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"Thorough planning is the single most important process or tool for a rescue manager to use as it provides an opportunity to structure the resources and timeframes to identify weaknesses up front. During a rescue intervention, a project plan that can show what needs to be done, almost on an hourly or a daily basis, becomes the single most important deliverable coming out of the planning phase."

"When planning tasks that are less than three hours in duration, consider using a checklist to track results. It becomes very cumbersome to maintain a project plan at this level, and attempting to do so may consume valuable management time that can be used more effectively elsewhere."

Common Problems

"The table below identifies some of the common problems within the planning category, key considerations, and some suggested questions that can be included in your assessment questionnaire."
Problem Description
Suggested Questions
Insufficient details
The plan needs to include enough information to articulate timeframe, resources, and measurement. It's as important to identify where there are gaps in understanding so that you can plan and budget around them.
How much planning was done? Did the planning activities miss anything? How well do we know what the project needs to accomplish and how to accomplish it? Where is the project plan?
Missing items
The planning may appear complete, but you do not know what you do not know. Build slack time into the plan to accommodate items that were not considered.
How do we know that the planning is complete?
No justification
Planning is not an exact science and can rely on assumptions that have no basis in reality.
What logic or justification was used to build the project plan during the planning exercise?
Insufficient resourcing details
The planning exercise may not capture enough details to support the resourcing efforts.
Do we know when the resources need to start on the project? What needs to be done to bring new resources onto the team? What tools do new resources require?
No early warning systems
Do you need to wait until the plan is unachievable before knowing there is a problem? It's important to include flags to the new project plan to point out when it is going off track early enough to make effective adjustments
What made the project team call for a project rescue? How will I as the rescue manager know when something is starting to go wrong in the future? Who do I communicate this to?
Lack of a good Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)
The Work Breakdown Structure is useful for showing the big project picture and can be useful for showing how consistent the project manager's thinking really is. Ad hoc WBS's often leave out many important deliverables and their related tasks - for example, test case planning, development, test script development, and building the test environment.
Is the Project WBS a standard template or was it developed ad hoc? Is the WBS based on deliverables or tasks?
Unjustified estimating techniques
With so many different variables affecting planning, some reusable estimating rules need to be established.
How was it done? Was a standard method used or was it ad hoc? Can the estimates be reviewed by a third part or are the estimating assumptions buried in the head of the architect?

The above is an excerpt from a book written by Sanjiv Purba and Joseph Zucchero, published by McGraw-Hill/Osborne, 2100 Powell Street, 10th Floor, Emeryville, California 94608 U.S.A. Sanjiv has over 20 years of experience managing large projects and many years engaged in rescuing ailing projects.