I will go through the most basic but essential steps to effectively plan most things (from going to the shop to building a lunar capsule).
MOST IMPORTANT RULE ABOUT PLANNING!! -> WRITE IT DOWN
What EXACTLY has to be achieved?
The description here is to determine what the desired outcome, product or process is. In this example – Write the next Blog post
What is required (from the start) to achieve this goal?
This contains two sets of requirements
What is needed to complete the planning?
This has to be addressed to make sure that you have the resources at your disposal to complete the planning process. Most plans require more than just the answer to the first question to allow planning to occur. In the case of going to the shop, we need to have a list of required purchases as well as the knowledge of in which shops the items to be purchased are located. In the case of a lunar capsule, we have to know if it has to contain a landing vehicle or not. In the blog example – Time and interesting subject matter.
What are the non negotiable requirements to reach the goal?
This requires that we look for “deal breaker” resources, those that would prevent us from attaining the goal. In the three examples; going to the shop – don’t have sufficient funds, lunar capsule – don’t have solar panels, blog example – don’t have a blog to post to.
From here the plan may require additional elements or tasks. The refinement requires provision of more detail, but that only makes the plan clearer and more achievable
“Raw” or basic steps for achieving the goal
There are several different ways to achieve the same result, what we would like to do is simply arrive at step 1 to step no (whatever). In the shopping example we have – drive to shop 1, buy 3 items, drive to shop 2, buy 2 items, drive home. Lunar module obviously too big for the space available here. Blog example – write, check, publish, let people know.
Logical flow or dependencies
Here we try and find what has to happen before what as well as before we can begin doing this, we have to complete that. In our shopping example drive to shop 1 has to be completed before we can buy 3 items. Lunar capsule’s parts have to be purchased before assembly. Blog requires clear thought before the writing can begin.
Do we need people, time, materials or money? As we define each of these four elements to each of the tasks defined up to now, we may discover that we need to separate a task into multiple tasks because more than one person (or group of people) may be required to perform that specific function. We may also discover that the requirement for resources may introduce new tasks on its own. Shopping example – shop 2 requires cash and we have to introduce a trip to the bank or ATM. Lunar module obviously too big for the space available here. Blog example –graphics are required which introduces many different other tasks.
The aim of scheduling is to reduce the overall time span, cost and risk exposure to the absolute minimum. We have gathered enough information about each task to allow packing them together as closely as possible. In the packing process we have to consider which dimension is the most relevant in the environment into which we introduce a specific task. There is also the possibility that many tasks could be addressed simultaneously. In the shopping example we may want to move the banking event or task to precede purchasing the items in shop 1 because we know there is an ATM close by and we would like to mitigate risk at the same time. We all know that a lunar capsule would e built by numerous 3rd party vendors, well now we see how many of them can start working on the capsule at the same time. The blog is a bad example here – 1 man, 1 laptop, 1 blog.
Scope Finalisation / Risk Mitigation / Cost Management
This is a very interesting phase where each element that is not absolutely critical to achieving the desired goal, is removed. Every cent of expenditure is questioned and every minute interrogated to realise the minimum input required to achieve the goal. This is also the moment where we precisely define what the goal is in terms of defined deliverables, nothing more. Everything that is omitted, not mentioned or will not save us money, time or reduce our risk, will not be considered for inclusion to the plan after this moment. We can not consider getting take-away on the shopping trip because we don’t have the time or the money. Lunar capsule only, not the moon rover, other people’s responsibility. Blog about planning not cost management or quality or anything else.
Depending on the complexity of the plan, communication as a formal discipline may emerge much sooner in he planning process. Having said that now is the moment where each participant in the plan can see and evaluate their involvement in finite terms. They can evaluate with who or what they have to interact when. Cash flow and budgeting is now clear, as well as the work throughput requirement of each person or group. Everybody has the opportunity to say their say and get their opinions viewed.
Provide for the Unexpected
Any plan is bound to go wrong somewhere. The “going wrong” part has measurable implications i.e. it takes longer, cost more or something works differently. To compensate for this, provision has to be built into the plan. The shopping trip requires leaving 30 minutes earlier to compensate for traffic AND you may consider leaving some of the items simply because you can’t find it. Well the lunar capsule is hectic and may require many many provisions or concessions to ensure that things run smoothly. On this blog I have to consider publishing it later than anticipated as I still have to do graphics and what not.