Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Project charting

On Edward Tufte's site there's a fasinating discussion on project management graphics. The discussion hinges on the way one might effectively show project progress, or status, or future plans in a graphic.

Nice idea, but projects can be so complex that I don't think that any one graphic format is going to do the job.

A well designed 'dashboard' type presentation might help. Such as some on Charlie Kyd's site, but I think there is an air of futility in attempting to capture the complexity of a project in a single presentation format.

For summarising progress, the One Page Project Manager has some useful approaches, I think, as is a simple S-curve of cumulative progress. Another short piece on the S-curve.

But we have been beguiled by the notion that a project scheduling package is a project management package, and that the complex multiplicity of project information can be captured in a single graphic display. A project needs to be understood as a business. I don't think that a business would run on a single graphic! Although, the Balanced Scorecard approach comes close to consolidating the status information of company performance. Perhaps something like this for a project would be applicable.

However, the challenge is an inviting one. I hope to post some ideas for graphics later.

Meanwhile, one thing that must be bourne in mind is that projects need to be managed on a moving lens approach: that is plenty of detail for coming actions, less detail for those further out, with performance analysis for past work; and thus the lens moves on like a magnifying glass; all the time with the forecast out-turn cost and completion date updated. In construction projects I've worked on we have a master schedule, but develop 'look ahead' schedules at the micro activity level (per zone, or trade) for the next 6-8 weeks, updated weekly.

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