Activity Planning Checklist - dummies

By Nick Graham

Part of Project Management Checklists For Dummies Cheat Sheet

This checklist forms the basis for putting together an activity network for your project management. You usually follow it up with a Gantt Chart, since this is what the mainstream project scheduling software provides. Use the product names as headings, and then under each one list the activities you’ll need to build that product. When you come to check your activity plans, run down this checklist.

  • Completeness: Have you copied every product onto the activity plan as a heading? Except for the external products, make sure that you have at least one activity listed for each product to cover the work required to build it.

  • External products: Check to see if you need any activity for something coming in from outside. Although your project isn’t responsible for creating that item, you may need an activity to check it or install it.

  • Quality: Ensure that you’ve included the necessary quality activities, such as testing each individual product, and then project-wide quality activity such as quality audits.

  • Correct dependencies: Be sure to check every activity dependency to be confident that it’s accurate and also that it’s in line with the dependencies you identified on your Work Flow Diagram.

  • Overlaps: Make sure that you haven’t missed any overlaps where a second activity can be started before the first is completely finished.

  • Lags: Check for lags where a second activity can’t start immediately after a first one is complete. For example, you can’t start the induction training of new staff the day after the employment contracts have been sent out. Most people will have to work a period of notice with their current employer before joining your organisation so you may have to allow for a four-week lag, and probably even more.

  • Inter-project dependencies (inbound): Note any inter-project dependencies on your product plans. Then make sure that the timing of your activity is consistent with the availability of the necessary input from the other project(s).

  • Inter-project dependencies (outbound): Where another project needs stuff from your project, make sure that you will be producing it in time. Can the other project live with a pause while it waits for the product to be ready, or will you need to adjust your project to create the product earlier?

  • Holidays: Check that all of the scheduled activity is on working days and avoids public holidays. If you are using a computer tool, it should have warned you of any problem, but even so make sure that any national holidays are correctly shown in the project calendar.

  • Staff availability: Ensure that staff are scheduled for project work only when they will be available. Check that you’ve taken into account things like booked personal holidays and work on other projects.

  • Staff capacity: Check that the work scheduled for project staff is in line with their capacity. If someone is only available to your project for ten per cent of their time, make sure that their activity reflects that with a one-day job taking ten elapsed days.

  • Lead times on supply: Make sure that you have sufficient lead times on things like supply. A supplier won’t deliver goods to the front desk one second after you have emailed an order.

  • Lead times on approvals: Check that you have a realistic turnaround time on approvals. This check applies both to internal approvals (such as agreeing design specifications) and external ones (such as planning permission for building extensions).

  • Critical Path: Be clear about which activities are on the Critical Path, and also watch out for those that are near critical. Your activity network will be especially useful here as the chains of activities don’t show up very well on a Gantt.

  • Contingency: Have you got sufficient time contingency in the plan, and is it visible? Something is bound to go wrong, and having no contingency is simply asking for problems at best, and project failure at worst. Make sure that you have contingency to protect the Critical Path, or the Critical Chain if you are using that technique.

  • Crashable activities: Identify which activities could be crashed if you come under time pressure. Crashing an activity means reducing its duration by putting more resource on the job. Some activities are suitable for crashing, but others aren’t.

  • Management products: Check that you have activities and brutally realistic timing for creating and updating management products, such as producing Stage Plans, keeping the Business Case up to date and creating regular progress reports.

  • Control: Don’t forget your project management time for checking progress, risk, quality, and the other aspects of control. And be realistic about how much time you need for it, too, or you’ll face unnecessary pressures and bigger problems because you missed things and didn’t take corrective action in time.

  • Project memos and change: Make sure that you’ve built in and resourced continuous management activities for things such as problem investigation, investigating newly identified risks, dealing with change requests and simply visiting team members to encourage them.