Periodically Lynda tests you on your knowledge. Here are the facts I needed to know to pass the quiz. I’ve linked the answers to their corresponding blog post, in case you want to learn more.
- Involving your team in listing the tasks of a project is effective.
- When estimating, it is not best to quote the fastest time in which you can get the project completed.
- You should always keep a safety buffer after each floating task in your Gantt chart.
- You should give scores for each risk based on how likely and how serious they are.
Step 8 of Croft’s The Twelve Steps to Manage a Project Successfully is to assess risks and prepare action plans.
Croft states the importance of asking “What could possibly go wrong?” He encourages brainstorming lists of risks with your team.
Once risks are identified, it’s time to quantify them.
Grade each risk on a 1-5 scale first for seriousness (How bad would it be if it happened?), then for likelihood (How likely is this bad thing to actually happen?)
Multiply the seriousness score by the likelihood score. For any that receive more than double digit scores, make a plan to make it less likely to happen and/or less serious if it does happen. This is your risk plan.
Keep the risk plan up-to-date as you work on the project. Some risks will disappear or dissipate. Others may become more likely.
What are the risks with your current project? How do you assess the seriousness and likelihood of a risk? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Step 6 of Croft’s The Twelve Steps to Manage a Project Successfully is to draw the Gantt (bar) chart for the project.
Croft begins by saying why he loves Gantt charts.
- They are the best way to show your project plan to other people, including getting people to commit to your plan.
- You can use them to forecast when the busy periods are going to be. You can see if you are going to have several tasks all hitting you at the same time or not.
- Monitor progress. (Croft’s pick for the most ) You try to keep up with the now line.
Croft really loves Gantt charts. He takes 8 minutes to illustrate how to draw a Gantt chart. (He also has a separate one-hour-and-seventeen-minute course, Learning Gantt Charts.) But I thought I would spare you that and just share the video, How to draw a Gantt Chart in less than a minute by SA Project Management in South Africa (see below).
There are a few key points you need to know besides the basics of how to draw the Gantt Chart:
- Draw the critical path (the flow of tasks that will take the longest amount of time) first. All the rest of the tasks will need to take place within this time frame, so it makes sense to put this one in first.
- Then add in floater tasks (tasks that fit in somewhere simultaneous to the critical path). Sometimes you will put in floating tasks that are dependent on each other. For example, hiring of a program manager may come before the recruitment of a focus group, because the program manager is going to be involved in the recruitment. These tasks that are linked in some way are described as “sharing a float.”
Do you love Gantt charts? Even if you don’t love them, do you use them? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Step 5 of Croft’s The Twelve Steps to Manage a Project Successfully is to consider strategies for speeding up the tasks.
Croft begins with a word of caution about the previous step. He says that when plotting the project path, it’s important to put deadlines out of your mind in order to get an accurate picture of how long tasks will take. In the absence of that, you may be tempted to inaccurately estimate how long tasks will take in order to match the deadline.
Once you have a picture of how long tasks will really take, Croft offers three options if you need to speed up the project.
- Spend more. For example, can you recruit focus group participants more efficiently if you offer a higher stipend? Can you hire a consultant to handle some part of the work for you?
- Reduce quality. Will your funder mind if you skip copy editing your report? Can you get by with fewer participants if you can’t do a thorough job on promotion and outreach?
- Overlap tasks. Although it usually involves, a degree of waste, sometimes you can’t overlap tasks. Can you launch your new 8-week program with only the first 4 weeks of the curriculum finalized and complete the curriculum while the program is in process?
If you have a project that you are working on and you need to speed it up, will you spend more, reduce quality, or overlap tasks to try to get it done? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Step 4 of Croft’s The Twelve Steps to Manage a Project Successfully is to “think about the running order of tasks.”
He suggests making a Post-it note chart, also known as a network diagram or Program Evaluation Review Technique (PERT) Chart.
Involve your team and follow these steps together:
- Write your project tasks and the length of the tasks on post-it notes
- Arrange the post-it notes in the desired order of completion
- Add up the length of tasks to identify the longest path. This is the time you have to complete the project.
There may be some tasks that are “floaters,” meaning they can occur in a variable range of time without disrupting the overall project timeline.
Tasks that must be done within a certain time frame are considered critical. It’s especially important to double check critical tasks as they can affect the overall timeline of the project.
How do you determine the order of tasks for your projects? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Step 3 of Croft’s The Twelve Steps to Manage a Project Successfully is to estimate times and costs for each task.
Croft discusses the dangers of estimating based on the average time it takes to do a task or the average amount something will cost. (The average is represented by the line down the center of the featured image for this post.) If you do that, you will have a 50% failure rate. Instead he recommends estimating based on 150% if the average time or cost. (This amount is represented roughly by the light blue bar on the right side of the featured image graph.) If you do that, Croft believes that will bring your failure rate down to 10% and may help buffer against unforeseen tasks and work slowdowns.
How do you estimate time for your projects? Share your thoughts in the comments below.