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Precision Planning for Repeatable Processes

At swattage, we have a special flavor of Precision Planning useful for very challenging projects that involve a lot of granular detail. These projects involve tracking many steps performed by different people in a short period of time. Because each of these factors of task, time, and team member have to be captured, tracked and mapped to the other factors, we call this a matrix approach. Because the level of detail is so granular, we call this a micro approach. Hence the name: Micro-Matrix Precision Planning. Here are some examples of the types of projects where this tactic is useful:

You need to build twelve BI dashboards and tailor them to meet your customer’s needs. The tasks involve: defining metrics, designing dashboards, obtaining design approvals, setting up data feeds, building dashboards, testing dashboards, obtaining dashboard approval, preparing training materials, releasing dashboards, and training end users. The team members include: a business analyst, the customer, a database engineer, a software developer, the sponsor, and the end users. Each of these individuals has some task to complete. You have to do all of this in 11 weeks, so you have to be working on different dashboards at different times, but not overbook any one resource.

You need to translate a website into 10 languages for use by a multinational user base. The site can be divided into 16 portions or bundles. The tasks include exporting each bundle, translating, conducting a post translation review, debugging website pages,testing website fixes, exporting revisions for translation, review and approval of final translations in context, and publishing each language to the end user. The team members include a content manager, a translation manager, translators, a software development manager, software engineers, and software QAs. You have 9 weeks to do it all. You have to optimize the use of the translators’ time, but not over book them.

 

  1. Put the tasks into your planning tool (Microsoft Project or other).
  2. Assign the resources
  3. Assign the durations
  4. Enter the dependencies or order.
  5. Check to make sure there isn’t a more efficient order.
  6. Align with your team! Make sure your team agrees to all of this.
  7. Copy this sequence of tasks for each work package or “unit” of work. In the examples above, we’re referring to the individual dashboards or the website bundles.
  8. Identify specific resources that are on the critical path and cannot be over-scheduled. In the examples above, let’s assume we have one software engineer and one database engineer for the dashboard project and one translator and one reviewer per language for the website translation project.
  9. Schedule tasks for those resources to keep them busy. One unorthodox way of doing this is to make the database work for dashboard 2 dependent on the work for dashboard 1. Make the translation of bundle 2 dependent on the translation of bundle 1.
  10. Examine the resource allocation for these critical resources. Make sure they are fully booked, but not overbooked.
  11. Review your plan with the team, especially with the critical path resources. Consult with them on how much flexibility is required to accommodate them and their individual needs. Let them know that you are there to support them and help them do what they do best, not to over-program them until they cry uncle. You’re job is to set them up for success, not failure.

Once you have all of this matrixed work precision-planned down to micro level, it’s time to build your monitoring and controlling tool, affectionately known as “the tracker.” Continue on to Micro-Matrix Precision Tracking.