Please see two opinions below. I need to do a response to these analyses by expanding on,…
Please see two opinions below.
I need to do a response to these analyses by expanding on, questioning or offering further support for their ideas, or by suggesting new or alternative viewpoints. 200 or so words per reply.
There are a myriad of planning tools at the project manager’s disposal. They vary in type from ‘scheduling, resource management, estimating and scope management’ tools(Simplilearn.com, 2017). They are used as a way to control projects in a structured, process-led and efficient manner. Selecting which tool to use is one of the most important decisions a project manager can make.
Below are a number of tools at the disposal of project managers (Simplilearn.com, 2017):
A Network Diagram is a schedule planning tool that uses arrows to connect activities and show interdependence. It assumes that one estimate of the duration of the activity is completed prior to the next one beginning, and gives room for when PM are unsure about how long a task will take. The sequence of the arrows dictates the process that should be followed. These can be thought of as Logic Networks which are foundational techniques for projectmanagement (Project Smart, 2017) tools such as CPM below. Logic Networks indicate thesequence of activities in a project over time showing the task, how long it should take to complete and track it in relation to other tasks in the activity.
The Critical Path Method (CPM) monitors project progress for on-time delivery. The Critical Pathis the longest sequence of activities on the network diagram where the smallest delay in activities will cause a delay in the overall timeline of the project, constant monitoring is therefore required(Project Smart, 2017).
The Project Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) identifies three critical paths for an activity in a project. This technique is used to plan and schedule large, complex and multi-layered projects, providing more realistic estimates for the duration of each activity(Project Smart, 2017).
The Gantt Chart represents a project schedule spread out over a timeline. It is a graphic schedule for planning and controlling the project as well as recording progress towards completion of various activities. Activities are colour coded and their progress indicated in a separate colour to planned activity. In that way PM’s can track real activity progress versus planned timeline(Project Smart, 2017).
Comparison of Two Tools
1. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
The basis for muchproject planning, WBS, isa scope planning tool that delivers a hierarchical breakdown of a task, detailing project deliverables (step-by-step) and enables stakeholders to get a common understanding of the project scope. It breaks down deliverables into manageable tasks that can be scheduled, costed and resourced ensuring each team their precise scope(Project Smart, 2017).
WBS has number of strengths with the detail it allows for being beneficial to PM’s managing risk. The other strengths are a clear delegation of authority, progressive work management leading to an improvement of processes on a constant basis (Anon, 2017).
A step-by-step approach can often be tedious to a team focused on delivery of the end product. It requires active management of each activity by the PM and thus raises demarcation problems in large project teams with varying functional deliverables (Anon, 2017).
2. Top down project planning
Planning projects top-down means that project objectives and decisions come from upper management, who will then communicate this to the project manager, who in turn communicates the goals to the project team. In terms of project execution this means that the project manager creates a project plan first and then decides which activities and tasks the team has to do (Inloox.com, 2017).
The most significant strength of this approach is that it helps align project goals to organizational strategy, an element often seen to be missing in project management. This is because upper management is involved, giving direction.
Decisions can be made and implemented very quickly because of upper management involvement, a particularly important element when time is limited.
A limitation of this tool is that the project team is often not involved in the project planning, and area merely expected to implement what upper management has agreed to. This takes away a voice from the project team who many have important views regarding the project. Unspecific requirements and expectations (due to the team not being involved in the planning of the project) from management can quickly lead to misunderstandings resulting in project failure. The project manager’s key responsibility here is clear communication all the way (from upper management to the project team)
The above two projects are useful in different ways, one primarily for alignment to company strategy and fast decision making and the other useful in listing of project tasks for exceptional execution. These tools can be used in conjunction with each other.
Anon (2017) The Benefits and Challenges of Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) Available at: https://www.blueprintcpd.com.au/blog/the-benefits-and-challenges-of-work-breakdown-structure-wbs [Accessed 13/06/17].
Inloox.com (2017) Back to Basics (8): Top-Down Versus Bottom-Up Project Planning – InLoox. Available at: https://www.inloox.com/company/blog/articles/back-to-basics-8-top-down-versus-bottom-up-project-planning/ [Accessed 13/06/17].
Project Smart (2017) Project Management Tools. Available at: https://www.projectsmart.co.uk/project-management-tools.php [Accessed 13/06/17].
Simplilearn.com (2017) Tools used by the Project Manager for Project Planning | Six Sigma Training. Available at: https://www.simplilearn.com/project-planning-tools-for-project-manager-article [Accessed 13/06/17].
Project Management Planning Tools
Once the scope, aims and objectives are clearly defined, it is the job of the project manager to plan, execute and close down, efficiently delivering on the scope. Project management can be best dissected as the ‘creation of a group of individual specialists from different parts of an organization who are brought together for a limited period of time to contribute towards a specific project`, Laslo, (2010). Gray and Larson, (2005) define projects as ‘a complex, non-routine, one-time effort limited by time, budget, resources, and performance specifications designed to meet customer needs`. Keeping abreast and across all aspects of the project can become complexed, therefore project management planning tools are used. As such, the main advantage of management and planning tools is that they provide a centralised system of control and maintenance, a guide for networks, performance, and milestones. Planning tools can also be utilised for the dissemination and communication of data in virtual teams, reporting dashboards to manage project stakeholder expectations. The tools that we will discuss here, can however become over worked and over emphasised. Micro management and maintenance of the tool can lead to overall disengagement of the human factor.
It is well cited that the chronic issues experienced in project management are the allocation of activities, time, and resources (Laslo, 2010). Poor management of these issues result in uncertainty, which must be managed very early in the project life cycle, (Atkinson et al, 2006). From experience in the field, this uncertainty resonates with me as I have found difficulty within certain projects, finding resources from other departments and subsequently, signing off on budget allocation. This issue for me runs deeper than just physical resource as I find it can create poor project alignment, stakeholder buy in, whilst still in the early initiating phases. The employment of project management and planning tools such as a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and Gantt Charts (Gantt,1917), can help mitigate risk associated with activity, time, and resource, whilst painting a comprehensive picture of the scope. Gantt as a tool, was devised by Henry Gantt in 1910. The Gantt Chart addresses the ‘when’ question, allowing the project manager to map out all the tasks within the project plan, ensuring that the order of execution is one of efficiency and cost effectiveness. A WBS is different to the Gantt in many ways as it addresses the ‘what` question. The WBS was developed by the United States Department of Défense as part of a ballistic missile project. WBSs are usually used prior to the Gantt and create a hierarchical set of deliverables, called work packages, based on the project scope and objectives.
1.2 Comparison and Analysis
Both the Gantt Chart and the WBS have strengths in certain areas and challenges in others. As per research carried out by Besner and Hobbs (2008), the Gantt chart was the most widely used project management tool in the field, standing the test of time since 1910. However, according to Morris (1994) the Gantt tool has failures in areas where PERT and CPM win as primarily, these tools allow a better correlation of complex relationship between multiple tasks. It is also widely acknowledged that the Gantt chart is both easy to understand and promotes strong lines of communication for stakeholders, therefore doubling up in many respects as a stakeholder engagement and negotiation tool. Much of the research and information within journals and articles suggest that the Gantt chart produces an image of complexity around the project and often becomes a visible shrine to the project that all decisions are made from. Now from experience in the field this can aid or hinder a project in certain ways. If we consider the size of a project, then does this weigh on the effectiveness of a Gantt chart? Surely, trying to display all levels, tasks, and resources for a multimillion project
could become cumbersome and overwhelming. However, if we considered the Gantt as more of a master plan that was then broken down into smaller parts that were then aided by other tools, could this be more effective and help develop stakeholder confidence from the early stages? Limitations that surround complexity of the tool are inherent within as once a Gantt chart becomes so big, resource needs to be built in to keep it updated. Of recent times, we have seen the development of Gantt software as a method of better visualisation of the project. Therefore, the project manager needs to look at the project and make an early decision based on the size of the project and the tool that is best placed to help execute all tasks.
As per Meredith & Mantel, (2012), ‘the project manager is expected to integrate all aspects of the project, ensure that the proper knowledge and resources are available when and where needed, and above all, ensure that the expected results are produced in a timely, cost- effective manner`. This can be achieved through a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), which has been defined also as an ‘organization tree, which presents a subdivision of effort required to achieve a specific objective, such as a program, project and contract` and represents ‘an instrument that project managers use to divide projects into more manageable units`, PMBOK (2013). As with the Gantt, the WBS presents both strengths and limitations in deployment. The WBS looks at all the tasks that need to be completed and then assess their importance, breaking them into packages. This is positive as it encourages both the project manager and the team delineate all the steps in the project, apportion responsibility and clarify grey areas in the project that are maybe less understood. As well as identifying the tasks, the WBS allows for allocation of budget and resource against these tasks. Subsequently, the WBS becomes a meaningful tool that helps develop the projects master budget. I have used the WBS as a tool for several projects and have found it to be a great pre-planner to the Gantt. I often use and develop it closely with my team members as I find it brings commitment and accountability which often breeds better alignment through phycological ownership, the concept of psychological ownership is rooted in the phenomenon of possession and the experience of psychological connection`, Dittmar, (1992). As with the Gantt, attention must be given to the size of the project and the risks that the project presents, ‘frequently, the WBS chart is used also to identify potential risks that may affect achievement of the objectives`. Other limitations that we see from the WBS include its effectiveness of tracking results and progress throughout the project. Critics also discuss how it can become quickly outdated and potentially stifle innovation in the workforce. Often the plan we set out with changes, the Gantt chart very well allows for flexibility in tasks and process however the WBS is not so accommodating for such changes.
In summary, as leaders and project managers we need to have a firm understanding of the vision, the product, and allocate tools and resourceappropriately. Many of the issues we see as leaders come from uncertainty and our ability to bring clarity to potentially complexed and vague situations, we need to paint a clear path for our team to follow. Atkinson, Crawford & Ward (2006) discuss the role of trust, ‘A root problem is that a project context is more temporary than ongoing operations where routinisation, learning from past experiences, memory of past experiences is easier (more available), the parties are relatively constant, and experimenting and the evolution of optimum practice is possible`. With this in mind, I see it of even further importance that leaders understand the advantages and limitations for such project management tools so that a trust is formed through the deployment of best placed tools for that particular project, in turn creating a motivated and inspired workforce.
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Please see two opinions below. I need to do a response to these analyses by expanding on,…