Sequencing the activities in a project: Concept of Network Diagram
As a project manager, you are the boss of your project. You are the person responsible for the entire lifecycle of the project, from its initiation to its closing. You have to plan your project perfectly, and align all the project objectives so that the process functions smoothly. So many project managers can create the work breakdown structure but are unable to execute on it, which leads to project failure.
To be successful, you should plan your project considering all the available project management skill, knowledge, and tools and techniques.
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You have to document the activity required to fulfill the work package (the lowest manageable level of the work breakdown structure) and you must know the relationship between these activities. You need to be aware of the sequences in these activities so that you can monitor and control your project effectively.
How do you do that? Why is sequencing so important in project management? I’ll answer these questions below.
The things you’ll need for sequencing work activities:
For sequencing activities, you’ll need to plan according to these four parameters:
- Activity attributes
- Milestone list
- Project scope statement
- Organizational process assets.
PMI® recommends all of these categories as inputs for sequencing activities. Without knowing the project scope statement, you can’t begin sequencing in your project. And once you start the process, you’ll need a list of activities in your hand.
You will also need to know the characteristics of the activity i.e., what work needs to be done for each activity. Additionally, you should know the milestone dates for these activities so that you can give preference to the activity attributes that are important to your clients. The map of this entire process is called the Network Diagram in project management.
Precedence Diagramming Method
The best way to create an efficient Network Diagram is to follow the Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM). PDM is a method used for constructing a network diagram that uses boxes (also known as nodes) to represent activities and arrows to connect boxes with each other, thus creating a logical relationship between these activities. It is an easy task for a project manager, provided he or she has good project management knowledge.
In this way, you can sequence activities, plan the duration required per activity, and derive the longest possible path for the project, that is, the Critical Path Method (CPM) of the project.
After calculating the CPM, you can compute total float in your project and the float within a particular activity. In this way, you can plan ahead and utilize your resources accordingly.
In the PDM, there are four types of dependencies. They are as follows:
Finish to start: An activity must finish before the successor can start.
Finish to finish: An activity must finish before the successor can finish.
Start to start: An activity must start before the successor can start.
Start to finish: An activity must start before the successor can finish. This is a very rare in practice.
Through PDM, you can calculate the best place to use schedule compression.
Suppose you are mid-way through your project and your client asked you to submit deliverables ten days prior to the delivery schedule. What would you do now?
This is your test as a project manager. It is your responsibility to handle this project effectively. Remember, there is no change in scope, quality, and resources – and no change in the budget for the project, either. What should you do? You should check your network diagram and club together the activities that can be started concurrently. This is called fast-tracking.
You should also analyze your network diagram and identify the activities with the longest float. Once you’ve done that, you can apply crushing – the process of adding more resources to an activity to increase the likelihood of its early completion – in your project.
As a project manager, you must update your Network Diagram religiously. If you have created a Network Diagram with the logical relationship between different activities clearly listed, you will be able to deliver the output as per your client’s desire and become known for your project management skills.
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