Growing in the Green: Project management

June 20, 2012
Written by Melhem Sawaya
I would like to share with you some principles and guidelines of project management.

p14_4813Leamington  
Greenhouse projects require considerable planning and ongoing management.

 
During the past 32 years, I have seen many endeavours take place, involving large sums of money. Taking the time to get acquainted with the basic principles of project management always maximizes that investment.

Before you jump to conclusions that this type of planning is only for large operations, I would say this planning is more important with small operations, where some ideas are not shared with the other people that are involved in the project. The size of the project is immaterial – these principles will still apply.

p16_2096-CoverSix  
PERT principles can be applied to investing in new equipment and/or adding new varieties.
 
How many times have you started a project with a certain dollar cost, only to finish with at least double the estimate? This is almost always because we did not follow these guidelines or any other project management planning.

These are only guidelines to follow a certain thinking process; by all means, they are flexible enough to adjust them to your own situation.   

Within this series,  we are going to cover the following:
  • Getting the project underway – organizing the team and defining the guidelines.
  • The task analysis – establishing objectives.
  • Planning with consideration to time, cost and resources.
  • Implementation – the art of controlling and adjusting plans, plus trends in project management.
ORGANIZING THE TEAM, DEFINING THE GUIDELINES
■ To start with, let us define the following:
  • Project: It is a group of tasks intended to achieve a goal.
  • Management: Getting things done through people while building the people in the process.
  • Project management: It is achieving a goal while building people.

THE STEPS IN A SUCCESSFUL PROJECT
■ A project manager must ask the following questions:
  • What is the logical flow of a project?
  • How should it start?
  • How do you know when it ends?
There are five steps in a project. Use these steps as guidelines in your specific project.

Step 1: Establish the objective. What is to be accomplished, within what time constraints and within what cost constraints?

Step 2: Plan the project. Outline what tasks are to be involved, and determine the dependencies, lags, etc., the task durations, the costs, and the resource requirements.

Step 3: Start the project and spend the money.

Step 4: Control the project by reporting the results and carefully analyzing the reporting. Note the out-of-control areas, determine “why” they’re out of control, and get the information to other team members.

Step 5: Adjust as required, reschedule if necessary and change resource allocations as needed.
 projectmanage  
PERT begins with a time calculation, followed by charting the job. Here’s an example. In this case, the goal is to establish a new production line.
 

THE TASK ANALYSIS: ESTABLISHING OBJECTIVES
■ Occasionally, the project objective is established up front, prior to any planning. In these cases the objective is a mandate, generally from upper management or from a client. More often, however, the objective statement is an integral part of the planning step.
In establishing the objective the following should be included:
  • Performance criteria – what’s to be done.
  • What time constraints are to be involved.
  • What cost constraints are to be involved
A good objective will include all three factors.

The next thing to be included in a project objective is how it is communicated and to whom. The objective statement must be clear, concise, committed in writing, communicated to all concerned (nobody can read your mind), understood by all concerned, agreed to by all those involved, and measurable.

The “all concerned” in a project includes the project manager (preferably not the boss or the owner because if they are one and the same, then timetable is doomed!). Also in the loop are team members, the boss, supervisors directly affected by the project, customers, suppliers and the bank.

Take a few minutes and try to write an objective statement using the previous criteria for the following projects or any others you like.
  • You and your spouse have decided to build that house you have been dreaming about for the last 10 years.
  • Building or adding a 20,000-
  • square-foot greenhouse.
  • Computerizing your accounting.
  • Deciding to cost the product you produce, so you can establish product feasibility.
Task analysis is the procedure through which all task-related details are pulled together. It is the heart of the planning step. Specific elements of the task analysis include:
  • Identify the task. Break down the work.
  • Sequence the tasks. Establish task parallels, dependencies, lags.
  • Estimate task-related costs.
  • Estimate resource requirements.
  • Commit the task flow to paper. Use charting techniques.
p14_graphic  
The PERT system enables you to calculate, chart the jobs and, most importantly, meet your deadlines with sanity. This is the second factor in project management; next issue we will talk about planning for time, cost and resources.

 
TASK IDENTIFICATION CONSIDERATIONS
  • How finely are tasks subdivided? What factors influence the judgment?
  • Responsibility for the task often determines the breakdown.
  • Resources to be allocated to the task.
  • Timing of costs.
  • Parallel, dependencies and lags often mandate task subdivision.
  • Control is the primary consideration.
Understanding the concepts of dependency, parallel and lag relationships is critical. Failure to properly establish these will produce dramatic errors in the project schedule.

The proper sequencing of tasks can be complex and difficult. Techniques and systems for charting projects are in common use today. The three most popular ones are:
  • PERT: Program Evaluation and Review Techniques.
  • CPM: Critical path method.
  • GANTT: Named for Henry Gantt, the creator.
We are going to concentrate on the PERT system.

This is the most popular type of network tool for planning, scheduling, and controlling complex projects – especially those that occur infrequently. The PERT network is a schematic model that depicts the sequential completion of a project. Areas of application include large projects such as construction of buildings, roads, swimming pools, product costing, and new crop production … or simply taking a holiday. The technique is effective in large projects or smaller ones.
The PERT concept includes:
  • Task analysis to determine the work elements to be performed to complete the project.
  • A diagramming system, which develops a graphic network of the project utilizing nodes connected by lines. The linking, or sequencing, of the nodes establishes dependency and parallel relationships. Also included is a numbering and identification scheme.
  • Time estimates for tasks, which take into consideration three factors:
Optimistic (O) is an estimate of the minimum time the task will require. There should be a one per cent probability that the task will take less time than this estimate. This is given a weighting factor.

Pessimistic (P) is an estimate of the maximum the task will require. There should be a one per cent probability that the task will take worse time than this estimate. This factor is given a weighting of one.

Most likely (M) is an estimate of the time the task would most often require; this factor receives a weighting of four.

The formula is: Te = (O + 4M + P), divided by six. “Te” is the expected time, “O” the optimistic time estimate, “P” the pessimistic time estimate, and “M” is the most likely time estimate.

Here’s an example: “O” is 90 days, “P” is 160 days, and “M” is 116 days. “Te” equals 90, plus (four times 116), plus 160, divided by 6, equals 119 days.


Melhem Sawaya of Focus Greenhouse Management is a consultant and research coordinator to the horticultural industry. Comments on this or any other article are always welcome; please e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it , or visit www.focusgreenhousemanagement.com .

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