GPM & The Future of Project Planning

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With the advent of personal computers in the mid-1980s, people enthusiastically embraced computer and software-based planning and scheduling practices. At this point, planning and scheduling began to shift away from traditional graphical and planning-centric methods. New, data-driven methods replaced graphical representations with sophisticated software scheduling engines, reversing the long-time credo of scheduling from “Logic rules, dates serve,” to “Dates rule, logic serves.”

In this new mindset, schedulers became more focused on hitting each deadline or milestone, and logic quickly became a secondary thought. Schedules were software-driven and riddled with anomalies that would normally have been adjusted and fixed through traditional graphic planning.

Finally, the shine of the new technology started to wear off. Stakeholders took notice of the changes in scheduling and started to reminisce about days of graphical planning.

The development of the Graphical Planning Method (GPM) and its interactive visual components allowed schedulers and stakeholders to embrace the technological advances (and still move away from sticky-note wall planning) while still incorporating graphical and time-scaled schedule representation. Instead of relying on databases and inline CPM scheduling engines, GPM software applications rely on graphical objects, encapsulating rules and computational algorithms that interact with continuous real-time process flows and an interactive graphics display.

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Visual Collaboration Creates Better Planning

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The goal of project planning is to create a workable schedule and plan that provides all stakeholders with the information they need – from activities and tasks to deadlines and milestones. However, the path to creating a workable schedule is riddled with complexities, especially if the schedule is developed within a silo.

Collaborative planning is one way to bridge the issues of silo scheduling and lack of information, but implementing collaboration in the planning process also presents its own set of challenges.

For collaboration to work well, project leadership must blend soft skills, technology and project governance to cultivate an environment of open communication and flow of information. True collaboration requires transparency, communication, symmetrical knowledge, and most importantly, that egos be set aside.

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Resurrecting Collaborative Planning

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As of late, collaborative planning has fallen by the wayside when it comes to project planning and scheduling. But collaborative, network-based planning can be resurrected by utilizing a Logic Diagramming Method (LDM) approach.

By taking advantage of the LDM’s ability to combine the strengths of both Arrow Diagramming Method (ADM) and Precedence Diagramming Method (PDM) in a unified diagramming technique, schedulers and project managers can bring planning back to the forefront of project scheduling.

The Casualty of Collaborative Planning

Industry experts agree that collaborative planning has become a casualty of Critical Path Method (CPM) programs and scheduling for a variety of reasons, including these:

  • Fewer people use logic or arrow diagrams. The method of using arrows of non-scaled lengths to denote activities, then connecting related activities at common nodes to denote finish-to-start relationships is no longer popular.
  • The personal computer. Now, savvy CPM schedulers can take scheduling shortcuts with very little planning.
  • Manual calculation for PDM is often impractical. Especially in the field. So many people default to ADM, which is easily calculated.
  • Difficulty in time-scaling PDM. As a result, schedulers rarely use PDM and communication issues increase.

Facilitating Collaborative Project Planning

LDM combines the best practices of ADM and PDM. An LDM activity model creates an arrow diagram that accepts ADM and PDM logic: finish-to-start (FS), start-to-start (SS), finish-to-finish (FF), and start-to-finish (SF). Additionally, common nodes or a vertical link, depending on the relationship, connect activity relationships within the model.

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