PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES – Project Planning Process (Part 4)

This post is the fourth in a series of discussions regarding current challenges being encountered in today’s project management.  More specifically, we have titled the series PROJECT MANAGEMENT CHALLENGES, since we intend to focus heavily on the managerial aspects of program / project management.  This post addresses the project planning process.  This is a crucial challenge and the importance of this process cannot be overstated.

Authoritative information and guidance regarding project management comes from many sources.  A few that may be obvious include:

In order to frame and organize this topic, we are using the PMI Project Management Processes for a Project as presented in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

Many discussion groups and forums can be helpful.  These include AACE, PMI, LinkedIn and others.

PMBOK® Guide defines five process groups:

  1. “Initiating Process Group”
  2. “Planning Process Group”
  3. “Executing Process Group”
  4. “Monitoring and Controlling Process Group”
  5. “Closing Process Group.”

Our discussion will be organized along the structure of these process groups.  Hence, this discussion will focus on the Planning Process Group.

A logical and often asked question is along the lines of “Why plan?” as it can be complicated, time-consuming and aggravating.  There are several key benefits to planning.

  • “Value in the Process – much is learned and baselines are created.  Hence, the team has a path forward and a basis for measuring departures or variances.”
  • “Value in the Document [Project Management Plan] – the document can be used as a basis for informing stakeholders of the intentions and to achieve approvals.”
  • “Value that endures – project teams grow, change and ultimately drawdown.  The PMP (appropriately updated) is a valuable tool to inform or “level set” new team members.”

Sources that are used in this post are:

The process tends to be problematic.  Many teams and organizations struggle with how to perform the planning.  In this regard, the order or sequence of planning is quite important.  A proper sequence creates efficiency and avoids costly and time-consuming rework.

The planning process differs for differing organizations and types of projects.  PMBOK® provides guidance regarding the plan data flow (PMBOK, page 79).  This can be adapted to the organizational structure and project specifics.

A generic process can be helpful. PMBOK® provides a useful starting point (from which a specific process can be created).  These process steps are listed in general order of performance:

  1. “Collect Requirements [Project Charter, Stakeholder Register]”
  2. “Define Scope”
  3. “Create Work Breakdown Structure [WBS]”
  4. “Define Activities”
  5. “Sequence Activities”
  6. “Estimate Activity Resources”
  7. “Estimate Activity Durations”
  8. “Develop Schedule”
  9. “Estimate Costs”
  10. “Determine Budget”
  11. “Plan Quality”
  12. “Develop Human Resource Plan [include responsibility matrix or RACI]”
  13. “Plan Communications”
  14. “Plan Risk Management”
  15. “Identify Risks”
  16. “Perform Qualitative Risk Analysis”
  17. “Perform Quantitative Risk Analysis”
  18. “Plan Risk Responses”
  19. “Plan Procurements [including design, construction or other]”

CIOB GUIDE TO GOOD PRACTICE IN THE MANAGEMENT OF TIME IN COMPLEX PROJECTS (K. Pickavance)  lists some typical decisions needed during project planning (with some considerable emphasis on project controls):

  • “the overall strategy of how the work process is to be broken down for control;”
  • “how the control is to be managed;”
  • “what methods are to be used for design, procurement and construction;”
  • “the strategy for subcontracting and procurement;”
  • “the interface between the various participants;”
  • “the zones of operation and their interface;”
  • “maximizing efficiency of the project strategy with respect to cost and time;”
  • “risk and opportunity management.”

The Planning Process (getting organized formally) requires multiple processes (see PMBOK® and Kerzner):

  1. “Project scope”
  2. “Project time management”
  3. “Project cost management”
  4. “Project quality management”
  5. “Project human resource management”
  6. “Project communications management”
  7. “Project risk management”
  8. “Project design/technical, procurement, construction and commissioning management (adapted for project type)”
  9. “Others.”

When performing planning and developing the Project Management Plan, expert judgment is often utilized.  PMBOK® lists the following areas for application of project planning expertise:

  • “Tailor the process to meet the project needs,”
  • “Develop technical and management details to be included in the Project Management Plan,”
  • “Determine resources and skill levels needed to perform project work,”
  • “Define the level of configuration management to apply on the project, and”
  • “Determine which project documents will be subject to the formal change control process.”

In subsequent posts, we will address the content of the Project Management Plan and issues or problems often encountered in Project Planning.

The experience of McLaughlin and McLaughlin includes the planning of many large and complex projects.  Within these projects, M&M has found that time and patience applied during the project planning is essential and invaluable relevant to project success potential.  Further, M&M experience is that lack of robust Project Planning can seriously degrade the project success potential.  In this regard, the old saying about project failures “they did not plan to fail, they failed to plan” applies.

Good luck and let us all attempt to approach the practice or managerial challenge of project management with all knowledge, tools and lessons learned that are available.  Setting a solid foundation in the issues as well as the process is essential and has long term (project duration) benefits.  Happy reading and good luck in your project management challenges and endeavors…

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