Your project plan needs detail

I have run many project management courses and I take a practical approach to training; ensuring that individuals are engaged in a wide range of activities that are thoroughly de-briefed. Courses often follow a pattern e.g. where there is more energy or where the activity generates a lot of questions about the activity or about project management.

There is one area where I can guarantee a question and this is where we carry out an activity developing a work breakdown structure (WBS) see WBS a short rant by Mike Clayton. The groups start on the activity and I always get a question:

“Ron, how much detail is required here?”

People want to keep stuff in their heads

I explain that detail is what is required and lots of it. This does not always go down well! The interesting issue is that some groups want to produce a project plan that is actually milestone based but they want a Gantt chart – where there is a lot of detail. When I explain this they understand and they also understand that for each milestone when it is broken down results in a lot of activities to be carried out.

As with many aspects of project management course participants seem to want to keep the many activities they need to carry out in their heads. They do not seem to want to identify the many activities to be done, not wanting to put each activity on to post it notes. I discuss the impact of doing this on the project – if they are ill or simply on others in the project team and stakeholders. When we get into this area it seems as though there is a ‘dawning of a new era!’

Use the important word, ‘HOW?’

I also introduce training groups to an important word: how? I get someone to choose an activity and then ask the group how the activity will be delivered. The result is sometime quite amazing and on one occasion one activity needed another 10 activities to complete it.

Project plans need detail; does your plan have the appropriate level?

“Beware of the man who won’t be bothered with details.” William Feather

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3 Responses to Your project plan needs detail

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Your project plan needs detail | Project Management Training with Ron Rosenhead --

  2. Here’s my advice on “how much detail.”

    Can you answer the question – “how long am I willing to wait before I find our I’m late?” I need enough detail to know that answer earlier enough to make the needed changes so I’m not late,

  3. Glen, good solid advice.

    Interstingly, I have just finished a 2 day course with a group and this time they did get into real detail….


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