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  • Planning projects in construction

    I'm a project manager for a mechanical contractor working on large construction projects. What many consider a "project" in my profession is really hundreds of smaller "projects". Currently a construction project is essentially an area of focus with dozens of projects each with many sub-projects. Does anyone have any examples they would be willing to share showing how to plan a large "project" with many sub-projects and next actions that are all dependent on one another? I know there's no one right answer, but if someone would share a example mind map, or projects list, I think it would help me wrap my head around this issue.

  • #2
    While my knowledge of construction is limited, I think it is likely that you have tools for managing the projects, e.g. timelines and punch lists, but you do need to manage, well, you. I would probably put the big project on my project list with any high-level info I wanted to keep in front of me. Sub-projects would move on and off the project list as needed. Review project docs would be a recurring next action on my @computer list. A mindmap might help you brainstorm the initial approach to a large project, but most people find it just one tool in the toolbox.

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    • #3
      It seems like there are many hierarchies here. How are you implementing GTD? Through pen&paper or through software?

      With software, the way I do things, you can have multiple hierarchies. It's hard to show you how to do it, because I have zero knowledge of construction. Post a couple examples how you would organize something like this and post some examples of projects and sub-projects. Maybe we can all help out somehow.

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      • #4
        Construction projects list

        I'm digital, using Outlook Tasks for all projects and next action lists.

        A typical project (area of focus?) is going to have many different phases (projects) and subprojects. Phases would be things like bidding, engineering, procurement, construction, close-out. Within each of those phases there will be many other projects including buying different types of equipment, hiring subcontractors, etc. Each of those activities could have multiple subprojects within the primary subproject, and then multiple next actions, etc. Many of these projects move fast and likely would be complete prior to the weekly review, but it is still important to have a place holder to look for open loops on a regular basis.

        I understand what you're saying about the hierarchy and it makes sense, but I'm having a hard time picturing how it would work with the system I have in place. Do you have any thougths with this system?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by ericsmithback View Post
          Does anyone have any examples they would be willing to share showing how to plan a large "project" with many sub-projects and next actions that are all dependent on one another?
          You'll need more than one tool to do the task. Use Word for the natural planning model to make a plan for the project as a whole, at a higher level. Then using headings make mini-plans using the natural planning model for each phase.
          I use tables in Word for keeping track of all the open loops and what I plan to do next. Be careful, the definition of a next action is that it IS NOT dependent on another task. If you think I need to do A then B then C, A is the next action, B and C are not. I put these in my Word tables, not my next action lists.
          Use a project management software for tracking all the phases of the project (or can do in excel) and working out intermediate deadlines.
          I have iMindMap for brainstorming, but can do in Word also as bulleted lists.
          I first tried doing the phases as individual projects, but have gone away from that.

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          • #6
            Doesn't David Allen point out that this aspect of project planning is covered by specific project-planning software rather than GTD. So entering the hierarchy of projects, seeing where you are resource-constrained, time-constrained, seeing critical paths etc requires a specific kind of engine. In my business (software) people generally would do that in MS Project.

            So you would identify a top-level objective, then use NPM to break it down into projects which can then go into project-planning software. This can tell you when sub-projects go active (your project list) and calculate due dates and numbers/timing of resources. Then use your GTD workflow to keep it all moving along.

            I think you'd struggle to get such a hierarchy into an adhoc type of system and get what you need out of it as a manager/planner.

            Slightly contradicting myself, the types of project I join tend to be say 2 years with 50-100 people. They are complex enough that I consider each to be an entire six horizons GTD system of its own. So I identify the purpose and break into visions and goals of smaller horizons and the areas of focus are the key success factors and legal requirements of all projects. This provides me with a template that holds my experience as I move from client to client. So there's some hierarchy in there and I can handle a hundred projects in there. But the person tasked with making all the projects and resources fit into that timeframe still needs something designed for that job.
            Last edited by pxt; 04-27-2011, 05:35 AM.

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            • #7
              Doesn't David Allen point out that this aspect of project planning is covered by specific project-planning software rather than GTD.
              Not exactly. GTD does have excellent models for project planning and organizing project plans--particularly with the Natural Planning Model (p.54 of the book).

              What David says GTD does not replace is traditional project management (Gantt, PERT, etc.) It augments those, but is not meant to replace them. So for something like a construction project, you would not doubt be managing the myriad of details in a robust project management tool or model, while GTD can manage the outcomes and some of the next actions.

              You may find the GTD Managing Projects audio set helpful too on this.

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              • #8
                Amazing construction activities have been carried out all over the world with the employment of latest and most innovative form of construction methods. So, if you are planning to take up a new construction project then do give a thought to environmental friendly construction plans available online at great deals.

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                • #9
                  @Eric

                  I can relate to your situation as I'm managing a large, complex, set of building projects that span over 5+ years, not including design and agency approvals...

                  As others have said, the overall logic and sequencing of your projects should be done in a industry standard tool such as MS Project, Primavera, etc..so, you can see and test logic ties and the critical path.

                  Those tools are great for understanding the big picture and critical path to follow if you want to get project done on-time.

                  There's lots of other stuff to do and keep track of on a daily and weekly basis that these tools won't help you with. This includes who to call, what emails to send, who to meet with and what to discuss, issues to track or research, etc. This is where I think that GTD helps to stay on top of these types of tasks...

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