The work plan is one of the most important tools in the project manager’s toolbox. As such, it is crucial to ensure that it is properly prepared and written and free of any hidden problems that might prevent it from being implemented. The project manager must verify that the work plan is complete and that the timetables calculated within are achievable and do not rely, for example, on an unrealistic resource workload, so as to avoid a false picture being presented.
The purpose of the work plan quality control is to ensure that the work plan is kept to a high standard and that it does not contain any obvious or hidden problems. This control includes work scope control and the following steps:
Update the project’s work plan calendar so that it includes holidays and known vacation times.
Identify duplicate or superfluous tasks. These should be deleted from the work plan or marked as inactive. As part of this process, all yet to be completed tasks must be reviewed individually and the need to complete them must be verified. Tasks that should not be included in the work plan should be either deleted (if a baseline was not established yet) or marked as inactive (if a baseline already exists).
Update task status. The status of a task should be noted and updated on the work plan whenever (1) work on the task should have begun but did not, (2) it should have been completed but was not, or (3) work on the task is progressing at a pace that jeopardizes its target completion date. These gaps should be documented so that the work plan always reflects the actual project status.
Correct reports on future work. Reporting work to be done at a future date may present a distorted picture of resource load and may lead to inaccuracy of estimates of the project’s remaining work.
Identify constraints that result from dependency on external factors that may affect the project schedule. These constraints must be clearly identified and documented so that they can be verified and occasionally re-examined throughout the project. For every constraint identified, the person who identified it, the date it was identified and the reason for the constraint must all be documented in the notes associated to the task. Constraints may very well stop being relevant at a later point in the project. Nevertheless, undocumented constraints may generate distortions in the work plan.
Clarify task target dates so that any contractual and agreed upon dates are documented in the work plan as deadlines.
Confirm dependencies between tasks that precede and follow each other; that is, verify that the dependencies are, in fact, the result of either natural or organizational necessities. Any connection based on any other factor is unfounded and should be removed.
Validate task resource assignments. Here, the work plan is used for both resource planning and control purposes. As was explained in the previous chapter, verification must be made that every task is assigned all the resources necessary for its completion. Milestone or summary tasks may be listed without any assigned resources. However, all other tasks must have an exhaustive list of resources allocated to them before the work plan can be considered complete.
Remove any resources assigned to summary tasks and move them to subordinate tasks in order to ensure the accuracy of resource allocation and of calculation of the work and its cost. As a rule, it is inadvisable to allocate resources directly to summary tasks even though it is technically possible to do so. If resources were assigned to a summary task at the preliminary planning stage, it is best to distribute these among the detailed tasks under the summary task hammock.
Identify overly burdened resources and resolve situations of unreasonable over-allocation in order to arrive at a realistic work plan. An unreasonable over-allocation is defined as one that significantly exceeds the resource’s availability or one that stretches over a long period. Such problems can be resolved by exchanging an over-allocated resource with one who is less burdened or via ‘Resource Leveling’.
Break longer tasks into shorter ones. Tasks that deviate from the desired work plan resolution level (weekly, daily, etc.), as decided in the planning stage, should be divided into shorter tasks. Tasks that are expected to last longer than the desired work plan resolution level, as well as any task for which the overall resource allocation work is too large for this resolution level, should be reconfigured and broken into smaller chunks that fit into the work plan scheduling resolution level.
Validate the critical path of the project to ascertain that it reflects the actual project status.