CRPM: Project Management, Planning Phase

by Kacey Larsen

The planning phase of project management is critical to the success of your remodeling project. The adage, “Fail to plan is a plan to fail,” is fully applicable to this phase. Being iterative, this phase takes place and is mostly completed prior to starting physical work on the project, and it will be revisited often during project execution. From a monitoring perspective—making sure we are on track to the modification—as conditions change, this phase will use knowledge and skills from all areas of project management, including planning, communications, cost management, quality assurance, risk management and recordkeeping.

The outcome of the planning phase is the project plan. The project plan normally consists of the following sections:

  • scope of work
  • schedule
  • cost control
  • quality assurance
  • staffing
  • communications
  • risk management
  • purchasing or contracting
  • and documentation.

Scope of Work

The first step in developing the project plan is defining the scope of work. This must be completed in order to develop the remaining sections. The scope of work needs to reflect what is included as well as what is excluded. Developing a scope management plan or scope statement is the first step. A scope statement removes ambiguity and sets clear expectations and boundaries. It can prevent adding features or things not specifically asked for, thus going beyond the requirements of the project. It can also help determine whether something requires a change order later in the project. It should also establish a process upfront on how changes will be evaluated and handled once work commences.

Work Breakdown Structure

The work breakdown structure (WBS) is a chart that shows the work necessary to accomplish the project. Remodelers may refer to this as the scope of work or “scope description.” It is important to understand this is not the schedule. It shows in graphical form the hierarchy of related types of work, from general categories to detailed/specific deliverables or tasks. That said, many people use a list or outline style of a WBS. This also tends to be the style created by many of the scheduling programs and is easy to create with common software tools, such as word processing and spreadsheet programs. These tend to work OK for smaller projects and ones with only a few levels in the hierarchy.

Comparing the list/outline style with the visual chart style, the chart tends to show the big picture and the overall project scope better. With the list/outline style, it can be harder to see all the items that are at the same level. Each item in the list is numbered. This numbering is used for tracking and reference and does not necessarily indicate execution sequence. The graphical charts are easy to navigate and locate specific content; this prevents missing critical items in the planning process.

To create a WBS, start by gathering all of the required inputs, including the contract, scope statement or work descriptions, building or site plans, material or feature specifications, codes and regulation, and any past project information. The next step is to assemble your key team members and create the high-level structure. Brainstorm with your team and work your way to lower-level details on the chart. Keep reviewing and refining by adding and removing items as appropriate. Collaborate with your team to incorporate their expertise and experience. It will also support getting buy-in to the work and project plans.

Once completed, the WBS will serve as a roadmap to the project—describing everything that needs to be done—while defining when the project is complete. It is also used to identify and manage risks to your project, such as a task that may take longer than planned or site conditions that may affect the project’s completion or quality.

The last part of a WBS is the WBS Dictionary. This document accompanies the charts and provides a written definition of each element of the WBS/scope of work chart. It describes the resource needs and specifies any additional requirements, processes or standards that apply to the work.   

Check back next month when we will discuss the schedule. |QR

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