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Chapter 7 – The creation of the phase model

Part 1

Story

Meanwhile, there's another heated discussion going on in the project management office. "So I asked the person responsible for the work package how long it would take and it’s actually taken more than twice that time to complete. It’s so stupid and I see it all the time – experts who can’t estimate how long it will take them to do something!" A frustrated Harry Anson is complaining to his colleague, Karen Wilson. "You know," says Karen, "It’s always the same. I had a similar experience recently. But I was the one who made a wrong estimate and caused a misunderstanding. I’d given my daughter a new mobile phone. I was just getting into a taxi on the way to the airport when she asked me how long it would take. I thought she meant the flight, so I answered, "About an hour, darling." Later in the day she called me and complained bitterly about not having been able to reach me as promised. "What happened? Why was your mobile phone always switched off? I thought something had happened to you and I couldn’t concentrate at school. I was frightened." My little girl was really upset," adds Karen Wilson.

"So what was the problem?" asks Harry Anson.

"Well, there wasn’t really a problem, just a misunderstanding. The flight time was one hour, but my daughter wanted to know how long I would be travelling in total, which was much longer." "Of course," says Harry, "You have to drive to the airport, check in, go through passport control, wait at the gate and board the plane before your flight. Then you have to take the shuttle to the terminal after landing, get your baggage and walk to the taxi stand. That easily takes three hours." "Exactly, and I hadn’t said anything about three hours! We had a real communication problem."

"That shows us something important. Many people only think in terms of implementation time – like pure flight time – and forget about pre-work package and post-work package activities, both of which can be very time-consuming." Harry adds, "This kind of thing can affect an entire project – the work packages, sub-projects and the project as a whole. Yes, you kick off a big project and project duration is reduced to implementation time, even though there’s work to do before and after implementation." Karen continues, "You can see that really clearly in a phase model. We could make the phase model a standard procedure in our projects. For example, all the ideas and needs, requirements and concepts, limitations and constraints can be converted into project objectives.

The project deliverable has to be specified in more detail, costs and deadlines have to be examined more closely and integrated in a project plan. And you have to set up a project organisation. All these things have to be done before you can start implementing a project. And the project isn’t finished when the deliverable has been produced because there are always corrections and improvements to make."

"Yes," says Harry enthusiastically. "You have to finish the cost control process. And you can’t do that until all work and services have been completed." He pointed to his wallet. "We’ve taken an uncertain amount of money out, but we don’t know exactly how much is left."

"A project that is almost finished can tell us so many things, and it can give us important pointers for improving project work in the future." "It would be so easy. All we have to do is make project evaluation the last project close-out procedure. We’d be able to document all the work packages that we have to do differently next time and the ones that can stay as they are. When we have all that information, we can make realistic estimates of time requirements because our evaluation includes pre and post-work package time requirements. And it doesn’t just apply to work packages, but also to sub-projects and the entire project," adds Karen, smiling.

"Another good thing is that we won’t have to get annoyed with colleagues because there won’t be any communication problems, so everything will be a lot less stressful," says a satisfied Harry Anson.