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Broad Contents

Steps in General Planning Process

Initial Project Coordination

Project Planning Checklist

16.1 Steps in General Planning Process:

In simple terms, planning is determining what needs to be done, by whom, and by when; in

order to fulfill one's assigned responsibility. There are nine major components of the planning


  • Objective: A goal, target, or quota to be achieved by a certain time
  • Program: The strategy to be followed and major actions to be taken in order to achieve or exceed objectives
  • Schedule: A plan showing when individual or group activities or accomplishments will be started and/or completed
  • Budget: Planned expenditures required to achieve or exceed objectives
  • Forecast: A projection of what will happen by a certain time
  • Organization: Design of the number and kinds of positions, along with corresponding duties and responsibilities, required to achieve or exceed objectives
  • Policy: A general guide for decision making and individual actions
  • Procedure: A detailed method for carrying out a policy
  • Standard: A level of individual or group performance defined as adequate or acceptable

Some of these components require additional comment. Forecasting what will happen may not

be easy, especially if predictions of environmental reactions are required. For example, planning

is customarily defined as strategic, tactical, or operational. Strategic planning is generally for

five years or more, tactical can be for one to five years, and operational is the here and now of

six months to one year. Although most projects are operational, they can be considered as

strategic, especially if spin-offs or follow-up work is promising. Forecasting also requires an

understanding of strengths and weaknesses as found in:

  • Competitive situation
  • Marketing
  • Research and development
  • Production
  • Financing
  • Personnel
  • Management structure

These factors may be clearly definable, if project planning is strictly operational. However, if

strategic or long-range planning is necessary, then the future economic outlook can vary, say,

from year to year, and re-planning must be accomplished at regular intervals because the goals

and objectives can change.

Because of their uniqueness, the last three factors, policies, procedures, and standards, can vary

from project to project. Each project manager can establish project policies, provided that they

fall within the broad limits set forth by top management. Policies are predetermined general

courses or guides based on the following principles:

  • Subordinate policies are supplementary to superior policies.
  • Policies are based upon known principles in the operative areas.
  • Policies should be definable, understandable, and preferably in writing.
  • Policies should be both flexible and stable.
  • Policies should be reasonably comprehensive in scope.

It is essential that the project policies must often conform closely to company policies, and are

usually similar in nature from project to project. On the other hand, procedures can be

drastically different from project to project, even if the same activity is performed. For example,

the signing off of manufacturing plans may require different signatures on two selected projects

even though the same end-item is being produced.

We can easily say that planning varies at each level of the organization. At the individual level,

planning is required so that cognitive simulation can be established before irrevocable actions are

taken. At the working group or functional level, planning must include the following:

  • Agreement on purpose
  • Assignment and acceptance of individual responsibilities
  • Coordination of work activities
  • Increased commitment to group goals
  • Lateral communications

All the organizational or project level, planning must include:

  • Recognition and resolution of group conflict of goals
  • Assignment and acceptance of group responsibilities
  • Increased motivation and commitment to organizational goals
  • Vertical and lateral communications
  • Coordination of activities between groups

In order for the alternatives and constraints to be fully understood, the logic of planning requires

answers to several questions. An outline for a partial list of questions would include:

  • Where are we?
  • How and why did we get here?
  • Is this where we want to be?
  • Where would we like to be (in a year, in five years etc.)?
  • Where will we go if we continue as before?
  • Is that where we want to go?
  • How could we get to where we want to go?
  • What might prevent us from getting there?
  • What might help us to get there?
  • Where are we capable of going?
  • What do we need to take us where we want to go?
  • What is the best course for us to take?
  • What are the potential benefits?
  • What are the risks?
  • What do we need to do?
  • When do we need to do it?
  • How will we do it?
  • Who will do it?
  • Are we on course? If not, why?
  • What do we need to do to be on course?
  • Can we do it?

It is believed that one of the most difficult activities in the project environment is to keep the

planning on target.

Following are typical procedures that can assist project managers during planning activities:

  • Establish goals before you plan. Otherwise short-term thinking takes over.
  • Set goals for the planners. This will guard against the nonessentials and places your effort where there is payoff.
  • Stay flexible. Use people-to-people contact, and stress fast response.
  • Keep a balanced outlook. Do not overreact, and position yourself for an upturn.
  • Welcome top-management participation. Top management has the capability to make or break a plan, and may well be the single most important variable.
  • Beware of future spending plans. This may eliminate the tendency to underestimate.
  • Test the assumptions behind the forecasts. This is necessary because professionals are generally too optimistic. Do not depend solely on one set of data.
  • Do not focus on today's problems. Try to get away from crisis management and fire fighting.
  • Reward those who dispel illusions. Reward the first to come forth with bad news.

16.2 Initial Project Coordination:

It is crucial that project's objectives be clearly tied to overall mission of firm. Senior

management should define firm’s intent in undertaking project, outline scope of project, and

describe project's desired results. Without clear beginning, project planning can easily go astray.

It is also vital that senior manager call and be present at initial coordinating meeting as visible

symbol of top management’s commitment to project.

At the beginning, meeting is conducted in which, project is discussed in sufficient detail that

potential contributors develop general understanding of what is needed. If project is one of

many similar projects, meeting will be quite short and routine, sort of “touching base” with

other interested units. If project is unique in most of its aspects, extensive discussion may be


Whatever the process, outcome must be that:

1. Technical objectives are established (though perhaps not “cast in concrete)

2. Basic areas of performance responsibility are accepted by participants

3. Some tentative schedules and budgets are spelled out. It is important that each

individual/unit accepting responsibility for portion of project should agree to deliver,

before next project meeting, preliminary but detailed plan about how that responsibility

will be accomplished. Such plans should contain descriptions of required tasks, budgets

and schedules.

After this, these plans are then reviewed by groups and combined into composite project plan.

Composite plan, that is still not completely final, is approved by each participating group, by

project manager, and then by senior organizational management. Each subsequent approval

hardens plan somewhat, and when senior management has endorsed it, any further changes

must be made by processing formal change order. However, if project is not large or complex,

informal written memoranda can substitute for change order. Main point is that no significant

changes in project are made, without written notice, following top management's approval.

Definition of “significant” depends on specific situation and people involved.

It is generally the responsibility of the project manager to task responsibility for gathering

necessary approvals and assuring that any changes incorporated into plan at higher levels are

communicated to, and approved by, units that have already signed off on plan. Nothing is as

sure to enrage functional unit managers as to find that they have been committed by someone

else to alterations in their carefully considered plans with out being informed. Violation of this

procedure is considered betrayal of trust. Several incidents of this kind occurred in firm during

project to design line of children’s clothing. Anger at this change without communication was

so great that two chief designers resigned and took jobs wit competitors.

Project manager should always return to contributing units for consideration and re-approval of

plans as modified, because the senior manages are almost certain to exercise their prerogative to

change plan. Final, approved result of this procedure is project plan, also known as master plan,

or baseline plan.

16.2.1 Outside Clients:

Fundamental planning process is unchanged (except for the fact that specifications

cannot be altered without client's permission), when project is to deliver product/service

(often referred to as project's deliverables) to outside client(s). Common “planning”

problem in these cases is that marketing has promised deliverables that engineering may

not know how to produce on schedule that manufacturing may be unable to meet. This

sort of problem usually result when various functional areas are not involved in

planning process at time original proposal is made to potential client.

In this regard, two objections to such early participation by engineering and

manufacturing are likely to be raised by marketing. First sales arm of organization is

trained to sell and is expected to be fully conversant with all technical aspects of firm’s

products/services. Further, salespeople are expected to be knowledgeable about design

and manufacturing lead times and schedules. On the other hand, it is widely assumed by

marketing (with some justice on occasion) that manufacturing and design engineers do

not understand sales techniques, will be argumentative and/or pessimistic about client

needs in presence of client, and are generally not “housebroken” when customers are


Secondly, it is expensive to involve so much technical talent so early in sales process –

typically, prior to issuing proposal. It can easily cost firm more than $10,000 to send

five technical specialists on trip to consider potential client’s needs. Willingness to

accept higher sales costs puts even more emphasis on selection process.

It is usually cheaper, faster and easier to do things right first time than to redo them.

Thus, rejoinder to such objections is simple. When product/service is complex system

that must be installed in larger, more complex system, it is appropriate to treat sale like

project. Sale is also a project and deserves same kind of planning. Great many firms

that consistently operate in atmosphere typed by design and manufacturing crises have

created their own panics. In fairness, it is appropriate to urge that anyone meeting

customers face to face should receive some training in tactics of selling.

For a given project plan, approvals really amount to series of authorizations. Project

manager is authorized to direct activities, spend monies (usually within preset limits)

request resources and personnel, and start project on its way. Senior management's

approval not only signals its willingness to fund and support project, but also notifies

subunits in organization that they may commit resources to project.

16.3 Project Planning Checklist:

These are described below for different areas of operations:

Construction Planning:

  1. Facility turnover sequence
  2. Temporary facilities, offices, warehousing, etc
  3. Tool and equipment requirements
  4. Labor availability and productivity
  5. Work week and productivity impact
  6. Climatic affects on field work
  7. Field engineering assistance required
  8. Extent of subcontracting
  9. Field organization and staffing

Procurement Planning:

1. Procurement sources (equipment, materials)

2. Home office versus field procurement

3. Long lead time items

4. Logistical planning

Engineering Planning:

  1. Source(s) of technology
  2. Codes, specifications and standards to be utilized
  3. Utilization of consultants
  4. Early work
  5. Requisitioning priorities
  6. Drawing priorities
  7. Vendor data requirements
  8. Utilization of scale models
  9. Manpower requirements
  10. Approval requirements
  11. Organization and staffing
  12. Utilization of prefabricated modules

Quality Control Planning:

  1. Audit of design and equipment for conformance to specifications
  2. Checking of calculation and drawings
  3. Shop inspection of equipment and fabricated items
  4. Certification of materials
  5. Certificate of welding procedures
  6. Receiving and inspection of equipment and materials
  7. Jobsite storage and environmental protection of equipment and materials
  8. Construction inspection

Financial Planning:

  1. Cash flow requirement
  2. Progress payments and billing frequency
  3. Impact of financial sources

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