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Include Reference Information to Explain Symbols and Acronyms (#7 in the seris Effective Planning for Big Projects)
By Timothy Prosser

First a disclaimer: I don’t claim to be the world’s expert on project management, and I urge anyone who is involved in or interested in project management to seek good sources of information and study, as this is a profession requiring a lot of skill and knowledge to do well. That said, I believe my decades of experience (planning projects up to 4 years in length and over $1 billion in cost) gives me some basis to write this. You may notice that I tend to focus more on the timing aspects of large scale plans. I am not ignoring the financial side of the discipline, but not stressing it either, because I have usually had a parallel financial planning effort, run by accountants and financial experts, to lean on. You may also notice that I am trying to address the realities, the impact of human nature, on the work. That said, be aware that good planning requires a focus on all three major components of business processes and projects: time, cost, and quality. I have summarized with a list of suggestions at the end, and hope you find this entry helpful.

Symbols can make a plan document more interesting and easier to read, and acronyms can be good for saving space on the document, but these aren’t helpful if the reader doesn’t know what they mean. Tables of reference information should be separate from the “meat” of the plan to avoid confusing the reader’s eye, but logically placed to make it easy for the reader to find them when needed.

Note: In my overstuffed plan, each milestone diamond has up to ten dates strung out below it, with an acronym next to each one to indicate a specific review meeting involved in achieving that milestone. Unfortunately, only those who have the “secret decoder ring” of acronyms know what each one means. The “secret decoder ring” is not part of the document in this case, however, so the usefulness of the lists of dates will be limited, and some readers will be confused about exactly when the milestones are scheduled to occur. In the end, the information, and perhaps the entire plan, will be ignored by many, possibly until it’s too late for it to be helpful to them.

Timothy Prosser – Ann Arbor, MI

Timothy spent the past ten years planning vehicle development programs and tracking parts at a major auto manufacturer in the Detroit area, employed by Integrated Management Systems, Inc. of Ann Arbor, MI (

Past experience, in reverse order, includes 3 years writing and supervising technical documentation at a major automotive supplier, 7.5 years engineering computer printers for Unisys Corporation, 3 years of technical work in the image processing and automatic inspection industry, 5 years of network and peripheral service work for ADP, Inc., and 3 years selling wholesale electronic parts.

Education includes an MBA from The University of Michigan (1991), a BS in Geography from Eastern Michigan University (1974), and *countless* training classes by various employers. Timothy has also taught many seminars on project management and various tools involved in the work.

Timothy is a lifetime musician (,, a 30-year amateur radio operator, and writes a number of blogs including

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