Sequencing

August 27, 2009
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Key to successful time schedule management of a project is proper breakdown of tasks that are necessary to complete the project. Assuming you do a very efficient job in breaking down a project into logical tasks and sub-tasks, the project can still run-away unless these tasks and subtasks are done in the right, logical sequence. While the logical relationship of sub-tasks that must be executed to carry out a task may be clear, same is not true of the sequence of tasks to be done to achieve your goal.

Correct Sequence

Determining the correct sequence necessary to carry out the tasks and related subtasks takes a lot of skills on the part of the project manager. He needs to understand not only the parts of the product or the project task but also how the parts connect together to get you the final product or services or whatever it is that you are creating through the project. Unless the correlation of parts to the whole is understood, you would not be able to sequence the activities in the most efficient manner. The understanding that the engine of an automobile must be completely assembled and tested before it can be fitted to the automobile body defines the sequence of actions, for example. Therefore, what the product is can largely determine what sequence is appropriate to assemble it. From a entirely different product category, you have to have the hosting hardware and software ready before you can start uploading a web page and test.

Dependencies-Internal as well as External

Depending on how a project is planned a lot of factors influence how and when a task can be carried out. For example, unless supply of tires are adequate you may have to halt automobile production. You may delay the addition of tires until the fully assembled car is driven off the assembly line. But then you must have the wheels necessary available at that point. This clearly is an external dependency that can ruin your time schedule. The other example of the engine being ready before integration is an example of internal dependency assuming the engines are produced in house. Remember that the examples are taken from a simplified scenario.

Depending on the design of the automobile ( a car, truck or a commercial vehicle) the engine may get fitted on to the automobile chassis at various stages. It can be right after the chassis is ready. Therefore, what we see as dependencies will actually depend on the process being carried out too. In a similar vein, when you integrate two parts of a software product can vary in a lot of ways. You may start integrating bottom-up by integrating small modules. Alternately, you may integrate top down when functional modules are ready. Yet, as a project manager you need to have a very clear overview of the effects of changing the sequence of tasks that go into the project. What must be done in a strict sequence, what can be overlapped, and when these parallel threads meet the main sequence need to be taken care of for successful completion of your project.

Correlate and sequence your tasks appropriately. Identify interdependencies between the tasks. External dependencies.

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