Know your audience, your organization, when reviews take place, and what makes sense to include in the plan.
There is no substitute for knowing who will be using and reading your plan, what they need in the way of both direction and presentation, and when they need it. Knowing this, you can:
- choose the appropriate timing granularity, as you don’t need to plan something day-by-day when the activities you’ll show all take weeks or months
- know when the plan and project will be reviewed, and when changes are most likely to occur. If the plan is only going to be reviewed in detail at the end of each month, perhaps you can wait to update it until a few days before the review, update it again after the review (with the inevitable changes), and spend the rest of the month tracking progress and helping people understand what they have to do and when
- identify the functional groups that could benefit from more detailed subordinate plans, and include the work to produce and maintain them in your estimates of time needed for the planning effort
- understand what information will be available to substantiate the plan. I think it is a key point that there is little use in including details in the plan which you won’t be able to follow, as they will inevitably end up being wrong and adding to clutter. My colleagues and I have often joked about including in the plans how often the engineers are expected to go to the bathroom or answer the phone, as higher level managers sometimes seem to want this level of detail.
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 (www.imsi-pm.com).
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.