Accuracy relative to logistics is achieved best with reverse planning, which defines a necessity-based logistical network of activities and exchanges if inputs and outputs. Such necessity-based planning processes provide three outstandingly valuable benefits. First, they provide logistical networks that are complete. So long as all the players truly understand their jobs, as they all claim to do, all the intermediate inputs become captured by the planning process automatically. The resulting logistical networks, which are the backbones of project plans, capture all the significant work items. Further, they capture the work items in the correct sequence.
Second, since reverse planning processes are necessity based, no unnecessary intermediate inputs and no unnecessary activities find their way into the logistical network of the project. Thus, not only are the resulting project plans more complete. They are also devoid of unnecessary effort.
Finally, reverse planning processes automatically capture all the interactions among the members of a project team, and they exclude the countless micro-steps that are better managed directly by the team members and not by the project managers.
The Robust Project Planning is no exception. It is, in fact, an extremely simple and highly effective process with which a diligent project manager consistently can achieve accuracy relative to logistics. The process requires only that the project manager acquire the answers to five simple questions repeatedly, beginning with each of the tangible deliverables identified by the management team.
When using the Robust Project Planning process, it is useful to avoid the simultaneous use of software. While doing the difficult and important work of thinking, you and the members of your team need a view of the entire logistical network at once. You need the big picture view of the logic of your plan. This is simply not possible with a computer. A computer screen limits your view to a postage-stamp-sized segment of your plan, making it difficult for you and your team members to follow the logic of your network and, more importantly, making it difficult for you and your team members to spot the mistakes.
To really understand this unfortunate limitation created by computer screens, do the following exercise. Open any large map and plan an itinerary from one point on the map to five or six consecutive destinations. But, rather than allowing yourself to see the entire map in one eyeful, restrict your view of the map, by looking through the cardboard tube at the center of a roll of paper towels. You’ll understand very quickly the degree to which your team members will become frustrated by the highly limited view of the logistical network that a computer screen (or digital projector) provides for them.
A far more effective approach is to use Post-It notes while doing the hard work of thinking with your team members. With Post-It notes and large sheets of flipchart paper, you and your team can tackle a fairly large effort easily, all the while retaining the ability to see the big picture. At each step of the process, capture their answers to your five questions (see below) on white or yellow Post-It notes. Descriptions of required inputs (a final deliverable is an input to the customer) go on white Post-It notes. Task descriptions go on yellow Post-It notes.
By building the logistical network manually with Post-It notes, rather than moving directly to your software tool, you also avoid the annoyances, delays, and frustrations created by any idiosyncrasies of your software tool. These often impede the thinking process of your team. Certainly, the final version of your logistical network will end up in software. But the data entry should be nothing more than the final step, prior to the project becoming active.
Finally, prepare your conference room for the planning session. The walls of the room should be bare, rather than being cluttered with plaques or artwork. You’ll need them bare, so that your sheets of flipchart paper can be displayed and moved easily. Arrange for refreshments and snacks to be available throughout the planning process, so that team members find contributing to the planning process a pleasant and rewarding experience. And be absolutely certain that the first form of accuracy, accuracy relative to deliverables, has been achieved.
Once your preparations are complete.... [to be continued soon]