Don’t Miss the Milestones – Sequence the Activities

Managing the schedule of a Project is not an easy task. Once the project schedule is delayed then the Project Manager and the team has to burn the midnight oil to get back the schedule on track. So, instead of waiting to cross that bridge when you come to it, better plan it properly as early as possible. During planning, one of the important steps is to sequence the activities using proper methods and techniques.

Sequencing the activities is the process of identifying the dependencies and relationships among the activities, and then putting them in a logical sequence to obtain accurate estimation.

Problem Scenarios

Let’s discuss a possible scenario which can happen with any Project Manager while managing a project. Brend is a successful project manager, he already delivered many significant, small and medium scales projects before, which earned him many appreciations from the senior managements.

Recently he took over a challenging project as the assigned project manager left the organization in the middle of the project. The project is in the development phase and nearer to one of the important milestone.

Once he took charge of the project, Brend starts looking into the various available documents and artifacts to understand the project and its objectives. He spends some time to study the project charter, SOW, Project Plans and other such documents stored in the project repository. As one of the important milestones is round the corner, so he picked up the schedule management plans and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) to check his current progress and required time to complete the important milestone.

On the project works front, he noticed that all the resources are very much occupied, and working hard to complete the work on its deadline. But by seeing the workload and current work in progress status, he has a feeling that they might miss the deadline to complete the upcoming milestone. So, he called an urgent team meeting and discussed with the team on their assigned works, and also tried to relate the current works with the upcoming milestones.

But to his surprise, he observed that the team is working on some of the activities which are not necessary for the current milestone. Also, some of the activities can be completed in parallel, rather than doing one at a time, which can save time, and make it possible to complete the target milestone without any hiccups.

The Solution

Now, Brend has this difficult task to putting the project on track and to complete the important milestone. He looked for the Network diagram, Gantt chart and other such documents which can help him to know about the activities dependencies and their sequences. But to his surprise, those documents are not yet created for the project, which increased Brend’s problem to manifolds.

So, without wasting any time, Brend and his team burnt the midnight oil to identify and sequence the activities all over again. They identified the dependencies among the activities, established the relationships and creates the Network Diagrams, Gantt charts etc..

If these activities would have been done earlier at the planning stage, the current situation would have never happened in the first place.

How to Sequence the Activities – Inputs

As we discussed above, now we can understand the importance of activities sequencing. Let’s see the necessary input to this process which Project Managers across the world follows and also defines in the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) guide.

  • Activity List: The list of all the activities should be prepared, as it is the most important input to the sequence activities process.
  • Attributes of Activities: The attributes such as detail description, some constraints and assumptions (if any) and resource requirements of activities should be taken into consideration.
  • Scope Statement: The project scope statements which contains the project scope description, project constraints and assumptions needs a clear understanding and can be applied while sequencing the activities, when needed.
  • List of Milestones: The milestones of the projects should be well determined and listed at this stage to avoid any surprises at a later stage.

Tools and Techniques

To create any process successfully, we should apply the appropriate tools and techniques recommended across the industries. Let’s discuss the tools and techniques used to create the activities sequence.

Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM)

The Precedence Diagramming Method is a graphical diagram, represented by nodes, and the nodes are linked by one or more logical relationships which show the activities to be performed. This is also called Activity-On-Node (AON) method.

While sequencing the activities, define the logical relationships among them, the predecessor activity logically comes before its dependent activity, while the successor comes after another activity.

There are four types of logical relationships –

  • Finish to Start: The successor activity only can start when its predecessor activity has finished. For example, the dinner party cannot be started until the guests arrive. This is the most commonly used sequencing method.
  • Finish to Finish: The successor activity can finish only when its predecessor activity has finished. For example, The cultural function is required to finish before the cultural program can be finished.
  • Start to Start: The Successor activity cannot start until a predecessor activity has started. For example, ground excavation must start before laying the concrete slab.
  • Start to Finish: A successor activity cannot be finished until the predecessor activity has started. For example, the 24/7 voice support staff cannot leave office until his colleagues take over the work. These types of sequencing activities are rarely used.

Types of Dependencies

  • Mandatory Dependencies: Mandatory dependencies are referred as hard logic or hard dependencies which is a legal requirement. In some cases, these dependencies are mentioned in the project contract itself. For example, It is mandatory to lay the foundation before start making concrete slabs for the house. In some case, it is mandatory to send and get approvals from client based on the prototype before starting the actual development works.
  • Discretionary Dependencies: These dependencies are on team’s preferences; the team can select such dependencies and can also change them as per their requirement. For example, the team can choose whether writing of code and code review processes will go simultaneously.
  • External Dependencies: There are some external entities which can impact the project are called external dependencies. The project team should identify the external dependencies during the sequencing activities process. For example, For a flyover construction projects, any changes in the structure or design required the approval from the government authority.
  • Internal Dependencies: These dependencies are inside the project and under the project team’s control. For Example, the unit testing of a module cannot be started until the developers finished the coding work.

So, today we discussed about the importance of activities sequencing. To manage the projects milestones, deadlines and to run the project in a smoother way, it is important to sequence your activities. The network diagram, Gantt chart are the most useful documents to look into, which can helps the Project Manager to take the important decisions when needed.

Sharon Christine
Sharon Christine

An investment in knowledge pays the best interest

Updated on: 20-Jan-2020


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