DPM School: Week 3 – Project Timelines

Project planning is a process, not just a one-time event. As the project evolves, the plan will need to evolve with it.

By Profit Idowu

On November 24, 2019
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Important is Better than Urgent
I remember walking into one of my old supervisors office and seeing, “Important is Better than Urgent” written on the white board. Reflecting on this week brought this memory to mind. It made me ask, what was he trying to remind himself? As digital project managers we all have encountered something classified as urgent that needs to get done, but might not necessarily be important. For example, the red flagged emails that creep up on the daily to do list. The kind that detract from the overall mission of the goals a team sets out to accomplish. It’s a constant work in progress attempting to establish what’s best next in the heat of managing a project. My project timeline coursework helped set a foundation for a new spin on tools I’ve been introduced to previously (gantt charts) and a mindset needed to help get the right dates factored in for a trustworthy timeline. Drilling down the top-lines of the week, our coursework covered: planning principles to follow when creating project plans (and how to make them more accurate), how to define a planning horizon, how to create planning sketches, and putting a checklist into action.

Reacting to Results
After Week 1 assignments were submitted, the previous week’s assignments for peer evaluation are opened up on Tuesday. With it being the third week of the course, this week brought the opportunity for us to see the feedback on our work from our classmates and also receive our first set of grades. The flow of learning and assignments from week to week begins once the DPM team opens up a section on Sunday (previously Monday’s). Students enrolled submit assignments throughout the week and evaluate up to two assignments per each piece of work required. The week that follows enables peers to react to feedback received before seeing a final score for that section. Throughout the 7-week course and in order to get the DPM School Certificate, participants must submit all weekly assignments, give feedback on classmate’s assignments, and receive an overall score of over 60% on work completed.

With Week 1 scores in the books, two weeks of feedback submitted, and three weeks of assignments complete, I’m getting some good traction and getting close to the halfway point.

Project Plans are More Than Gantt Charts
Project planning is a process, not just a one-time event. It’s a continuous effort throughout the project and as the project evolves, the plan will need to evolve with it. In order for the project plan to do everything we wish, it needs to be the best version of the truth a team can surface. Sometimes we copy and paste another teammates plan from a prior project and try to adapt it to make something quickly to get teams moving. If we don’t set time apart to make sure it reflects the goals and input provided across the organization (expanding and crafting a realistic planning horizon), the unfinished version that gets circulated might cause unnecessary hiccups down the road. Taking ownership of making better project plans can be tricky and take time you don’t have (stakeholders putting pressure on for a quick turn)—but overall it’s well worth it if the space is made and done properly.

Instead of immediately reaching for a Gantt chart or your initial project planning tool of choice, Ben encouraged us to look at our project plans as communications tools and see value in beginning with a sketch. Whether it’s an actual sketch on paper or in a calendar app, the information included could be anything relevant that helps visualize a project’s flow and important chunks of work to consider along the way.

  • Mapping out the key dates.
  • Identifying the number of weeks until ship.
  • Staff or client holidays.
  • Key tasks to consider during each phase of the project.
  • Where might team members be overcooking or undercooking parts of the project (resource hours and/or amount of time spent on tasks).
  • Building dependencies within goals.
  • Identify the points at your sprints that incremental value is delivered.

The information used to create the sketch will then get imported into your tool of choice (like a Gantt chart) to expand your plan into greater detail. This weeks assignment brought a freebie (3 month free subscription to GanttPRO) provided by the DPM School to complete our assignment. Next week is Project Estimates.

Recommended Reading & Links
Along with our video resources and slack discussion, the DPM team includes some great recommended links to accompany the section for the week. Here were some of the links shared with us this week: