Assessing the Role of the Project Plan
The intent of this analysis is to assess the role of the project plan and why its location in the project planning phase is optimal for attaining inter- and intra-group collaboration and minimizing shared risk through a project’s duration. This analysis will also discuss the challenges a project manager faces in creating a project plan, best practices in developing project plans, and a template for a project management deliverable are also provided. Evaluating tools and techniques, both from a theoretical and empirical standpoint, are also evaluated. This analysis concludes with recommendations for project managers who will be using the proposed project management deliverable for their project. The deliverable is a pro-forma product launch activity plan for the introduction of a new product. Please see Table 1 in the Appendix for the pro-forma Product Launch Activity Plan.
The role of project plans in the project planning phase is essential for optimization of resources, tasks, time constraints, and completion of risk assessments and development of task ownership (Blackstone, Cox, Schleier, 2009). Exacerbating attempts to optimize tasks, constraints and resources within a project management plan are the challenges of managing project-based, process-based and product-based knowledge.
The main challenges of a project manager are multitudinous. There is the issue of constraint-based management of project plans (Blackstone, Cox, Schleier, 2009) and optimization of critical path (van Iwaarden, van der Wiele, Dale, Williams, Bertsch, 2008) and the critical need of attaining credibility and trust to lead significant change in an organization (Keller, 2006). Complicating these challenges is the integration of taxonomies that are service-based, product and process defined (Lonnqvist, Sillanpaa, Kianto, 2009).
Attaining best practices in project plans requires a balanced approach to managing the constraints of a project (Lonnqvist, Sillanpaa, Kianto, 2009) and optimizing them given available alternatives, addressing change management, and knowledge integration to the taxonomy level for process- and product-based analysis.
Project management’s tools and techniques center on the optimization of resources given constraints (Lonnqvist, Sillanpaa, Kianto, 2009) and the development of methodologies to minimize variation in project performance (van Iwaarden, van der Wiele, Dale, Williams, Bertsch, 2008). Mitigating risk, supporting taxonomy integration to the product and process level and enabling effective change management programs (Zwikael, Sadeh, 2007) require a set of transformational leadership (Limsila, Ogunlana, 2008) and constraint-based tools expertise (van Iwaarden, van der Wiele, Dale, Williams, Bertsch, 2008).
The Project Plan’s Pivotal Role in the Project Planning Phase
Theory of constraints-based analysis (Blackstone, Cox, Schleier, 2009), linear programming-based project planning methodologies and approaches (Drezet, Billaut, 2008) and optimization of project plans through Six Sigma-based techniques (van Iwaarden, van der Wiele, Dale, Williams, Bertsch, 2008) are representative of the optimization strategies organizations use during the project planning phase. All of these approaches to project management are predicated on attaining synchronization across change management, systems and process configuration, communication, cost management, process improvement and requirements management. Project management plans also include risk management, scheduling, scope baseline and management plans. As there are 15 different components that comprise a project management plan, theory of constraints (Blackstone, Cox, Schleier, 2009) and Six Sigma-based approaches (van Iwaarden, van der Wiele, Dale, Williams, Bertsch, 2008) also take into account the constraint of resources within the timeframes of the plan. As a result of the varied approaches to minimizing risk and optimizing the use of resources, change management plans serve as the catalyst of successful project plan execution (Keller, 2006). Empirical analysis indicates that the greater the level of knowledge sharing required for a project to succeed the greater the need for change management plans to be excellently executed (Lonnqvist, Sillanpaa, Kianto, 2009). Projects that have intensive levels of analysis associated with them are inherently higher in risk and are more dependent on excellent in execution of the overall project plan (Bhattacharya, 2009). The project plan is the catalyst that determines if entire projects’ goals will be accomplished or not.
The greater the complexity and presence of multiple taxonomies within a given organizations’ process and product structure, the greater the risk of projects failing to due to lack of execution of the project plan (Newell, Bresnen, Edelman, Scarbrough, Swan, 2006). A project plan needs to be as focused on knowledge transfer at the taxonomy level as much as it needs to focus on the attainment of tasks, with knowledge transfer arguably the more critical to the success of a plan than the latter (Sanchez & Pellerin, 2008).
Challenges Project Managers Face in Developing A Project Plan
Project management’s most significant challenges are more unquantifiable than quantifiable or measurable (Keller, 2006). Of the 15 components which comprise a project plan, the most unquantifiable and uncontrollable is change management and trust in the process and its leaders (Dayan, Di Benedetto, Colak, 2009). Project management skills and techniques can be taught through linear programming (Lonnqvist, Sillanpaa, Kianto, 2009), Six Sigma techniques using the DMAIC methodology to minimize and reduce risk and variability (van Iwaarden, van der Wiele, Dale, Williams, Bertsch, 2008) and the use of the theory of constraints (Blackstone, Cox, Schleier, 2009). Each of these approaches has significantly different philosophies associated with them from the standpoint of how projects are managed (Drezet, Billaut, 2008). All however are dependent on the successful execution of the change management plan (Limsila, Ogunlana, 2008). Project management sciences and techniques can be taught, yet transformational leadership skills that will lead to a project gaining buy-in and trust from those necessary for its attainment is often the greatest failure point (Strang, 2005). Overcoming this dichotomy through training and experience is possible, yet there is debate in the project management research community of whether transformational leadership can be taught (Strang, 2005) or it is an innate strength a manager has (Keller, 2006). Change management plans also represent the most uncontrollable factor in the overall project plan (Eve, 2007). Gaining access to corporate shared human resources and assets (Dayan, Di Benedetto, Colak, 2009) coordination with senior management on the vision and implementation plans for the project (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009) and the development of project schedules that support change management are critical (Strang, 2005).
Best Practices in Creating Project Plans
Industries where product management is central to manufacturers’ unique value propositions and competitive differentiation are most likely to attain best practices (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009). Examples from the Aerospace & Defense industry specifically illustrate this point when the centralized coordination role of the Project Management Office (PMO) is analyzed. The role of the PMO in project-based manufacturing companies is coordination and management of project constraints, use of shared project and asset resources, and change management initiatives which are considered best practices in this industry (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009). Organizational structures initially defined by functional expertise in this industry have given way to project-based manufacturing process and knowledge management that are managed to a constraint-based framework in many cases (Banaszak, Zaremba, Muszy-ski, 2009). Best practices in the development of the project plan seek to mitigate risk (Lonnqvist, Sillanpaa, Kianto, 2009) and attain the objectives of change management through trust (Keller, 2006) while also attaining knowledge integration through the use of shared knowledge taxonomies (Newell, Bresnen, Edelman, Scarbrough, Swan, 2006). Best practices in project plan creation and use can also be seen in the approaches Toyota has taken with its centralized project management of supply chain partners with the goal of creating a learning ecosystem (Dyer, Nobeoka, 2000). The Toyota Production System (TPS) takes a longitudinal view of relationships with customers, defining key performance indicators (KPIs) that are tracked over time to evaluate the success of shared project plans (Dyer, Nobeoka, 2000). The use of KPIs and scorecards further supports this best practice by providing shared ownership of results (Strang, 2005). The long-term outcome of these best practices both within the PMO Offices of A&D manufacturers and within the Toyota Production System is that knowledge, not necessarily costs or price, becomes the competitive advantage.
Project Management Tools & Techniques
The most valued tools project management professionals use include Gantt charts, progress reports, change requests, in addition to kick-off meetings to gain buy-in and collaboration (Besner, Hobbs, 2006). These in fact are the baseline of tools that the Project Management Office professionals in A&D manufactures rely on to initially launch a project and sustain its progress. The use of Gantt charts and their publishing on Corporate Intranet sites are also critically important for the coordination of complex tasks and the attainment of shared objectives in the A&D industry (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009). Gantt charts have also been used for initiating competitive performance between teams and through the combining with dashboards that reflect results over time (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009). The combining of these tools has also proven effective in creating learning ecosystems over time in the auto industry, specifically the Toyota Production System (Dyer, Nobeoka, 2000).
Gantt charts defining the interrelationships and dependencies of tasks, resources and their respective constraints is the primary project management tool of choice for project management professionals (Besner, Hobbs, 2006). Gantt charts are indispensible for managing the kick-off meeting and the expectations of performance to the project’s goals. The use of Gantt charts for enabling interprocess integration and knowledge management in the A&D industry is a best practice for also managing process-intensive projects (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009). These include the development of new computer systems and advanced technologies where the project needs to capture the knowledge to fulfill its objectives. Project management’s core set of tools therefore needs to be focused on how to augment and strengthen project performance while also capturing process and product knowledge critical to its success (Besner, Hobbs, 2006). The combining of Gantt charts, progress reports, change requests and the use of kick-off meetings to set objectives is critical in this regard.
Recommendations to Project Managers Using the Product Launch Activity Plan
The pro-forma Product Launch Activity Plan shown in Table 1 of the Appendix is designed to provide project managers with a framework to define a Gantt chart to manage the new product introduction process. The coordination of a product launch requires project managers to be knowledgeable of each phase of the product development process, from Product Definition to Launch. The pro-forma Product Launch Activity Plan also incorporates the use of dependencies which can be reflected in a Gantt chart to show time-based and resource-based dependencies as well. Project management professionals have also mentioned that Scope statements are Requirements Analysis are among the two most critical tools they have at their use (Besner, Hobbs, 2006). The use of these two deliverables at the front end of the product launch process is specifically defined to further gain consensus and increase the likelihood of project success. The progression of tasks is also based on the chronological series of events necessary to prepare for a product launch. In using this mold as a means to better manage the interrelated tasks and programs, project managers will also be able to coordinate with product development leaders in the event there is a change in the launch date as well. The ability to have project management plans that are structured enough for gain attainment yet agile enough to respond to market conditions is a best practice (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009). This is the goal of the template shown in the appendix; to provide structure for attaining the product introduction yet have enough flexibility to attain the project goals even if the product development timeframes shift.
Project management’s project plan is the catalyst of making entire projects attainable as it provides the necessary coordination, collaboration and constraint-based management of tasks and resources (Besner, Hobbs, 2006). The challenges for project managers, while multifaceted and complex are most challenging in the balancing of the learning of techniques and technologies on the one hand and the approach to managing others to gain their support and effort on the other (Dayan, Di Benedetto, Colak, 2009). The many challenges in attaining this type of balance can be seen in the Aerospace & Defense industries’ Project Management Office (PMO role of managing to constraints while also mitigating resistance to change through the use of transformational leadership (Singh, Keil, Kasi, 2009). From product introductions (Burkett, 2005) to the development of supply chains (Dyer, Nobeoka, 2000) project management is a discipline that can in addition to delivering completed tasks also significantly increase the ability of companies to compete using knowledge. (Besner, Hobbs, 2006).
Table 1: Product Launch Activity Plan
Update as needed
Product Lifecycle Management
Product Launch Activity / Phase
Product Marketing Deliverables
SCOPE STATEMENT And REQUIREMENTS ANALYSIS
Brand Identity (Trademarking)
Product Names/Descriptions (Branding)
Product Labelling/branding (w / Corp Marketing)
Preliminary Spec Sheet
Customer Focused Product Announcement Document
Internal Sales Information Document
Product Information Document
Update Competitive Information
Publish Final Price List
Sales Training (w / Sales Engineering)
Update websites (w / Corp Marketing)
Press Release (Corp Marketing – optional)
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Sue Newell, Mike Bresnen, Linda Edelman, Harry Scarbrough, & Jacky Swan. (2006). Sharing Knowledge Across Projects: Limits to ICT-led Project Review Practices. Management Learning, 37(2), 167-185.
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