Missed project activity – no wonder it was late

Jane, my daughter, and her boy – friend Rob said they would cook. Great! It was just after Christmas and we were all relaxed at home. The opportunity was too good to be missed.


As I sat and read I kept hearing the front door open and close. Every now and again either Rob or Jane would stick their head round the door to say all was going well but it may be a bit later than first suggested. Still, we were pretty relaxed, it was the holiday period. It was Jane and Rob who looked stressed.


The meal arrived at 8.15 pm some 75 minutes off target. They both explained that they had forgotten various parts of the meal and had to go to the local supermarket three times. All was forgotten during a very good meal.


What has this to do with projects? During project management training courses participants frequently tell me that their project was delayed because “we missed things out.” Several of these omissions led to serious over runs of projects plus extra budget spend.


I walk participants through the work breakdown process using post it notes and it is amazing how many people are shocked with the level of detail required to deliver the project plan. We practise this during the course and some people really do struggle. They struggle because in their words “I am not used to getting down to this level of detail”. They can see why it is needed but have not done it before.


When I ask what they have done before they have developed a simple work breakdown structure which turns into a milestone chart. There is nothing wrong with that. However what participants tell me is that it is not detailed enough. It does not help with the missed out activities (Jane and Rob’s visits to the supermarket).


So to come back to the question; what has this to do with project management? A huge amount! There is a need to spend time really breaking down the project into its component parts. Without the detail the project manager cannot allocate activities. They cannot estimate effectively nor can they ensure that monitoring is effective if the very tasks they should be monitoring are not there.


So, my thanks to Jane and Rob for a great meal. Tasty, spicy and very nutritional. As you said; “sorry it was a bit late, forgot one or two things; we will know for next time.”





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