What tips do you have for breaking down your project into deliverables and activities?

I asked this question on LinkedIn: What tips do you have for breaking down your project into deliverables and activities? Bill Duncan responded with the following tips (which I thought were great):

  1. Recognize that “work packages” are only the lowest level of the WBS from the buyer’s perspective in a contracting environment.

  2. Recognize that any deliverable can be described as an activity (by adding a verb) and any activity can be described as a deliverable (by removing a verb). Don’t worry about the distinction until you have the decomposition done.

  3. Decomposition happens phase-by-phase. You can’t develop a complete WBS for a non-trivial project at the start.

  4. When you are confident that you can estimate cost and duration, you have enough detail.

  5. Every lower level must be both necessary and sufficient for the item above it.

  6. Every item occurs once and only once.

What else would YOU add?

Check out my article on How to Break Down Your Projects.

How to Break Down Your Project

Scope and Schedule Management

How should you break down your project?

Steven Pressfield said, “A great trick that I learned having worked as a screenwriter for many years, the way screenwriters work, is they break the project down into three-act structure: Act 1, Act 2, Act 3. I think that is a great way to break down any project, whether it’s a new business or anything at all.”

How to Break Down Your Project

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Whether we are creating a Pixar movie, a building, a highway, or a service center, wise project managers break down their projects into pieces. As we do, we create a structure for the project that helps stakeholders understand the project.

Some people struggle with the challenges of creating large, complex systems, highways, and companies. How can we do this? The answer: one bite at a time. Breaking projects into pieces makes the impossible possible. In addition, the break down creates the vision.

New Exciting Chapter in My Life

What’s your life calling? Frederich Buechner wrote that calling is “the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

My greatest joy is teaching.

Exciting New Chapter in LIfe

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I got it honest, as we’d say in the South. My father taught farmers how to farm and my mother taught students high school chemistry. As a result, farmers put food on our tables, and students went on to be doctors, engineers, and to perform research all around the world. I remember students returning to my small hometown — Donalsonville, Georgia — years later to thank my mother.

While I’d never say our family was wealthy, daddy and mama lived rich lives. They found their joy in serving and teaching others. Some of the world’s deep needs were met. I know mine were.

2015-07-09-03-37-13My career has included work in the financial, healthcare, and agricultural industries. Each part of my career journey has afforded me the opportunity to perform and teach project management.

Five years ago, I followed in my twin brother’s footsteps who blogs at CPA-Scribo. I started blogging at the Project Risk Coach. I could not imagine what would happen in the following years.

My blog traffic has grown from 100 people to about 5,000 visitors per month, and my mail list has grown to more than 1,000 people. I’ve had the pleasure of connecting and teaching people from all over the world. For a guy who grew up pulling weeds in peanut fields, I’ve been in high cotton.

Opening a New Chapter in My Life

I’ve had a growing sense that it was time for me to transition from my job as an Enterprise Risk Manager at the Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company to invest my full time and energy in my LLC – the Project Risk Coach. And January 1, 2017, that’s exactly what I’ll be doing.

How to Identify Scope Risks

8 ways to identify scope risks

Some project managers struggle to identify scope risks. Why?

How to Identify Scope Risks

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First, individuals may lack a concrete understanding of scope; scope seems to be a nebulous concept. WHAT exactly is scope?

Second, individuals may not know HOW to identify scope risks.

Either way, the failure to identify (and manage) scope risks can be costly. It’s like an overdrawn bank account. There are all kinds of penalties and fees if you know what I mean.

What are Scope Risks?

Risks are uncertain events or conditions, that if they occur, will have a positive or negative effect on the project objectives. What are some examples of scope-related risks?

  • Individuals may add features to the product that were not approved.
  • The project team may not identify all the deliverables, requiring changes later.
  • Scope changes may not be processed through the change control process.
  • Requirements may not be properly analyzed and understood.
  • Requirements may change and affect the deliverables.
  • Requirements may not be properly prioritized.
  • The design may be simplified resulting in less effort and cost.
  • Traceability structure may not be developed resulting in requirements not being managed through the design, development, and testing processes.
  • The project team may fail to identify all the activities required to create the deliverables.

Keep in mind that scope is the sum of the products, services, and results to be delivered through the project. Product scope includes the features and functions of the products, services, and results. Project scope is the work required to create the deliverables.

Unfortunately, many people think of the project charter as an administrative hoop they must jump through to get their project approved. Therefore, many charters are written hastily with little thought.

The value of the charter process is engaging stakeholders, discussing the issues, resolving conflicts, and getting agreement as you initiate the project. The stakeholder’s interest are considered and aligned, resulting in less likelihood of costly changes later in the project.

The charter provides a picture of where you are going, why you are going there, who will be impacted, top risks, and who is going to help you.

Click here to check out my online course: The What, Why, & How of Powerful Project Charters.

How to Attack the Enemies of Scope Management

Why is scope management so difficult? What enemies cause us scope issues?

Let’s first consider the essence of scope management: “to ensure that the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully,” according to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Let’s take a look at each part of this statement.

How to Attack the Enemies of Scope Management

Enemy #1 – Not Including All the Work

Some project managers have a bad habit – they create their project plans with little input from the stakeholders. What’s the result? The project manager may miss key deliverables. They do not have ALL the work required in their project plan.

The What, Why, and How of Project Requirements

Learn technical skills to accelerate your projects through requirements development

How big of a deal are project requirements?

The Project Management Institute says, “47% of unsuccessful projects fail to meet goals due to poor requirements management.”

In his book — Just Enough Requirements Management — Alan Davis shares, “Various studies suggest that errors introduced during requirements activities account for 40 to 50 percent of all defects found in a software product.”

The What, Why, and How of Project Requirements

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What are Project Requirements?

Project managers talk about this topic a lot. Stakeholders hear the term “requirements” but interpret the meaning in different ways. Before we can manage anything, it’s critical that we have a working definition.

3D Question Word What on white backgroundRequirement: something that is needed or that must be done. –Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The Project Management Body of Knowledge defines requirement as “a condition or capability that is required to be present in a product, service, or result to satisfy a contract or other formally imposed specification.”

Karl Wiegers — author of Software Requirements — shared this definition: “Requirements are a specification of what should be implemented. They are descriptions of how the system should behave, or of a system property or attribute.”

What’s the Difference Between Validate Scope and Control Quality?

The focus of validating scope is accepting the deliverables; controlling quality is concerned with the correctness of the deliverables (i.e., meeting the quality requirements for the deliverables).

Join us for the PMP Exam Series where we are focusing on one PMBOK Knowledge Area each month.

How to Develop a Simple Scope Management Plan

5 Questions for Developing a Scope Management Plan

How can you develop a scope management plan quickly that provides value to the project? It’s not as complicated as it may seem.

How to Develop a Simple Scope Management Plan

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Some project managers check the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) for advice, which I think is a great place to start. However, project managers may make the following mistakes: Individuals may see the PMBOK as a prescription and include every element for every project. On the other hand, some people see all the “required steps” and throw their hands up, deciding to do nothing.

I am a simple guy that likes simple ways of doing things. I use the PMBOK as a guide, but I determine which parts make sense for each of my projects.

Not familiar with terms such as a scope management plan, WBS, or scope baseline? Here’s a quick summary.

5 Questions to Ask

Here are some questions I answer when developing a scope management plan:

How to Connect Emerging Risks, Strategies, and Project Management

Is your organization identifying and managing emerging risks?

How to Connect Emerging Risks, Strategies, and Project Management

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In Florida, citrus is so important, oranges are on the state’s license plates. However, a large portion of the state’s orange groves has turned into ghost orchards due to a tree-killing bacteria carried by the Asian psyllid.

How have researchers and farmers responded to this risk? Researchers think they are close to developing varieties that will be resistant to the bacteria, but it will be years before these varieties will be commercially available. In the meantime, farmers have been diversifying their operations by growing other crops.

Farmers who are multi-generational citrus growers have had a hard time transitioning to other crops. Growing oranges are all some of these farmers have every known. Some individuals who chose to hang on with hopes for a magic cure have lost their farms.

Businesses may be guilty of the same mistake. Perhaps your company has been producing the same products and services for generations. Emerging risks were recognized years ago but management has failed to take appropriate steps to mitigate these enterprise risks.

Project management is a powerful tool for enterprise transformation. Once senior management has clearly defined their long-term and short-term goals, projects may be initiated to support the operational strategies.

Think about it: What areas are your organization struggling?

  • Poor recognition of emerging risks
  • Poor strategic planning
  • Poor project management