Why use Product-Based Planning?

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It occurred to me that since birth, most of us have been “task-driven”, and so it was natural that we should take that concept into our adult lives.

As such, it’s not a bad thing, since it is tasks that drive our daily lives – both personally and professionally.
But here’s my point. Take your weekly shopping run for example. How many times do you return, un-bag all your items, only to discover that you’ve forgotten something?
So you end up going to a local shop because you’ve forgotten to buy salt, toothpaste, or something…
Go back even further. When I was a kid I was told “David – clean up your room”. I did as I was told; tidied up my clothes, put my toys away – Yep! Job done!
Next I know, Dad’s yelling at me “Get up here – I thought I told you to tidy your room”! It turned out that Dad had a different specification for a “Tidied Room” than mine. Looking back, we should have got a mutual understanding of what a tidied room looked like.
Dad had this crazy idea that it included picking up all the comics from the floor, taking down the week-old soda bottles, making my bed, staking my record collection back on the shelf….etc…etc..!
That’s the problem in a nutshell with using ONLY task based planning as a project manager – we have missed the first step out – Product Based Planning.
I’ll use the example of having your back yard cleaned up and landscaped. Let’s imagine you’ve just moved house, and your new plot is covered in weeds and rubbish – not a good situation to have a BBQ with your new neighbours is it?
Being busy at work, you hire a local landscaping service to carry it out for you, and they’ve sent their project manager to discuss and understand your requirements.
If you had got straight into task-planning you’d be discussing picking up all the rubbish, laying down some lawn, planting trees etc….
Put instead, let’s start by thinking of the PRODUCTS.
You are focussing on the end-deliverable. Right away your describe a built-in barbeque feature, the new path, the type of trees and shrubs you need and where you need ‘em….
Their project manager can now envisage the best sequence of how all these Products are to be created – and only then, consider the tasks, their durations, the resources needed, etc.
A simple sequence of planning steps would look like:
  1. Create and agree a Product Description for the end-product (deliverable).
  2. Determine the lower-level Products (such as shrubs, bbq, etc). It would be helpful to create a hierarchical diagram – here called a Product Breakdown Structure – to ensure you don’t forget anything.
  3. Create Product Descriptions if needed for these lower level Products.
  4. Create a diagram showing the sequence of creation of all the products – with the final one being the end-product. This will clarify the dependencies – some products will need to be created one after another – others can be done at the same time, in parallel.
In summary, Product-Based Planning should be done first and task-based planning second.
You’ll be less likely to forget the toothpaste!!
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