Friday, 19 December 2014

Work Package principles can be applied in a number of Project situations

My belief is that the principles of Work Packages can be applied more often than you may initially think in Projects; it is just the formality of definition that may differ in various circumstances. So, sub-contracting a part of the plan to a third party is an obvious use of a quite formal Work Package, but can a request for a team member to undertake a task on the plan be considered a Work Package or even a Meeting?

The most formal Work Package definition

Project Work Package in Action

The most formal Work Package definition could have the following elements:
  • any background information and context
  • description of what is to be delivered - product descriptions in PRINCE2 terms
  • agreement on effort / cost, time for delivery and when to start
  • quality criteria and checking approach which may require independent attendance at some review sessions
  • any other constraints
  • standards, techniques and processes / procedures to use
  • interfaces to be satisfied
  • requirements to be met
  • progress reporting requirements
  • problem processes
Ultimately this Work Package could be linked to a contract with a third party but a similar approach might be adopted for some major deliverables produced by a team reporting to the Project Manager.

Asking one of the team to deliver something in the plan?

When you want someone in the team to deliver a task in the plan many Project Managers will take the informal approach with a a quick chat. I too like the human element of this approach, you can have a discussion, understand risks etc, look the person in the eye and gain a commitment. 

But one of my sayings goes What isn't written hasn't been said. If you actually covered all the aspects of the formal work package in your verbal discussion that would be good but you may miss a point or two and the memory of some team mates can dissipate when under pressure or something more interesting pops up ;-)

So I suggest you reinforce the discussion with a quick email summary, you can provide links to reference material within the Project File which ensures there are no excuses and can actually help the team mate as a reference point as the work progresses. 

You can mention things like progress reporting too, "can you pop me a quick email each Friday morning with progress made, effort to complete, any issues or risks you wish to raise?" In some circumstances, especially when a task is on the critical path, I may set up a zero length meeting request for the person on the Friday morning. This reminds the team mate and reminds me too about expecting an email status update. So if the email doesn't arrive on the Friday by lunchtime, I can chase Friday afternoon.

Applying Work Package principles to a Meeting?

OK, it may be stretching things a little but some of the Work Package principles I apply to meetings:
  • In the Outlook meeting invite I often put some background information and the objective / questions to answer. As well as hopefully allowing participants to think about their contribution BEFORE the meeting, this is useful for me when I am going from meeting to meeting during the day as it helps me get my brain in gear rapidly!
  • I also like to start each meeting with what I call the "warm up" - the analogy here is the audience warm-ups before TV recordings or similar. It ensures that the "audience" is in the right frame of mind for the meeting, understands the context and to set expectations on what is to be achieved - maybe as per the cartoon below :-)
Project Meeting Warm-Up


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