Friday, May 13, 2011

Defining Projects

Let's build on the discussion of the general contractor building a home. I mentioned this example in an earlier post. It's one that most people can understand... even if they don't know how to build a home.

Let's break it down into parts of the home. For example, if you look at a house... you see a foundation or a poured slab, a framed structure, you know that utilities need to be connected, and the inside finished. What about the outside of the home... and finally the process of making the yard presentable.

First we define the macro pieces -- or major categories of tasks... and these represent a milestone in our construction project. Here we go...
  1. Prepare the ground by digging, leveling, or back-filling.
  2. Build a foundation, slab, or a footer.
  3. Construct the main portion of the home above the ground...including the walls and roof.
  4. Finish the outside of the house.
  5. Connect the utilities, and distribute them inside and outside the house.
  6. Finish the inside of the house including putting in the cabinets, etc.
  7. Landscape, pave, and make the outside presentable.
So, how are these related? They are "sequenced". One is a predecessor to two, two is a successor of one. This is the beginning of a Work-Break-Down structure.

So what's involved in preparing the ground for a foundation? As you recall this is task 1. Well, we need to haul in our equipment, scrape off the topsoil, dig the hole for the house, and then dig a footer (to build the basis from the foundation). When we put this into a project plan, it looks like this...
1. Prepare the ground.
1.001 Deliver equipment to site and unload
1.002 Scrape and pile the topsoil for later
1.003 Excavate for home
1.004 Dig foundation

All of these need to occur in sequence.

When we look at the entire project, it may only take us 90 days to build the house, and our bank has allowed 180 days. This give us 90 days for "slack" time. This time will be consumed by unforseen setbacks. Thinks such as rainy days, delays in material arriving, or ordering the wrong stuff all happen. Slack time is not a bad thing, it helps us plan for the unknown and absorb uncertainty.

In another post, I'll talk more about this plan, and continue the development of our house. After all, none of us want to be homeless.