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Project Planning: Organization and Schedule
By Mark L. Reed

Let’s begin today’s discussion of how to propagate project success with a quick review of the Four Phases of Project Management Lifecycle; which are:

  • Phase One – Concept and Feasibility
  • Phase Two – Organization and Schedule
  • Phase Three – Execution
  • Phase Four – Review/Audit

We have already discussed how to manage a good Phase One – Concept and Feasibility, so that we can take control of our project by doing our very important homework, on the original work that management had already accomplished regarding the time, cost and objectives of your project.

After a successful (stressful?) presentation of our Phase One findings, we now have agreement with our Project Customer to move into the detailed project planning, aka, Phase Two – Organization and Schedule.

Our Phase Two goal is to get buy-in on all the tasks necessary to complete the Execution Phase of the project and to get another agreement from the Project Customer to a +/- 10 of time and cost against the objectives.

Here is the Project Manager’s to-do list for Phase Two – Organization and Schedule:

  • Identifying Tasks
  • Work Breakdown Structure
  • Critical Path Analysis
  • Project Management Plan Update
  • Time and Cost Tracking
  • Agreement with Project Customer to Execute

So here we go. Beginning with:

Identifying Tasks

To identify and schedule all of the tasks for the project’s execution phase you need to assemble the team and simply ask them what its going to take to achieve their objectives.

For each task, you also need an estimate of time and cost, and of course the best place to get the time and cost is from the person doing the task.

At this point we are looking for a +/- 10% estimate to limit padding.

Project Schedule Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

A Work Breakdown Structure is the listing of all the identified tasks which are necessary to complete the project. These are now divided and listed into summary and sub-level tasking, kind of like a to-do list of the tasks.

Project Schedule Critical Path Analysis (CPA)

A Critical Path Analysis is a time and logic exercise.

Logic diagramming is a common tool for a Critical Path Analysis.

Not to be confused with setting milestones, a Critical Path Analysis will tell the Project Manager exactly how long the project will take based on the actual estimates provided by the team.

The critical path will also show the relation of each task to others and how a project timeline can be shortened by overlapping tasks.

There are many software tools that can be used for the WBS and CPA.

These software tools can also provide Gantt charts and other reports for your Project Customer. The combination of the WBS and CPA becomes your working Project Schedule.

Project Management Plan Update

The Project Definition Document you started in Phase One and now is updated and used as the official Project Management Plan. Be sure to call a meeting of all stakeholders for a status presentation (you can update the one for Phase One – Concept and Feasibility), because it’s best to get any last minute opinions and possible changes reviewed and accepted (or denied!) by your Project Customer before the Execution begins.

Time and Cost Tracking

You are now spending some major time and money in Phase Two – Organization and Schedule. Be sure to keep track of and report in your Project Management Plan.

Agreement with Project Customer to Succeed

Before we can move to the next phase, just like at the end of Phase One, we need an agreement with our Project Customer to begin Execution.

Try to get that agreement to +/- 10% of the time and cost against the objectives, so you will have some wiggle room and are not constantly reporting variance.

Also, don’t forget a status meeting to invite all the stakeholders to the party. It’s best to get any last minute changes before the Execution begins.

Mark Reed, Project Management expert, Executive Consultant and President of Mark Reed Project Management, Inc. has brought his unique “Project Management… by the Numbers” methodology from his ProSess International division, to companies in 45 countries. Mark’s dynamic style, humor and extensive 20+ years experience in project management execution and training provides companies with a strong practical approach and innovative techniques for delivering over-the-top results. Mark Reed’s “… by the Numbers” program is a lifesaver for struggling project managers and their frustrated CEOs. His innovative techniques and fast-pasted, value-rich seminars have helped his clients achieve timely and cost effective programs and satisfied customers worldwide. Consultant /Trainer Mark Reed is also available for private consulting. For a free newsletter with project management tips or more information, visit, e-mail to or contact their headquarters at +1 206-251-9910.

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