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PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.


Rodolfo (MsPM, PMP, BsCE) has 25 years of experience working in development organizations. He is currently the Managing Director of PM4DEV a consultancy organization dedicated to train NGOs in project management. His experience includes the development of online courses on monitoring and evaluation, project management and monitoring information systems. Rodolfo has trained people in more than 20 countries with a special focus in Latin America and the Caribbean. He has provided training and consultancy services to CARE International, Inter-American Development Bank, UNDP, FAO and Save the Children among others.  He is based in Washington D.C.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

b2ap3_thumbnail_WBS.pngThe Project Work Breakdown Structure is an outcome oriented analysis of the work involved in the project and defines the total scope of the project. It is a foundation document in project management because it provides the basis for planning and managing the project schedule, budget and requests for changes. The WBS is developed in the form of an inverted tree structure, organized by objectives; it looks like an organizational chart which helps the project team visualize the whole project and all its main components.

The WBS is a hierarchy of all project work, it is a vertical breakdown, moving from the project goal to the tasks or subtasks. This decomposition process allows a good level of confidence in estimating the final project schedule and budget. It shows all the work that needs to be accomplished. The WBS contains 100% of all the work in the project.

At the top level is the project ultimate goal, the second level contains the project objectives, the third level has the project outputs and the fourth level with activities. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, the WBS may contain a fourth level that describe the tasks.

The size and complexity of a project will determine the number of levels a WBS needs. For some projects additional levels may be included to represent intermediate objectives. Other projects may choose to structure the WBS by the geographical locations the project will work or group the objectives by the communities participating in the project.

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is an important planning tool used to define a project in terms of its outputs while providing a method for breaking these deliverables into meaningful work units. The WBS allows the project manager to clearly describe the hierarchical nature of the work to be performed and establishes a foundation for other elements of the project planning documents including the project’s resource plan, budget, implementation plan, and project schedule.

With the WBS, the project manager will be able describe the outcomes of a project in a way that is clear to the project team, while at the same time capturing the order and sequence of the work necessary to produce those outputs. The WBS provides a means for carefully detailing the outputs of the project and facilitates the identification of specific the work elements, and groupings required to deliver each element.

 

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The Challenges of Development Projects

b2ap3_thumbnail_challenges.pngDevelopment projects operate in challenging environments, where uncertainties about the future increase the risk to the project. Managers need to deal with extremely complex social, economic, and political factors that affect the delivery of goods and services. Development projects are implemented in some of the most remote and difficult locations in the world; additionally, projects operate in areas of high personal risk and high security threats to project staff. The lack of proper infrastructure, limited resources, and a changing environment put a strain on project managers who need to deliver the project outcomes. The constant changes in the social, economic, political, and natural environment; force many projects to change its original plans; in fact, project plans are built on many assumptions that eventually are challenged by the changes in the environment. Changes in the environment are not always reflected in the original design, which causes projects to miss significantly its ultimate objectives; this is why it is not uncommon to find a project that has delivered all its expected outputs but has failed significantly in reaching its objectives. From extensive observation and experimentation through working with development agencies for years, we have seen the following weaknesses in development projects:

·Poor project planning

·Inadequate management skills

·Lack of accountability

·Lack of stakeholder involvement

·Unrealistic plans

·No measure to evaluate quality

·Poor, inconsistent project management discipline

·Duplication of efforts

·Poor risk management strategies

·Unmotivated project staff

Development organizations can benefit from a standardized approach to deliver their projects not only on time and within budget but in the quality expectations of the stakeholders. Project management processes and techniques are used to coordinate resources to achieve predictable results. The value proposition for project management results by implementing a common set of project management processes, competencies and tools. The value of project management to development organization includes:

·Better expectation-setting through up-front estimating, planning, and project definition.

·Faster execution through the reuse of common processes and templates.

·Fewer project problems encountered when utilizing proactive project management processes.

·Better organizational decision making through more effective project communication.

·Higher donor/beneficiary satisfaction and less rework by delivering a higher quality outputs the first time.

Project management provides a proven methodology to accurately and efficiently complete projects of any size and complexity. The detailed planning provides a realistic plan that helps manage risks before they occur and reduce costly changes late in the project. Benefits occur only when organizations consistently apply standard methodologies and principles on all projects.

 

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