad news stuff.

How will change be handled?

The time to consider Change Management is at the beginning. Change will happen, even during the planning phase. We apply a negative connotation to change, but we shouldn’t. Change is neither good nor bad, it just is. The definition of scope creep is uncontrolled change. By definition, if you have an effective change management process, then scope creep can’t happen. Change Management permeates the planning (and execution) experience.

What must you do?

The Work Breakdown Structure equals all the work required to accomplish the scope of the project. Therefore, the WBS is what we must do. It is defined work. What a wonderful tool for grouping work into a comprehensive picture and you know what they say about pictures. My experience has been that we let scheduling tools do the WBS work for us and skip the step where we have the team apply “sticky notes” to the wall to identify work. The collective begs you to get the team involved at every available step, even creating the WBS using antique tools.

When will you do it?

Scheduling naturally follows the WBS. Now that we know WHAT needs to be done, HOW will we get it done? Scheduling is applying order to the groups of work. There is much science to scheduling and many tools out there to either help or frustrate our efforts. The collective insists that you involve the team at every opportunity. Have them help you build the schedule.

What will it cost?

Cost Estimating is a non-exact science which needs proper, continuous application in the beginning. Now that we know what the work is and how the work will accomplished, we need to get as close as possible to what it will cost. Can you see that cost estimating interacts with schedule, WBS, and the communication plan? Let’s not lose sight of the collective when we are concentrating on a specific task like cost estimating.

What could go wrong?

Aw, Risk! That which waits to bite us when we fail to consider its impacts. Again, a science worthy of application to all projects. At every step of the planning, risk is quietly lurking at the edges waiting to see if we are paying attention. For every question asked in planning, there is the risk that we didn’t fully answer the question. The collective implores us to be diligent in risk planning, early and often.

Is everybody on board?

The culmination of the initial planning effort – the Performance Measurement Baseline. Do the team and the stakeholders buy-in? Are we ready to proceed with delivery? Can we actually deliver what we promised? The planning effort should get us to a doable, defensible project plan. Not any easy task, but essential to project success.

Although each of these pieces can be performed in a vacuum and not consider the collective, thinking about all when you do each will create a far better plan and product. In the immortal words of Borg, “Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.” Carefully contemplate the collective.

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