A Comparison of Different Planning Approaches

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How do you come up with a plan for your project? It seems like a silly question to ask but the truth is that there isn’t just one way to plan a project. There are a variety of different approaches, some being more successful than others.

Which one should you choose? It comes down to a variety of factors including:

  • Type of project
  • Size of project
  • Complexity
  • Availability of subject matter experts.

Here’s a summary of a number of different ways that you could approach planning your next project, along with my take on the advantages and disadvantages.

“Straw Man” Planning

The project manager creates an initial draft view of the proposed project schedule and sends it out to relevant people for their comments. The recipients of the Straw Man schedule mark up the plan with their suggested changes and return it to the project manager.

Rich Picture

The rich picture approach brings everyone together to develop a visual representation of the project, including any details that the participants believe will have a bearing on the project. By creating a graphical representation of the project the participants can express key aspects of the project. Each element of the picture adds more detail so that everyone gets a better, more comprehensive view of what the project will entail.

Direct Entry into a Planning Tool

With Direct Entry a group of subject matter experts gather together and create the schedule directly. One person operates the project scheduling tool, taking information presented by the members of the group. The other members of the team watch the plan as it is being created and provide feedback. In this way the plan is built iteratively until everyone is happy.

Kanban

Kanban is a Japanese term meaning “billboard” or “sign board”. With Kanban the project is divided into a number of deliverables. Each deliverable is represented as a card on the Kanban Board. The Board shows the status of each deliverable at all times, e.g. “not started”, “in development”, “in test”, “completed”.

Planning Using Sticky Notes

The project team use sticky notes to create a Work Breakdown Structure for the project that covers all of the work that project needs to complete. Once completed the project manager converts the Work Breakdown Structure into a project schedule.

RACI Matrix Walkthrough

RACI modelling aims to clarify the role of participants who are involved in the production of products. The word RACI is an acronym which stands for Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed.

Index Card Planning

With Index Card Planning the team use pre-printed Index Cards to create an integrated plan using a step-by-step approach. The plan starts with the identification of the project goal, then the key workstreams, the major milestones and the detailed deliverables. Index Card Plans covert easily into a project schedule and the plan builds in project governance, risk management and financial controls. The plans typically take half a day to produce.