Monday, April 16, 2012

7 Steps for Iterative Planning

Projects typically unfold in unforeseen ways. One task might proceed smoothly while another might take longer than expected. By using repeat, or “iterative,” planning, you can improve the overall project schedule. Here are some tips on how you can plan to replan:

1. Define the major (10 to 12) schedule milestones. Choose those milestones that have specific meaning for the project team.

2. Outline all of the already-known tasks in the initial schedule for all of the project phases (preliminary design, code review, cost estimate, etc.).

3. Plan the tasks needed to get to the next date. During the preliminary design phase, for example, you can refine the planned tasks and the preliminary cost estimate.

4. Build the re-planning activities into the original project schedule. Use this project’s history to help update the project plan.

5. At the start of the project, plan the initial activities that will get you to your next milestone. As the project team understands more about the project, update the tasks of the initial phase as needed.

6. Measure how long the different tasks take and where speed bumps occur. This process will allow you to start gathering data about your project while you’re in the middle of it.

7. Throughout the project, use the data from the item above (6) to continually reassess risks and refine the schedule. By the time the project is in the detailed design phase, you’ll be aware of any potential project show-stoppers.

Iterative planning is not for everyone. It is most helpful when you have an idea of what needs to be done but not a clear idea of how to do it, such as on “bleeding-edge” projects where there is not enough knowledge about the kind of project or historical data to plan the schedule with certainty.

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