The Planning Function

The Planning Function
Project Timelines
One of the four functions of management is planning. The planning function is used for
routine, day-to-day planning like personnel scheduling; larger-scale planning like
strategic planning; and project planning like profit improvement programs,
productivity improvement programs, or major construction projects.
For anything other than routine planning, managers usually create a timeline and plan
steps that culminate in the completion of the project. Project planning and the creation
of a timeline are especially important in larger scale projects.
A baseline plan or timeline is needed to track the progress of the project; otherwise,
there is no way to know if the project is on schedule or behind schedule.
The Organizing Function
Organizing is the function involved with providing adequate money, personnel, and
physical resources when and where they are needed. A timeline can be used to
organize the steps of a project and the required resources so a manager can tell when
certain resources are needed and when they are no longer needed. This will allow
management to schedule resources to be available during the proper timeframe, neither
early nor late. This is especially important when dealing with scheduling personnel
who may require recruiting and training.
You can utilize either a PERT chart or a Gantt chart to illustrate a project plan. Gantt
charts are useful for simple processes that contain activities that are not interrelated.
PERT charts are utilized for more complex projects and allow the organization of
activities in the most efficient sequence (Collins, n.d.). Both types of charts require the
same step-by-step process.
Step 1: Identify the tasks that have to be done.
Step 2: Determine the time that each task will take.
Step 3: Sequence the steps correctly, paying particular attention to tasks that are
dependent upon others for achievement and tasks that can be performed in
parallel.
Step 4: Create a diagram depicting the steps and the time each will take.
Step 5: Determine the critical path or shortest possible time for completion of
the entire project.
The accuracy and feasibility of the timeline depends upon the accuracy of the
assumptions made during the project planning process. Consider the following:
Have all the crucial steps been properly identified?
How accurate is the allotted time for each step?
Does the timeline allow for any contingencies? It should because no step or
project is likely to ever occur exactly as it would under ideal conditions.
A crucial task is to understand which operations depend upon other operations and
which can be done at the same time. For example, during a pit stop at the Indy 500,
replacing tires on the left side of the car cannot be done in parallel or at the same time
as replacing tires on the right side of the car because only one jack is allowed. On the
other hand, the gas tank can be filled while the tires are being changed. These two tasks
can be done simultaneously, or in parallel.
If project completion time is crucial and too many steps need to be done in a series, a
manager should seek ways to reduce the steps. Using the Indy 500 example, getting the
tires positioned near the edge of the pit has to be done before tires can be changed, but
does it have to be done after the racecar arrives in the pit or can they be moved into
position while the car is still on the course?
This is a simple example of how to find ways to reduce the time needed for steps in a
series.
Reference
Collins, K. (n.d.). Graphical tools: PERT and gantt charts. Retrieved October 20,
2009, from the Flat World Knowledge Web
site: http://www.flatworldknowledge.com/pub/1.0/exploring-business/28159

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