Project Decelerators – Lack of Planning Clarity

planSo, you’ve met your stakeholders and gotten their support. Everyone agrees on the size of the breadbox. Details are needed, but those will be identified during requirements gathering. How do you plan to pursue the project? Should you draft a plan on your own since your team is brand new and they don’t know any better? Should you meet with a few key players to put together a plan? Should you reuse a previous project plan with some modifications?

While all of these approaches work, one that I have found to be very effective is one I’ve described previously on this forum, what Intel calls “Map Days”. I will discuss some of the highlights here and provide some updates on successes. For prior entries, see “How do we communicate PM’s Intent”, and “What Happens During a Map Day”.

Map Day, as documented in Timm Esque’s No Surprises Project Management, is a face-to-face meeting where all participants of a project (ideally) meet to develop a plan. Starting with the customer or customer representatives, deliverables are presented, discussed, and posted on a “map” (a timeline of deliverables). “Supplier” teams then present their own deliverables, following similar discussions. Once every team has presented their deliverables as well as any they expect from other teams, the group as a whole reviews the deliverables maps, makes adjustments, and commits to dates.

This is a highly simplified description of the process which I teach through PMI SV. Check their calendar for future sessions (next one will probably take place on April 17, 2009). There is some additional guidance as to how far you commit as well as guidance on how to monitor and control execution (I’ve talked about execution in a prior blog “How do we track progress after a map day?”) and will discuss further in the future. Or refer to Timm’s book.

Since the publication of the prior blogs on this approach, it has been successfully applied in 5 or 6 projects at my prior employer. I have consulted on its use with an organization planning a mechanical engineering project and I’m in discussions with other organizations on its use. It is proven to be useful not just in its original application areas, semiconductor chips and software, but in other areas as well.

In addition, the controlling spreadsheet continues to be refined to add more capabilities. One new capability in the works is the calculation of Earned Value indices (Schedule Performance Index and Cost Performance Index) provided the forecasted and actual costs are provided to the spreadsheet. Other capabilities plus more automation are being contemplated.

This approach, as previously indicated in other posts, can dramatically accelerate the planning (through map days) and the execution (through the use of the spreadsheet and related processes) of a project. Give it a try! And if you are interested in further information, contact me or see my web site at


2 thoughts on “Project Decelerators – Lack of Planning Clarity”

  1. User Avatar


    Unfortunately the system is/was not sending out messages when someone posted a comment. So I just saw yours!

    And, yes, the approach you were using is what typically you have to do in large projects as it is very difficult to do Map Days for very large teams. Not impossible but difficult and probably not as effective as breaking the work into pieces.

  2. Very interesting stuff. On large projects, is there a preferred method to go about this? For instance, my project has several segments which are fairly large themselves and we have separate work plans for each. On top of that, we’re just the largest contractor among several others and then the government has their own level on top of the contractors that we report up through.

    We normally have the smaller groups define and plan the deliverable and activities for their respective segments, but then our lead managers, engineers, and scientists meet before and after to ensure things are being tied together and integrated properly.

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