Happy New Year!
Thanks for reading the first MTP article of 2018! Yes, technically, it is the first MTP article ever but who's counting? What better way to start out the new year than with a titillating discussion on... project management! Exciting, right?
OK, maybe not so much...
Hear me out. Is there anything worse than standing at your bench with no idea where to start a project? I'll answer that rhetorical question for you: NO. A well thought-out, clearly-documented project plan is truly invaluable. This is true whether you are building a piece of furniture or planning a family vacation. You could go the simple route with something like a checklist, or go to the opposite extreme and fancy-pants it by creating a Gantt Chart (no relation to Charles Gantt). Don't create a Gantt Chart... unless you really want to.
We'll take the terminology from corporate project planning and directly relate it to a woodworking build.
Developing a Project Plan
Project Scope: What is the end goal? For this exercise we'll say we are building a turning tool storage rack.
Tasks: Self explanatory: What individual actions need to happen in order to produce the product?
Duration: We need to estimate (GUESS!) how long each action will take. With experience this will transition into an more-accurate estimate.
Work-Breakdown Structure (my favorite!): Each action is broken down into smaller steps. This is where you can turn a project that seems impossible into smaller, actionable steps. My absolute favorite quote directly applies here:
Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. - George Eliot
Dependency: This part is a little more complicated to work through. You have to determine ahead of time which actions' completion are dependent on another action being completed prior. For example: before you can cut dovetails into a board it must be planed and jointed. The dovetail step is dependent on both the planing step and the jointing step.
Activity Network Diagram: A graphical depiction of the individual steps of a project plan. If you are a visual person this is a great way to plan a build.
Critical Path: A start-to-finish listing of every action, however specific, that has to be completed in order of dependency. This is quite in-depth so it's only necessary if you are a very detail-oriented person.
Practical Application of a Project Plan
So that was a lot of information. How can you use it? That is relatively simple actually.
- Hang a dry-erase board in your shop.
- Write you Project Scope at the top (what are you building?).
- Write each Task out in order of Dependency
- If you find it beneficial, draw out an Activity Network Diagram which graphically shows each Task in order of Dependency.
- If you are really detail oriented, or straight-up OCD, create a Critical Path diagram.
- With each step identified individually, and with consideration of dependency, you can now tackle any build one Task at a time.
If you take the time to properly plan out your next build using the technique outlined in this article I can assure you of the following:
- There will be little-to-no "paralysis by analysis".
- Build time will be reduced.
- Build errors will be minimized.
- Build methods will become more streamlined and efficient.
- You will develop a reliable, repeatable build plan to use in the future.
I would really like to hear your thoughts on this topic. Do you agree? Did you find this article helpful? Do you have anything to add or correct? Comment below or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org