Develop an integrated plan to reflect priority, focus and capacity

Sound planning is essential to clear understanding and communication of the work to be done and its current status.

Planning means incorporating the project schedules and managing the gaps and interfaces between the projects.  Also, focusing on interdependencies and the medium to long term future.  Interdependencies are critical; the slippage of a minor deliverable in one project may have major consequences in another project that is dependent on it.  All interdependencies should be mapped and the precise form of the deliverable defined.  Information from the detailed project schedules should be rolled up into the program schedule on a regular basis to maintain alignment.  

Synchronizing task and resource priorities during execution becomes a challenge of solving scheduling at multiple levels:

  • The strategic schedule – Top-down sequencing and macro-scheduling ensure that the major phases are synchronized and feasible, with realistic expectations set for the parties involved in various workstreams and projects.  This is commonly used for stakeholder communications and engagement and should be in a form that is easy to understand
  • The integrated tactical schedule – Constructed at an intermediate level of detail, reflecting the integration of top-down and bottom-up schedules. Ensures appropriate negotiation, reconciliation of disconnects and constraints to focus all parties on a common timeline with a clear understanding of the critical path, dependencies, control milestones and resulting commitments
  • Project Schedules – Detailed, bottom-up project schedules, based on a clear understanding of scope, deliverables, dependencies, activities and lead-times and expected staffing to meet the specific project objectives.

 The below diagram illustrates the relationship between the three levels of planning.

Together, these three schedules ensure complete coverage of the program’s scope and define the work that will be completed, by when, and by whom.  The complication is that changes can, and will, occur to any of the plans at any time throughout the program.

An effective planning process will continuously reconcile top down plans and milestones with the detailed bottom-up plans that are developed as the program evolves. This ‘big-picture thinking’ is needed to look for the best structures and identify and manage the implications of key interactions. 

Do you have any lessons learned about building a program plan?

Alexander Lowry

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