Planning is a key skill required throughout the life. The purpose of the planning is to find out how the project outcomes will be achieved successfully within both the required quality and timescale. Planning helps to work out the most effective way of reaching your target and prepare to overcome unexpected difficulties in advance. Planning develops the ability to prioritize the tasks. If I did not plan my project I would have not known what tasks I was required to do and what my time limit was, which could have lead ultimately to the failure of the project.
The purpose of evaluating my performance in relation to planning is so that I can identify what I did well and what I did not do well. This will help me to carry out better planning in the future I hope that by improving my planning techniques. It will help me in all aspects of my life.
Planning techniques used:
I used five different techniques to enable me to produce final product. These techniques were action plan, summary action plan, mind maps, Gantt chart and critical path. These are techniques used by professional companies for their planning. The techniques I used were generally effective and helped me to a number of tasks and a final product by the final deadline with required quality.
To plan my project, first of all I and the other people in the group read the brief and identified the tasks that we would be required to do complete the project we wrote them down on paper. We produced an action plan by ordering these tasks and broke them down into simple steps. This helped me to see how many individual tasks I need to do in order to finish this project. I then typed this up so I could see the big picture. I would use this technique again it outlined my project and gave me a clear idea of tasks I was required to do to complete this project. In my action plan I broke down my project into seven sections and I then broke down these sections into tasks.
After doing the action plan we met again and discussed the mind maps we used the smart board to create a record and we created a mind map for the every single task. The mind maps helped me to break down the elements of a task and I was then able to estimate the time I would require to complete the task. I wrote down the steps in a sequence. So when I was doing the task I was able to follow these steps which made it easier. The mind maps allocated an estimate of time I would spend on each of the tasks. I was also able to see which task was dependent upon another task. This was a really useful element of this technique. So I used mind map to see if I could do the task or I have to do something prior so that I could complete the task. I learnt how to use smart board while creating mind maps and I also learnt how to plan correctly which can be follow to accomplish a task. Mind map is a good technique but I would not use this technique in future because creating mind map for every single task is very time consuming. Mind maps would be better to use on a small project. I think the time I spent creating mind maps could be utilised for completing my project.
One of the most difficult aspects of planning a project is estimating how long it will take to complete each task. I estimated the time for each individual task by looking at my past experience. It only worked for the tasks which were similar to what I had already done but not for the one which was completely new to me (such as diary, technical and user guide, story boards and the creation of the storybook in Flash) so I had to guess. The problem with guessing is that it was inappropriate because I didn’t guess the right amount of time for my flash animation and as a result I was behind on my schedule. Once I had created mind maps I was able to estimate the time for whole project by adding the required time of each task. My time estimation was based on two factors; the size of the tasks and the effort required completing them and the number of days available for the project.
The benefit of the mind map was that it helped me to see the individual steps I was required to do to complete a particular task and also helped me to estimate the time. The bad point of the mind map is that it takes too long which limits the time for other tasks. I would use this planning technique in future but only for the tasks i would not have done before so I can follow these steps to complete the task and also to estimate the time.
Summary action plan:
After creating the mind maps and estimating the time, I used my action plan to produce a summary action plan. I allocated each task a reference number so that I could count them off mentally when completing them. The summary project plan included the deadlines I set for myself. As it was a summary of my plan I also included task dependency and duration. I produced the summary project plan as a quick review of tasks. It allowed me to see what is the proposed date to start and to finish the task. I was also able to see the task dependency and duration. The summary action plan also enabled me to see how many individual tasks I was required to do and by what deadline.
The summary action plan was very useful and allowed me to see all important details in one document. However I think the Gantt chart is more efficient than summary action plan as it does not allowed me to review my progress and you can’t use this technique and follow it step by step to complete a task or a project, so I would not use this technique in the future.
I then created a Gantt chart. I already had set the deadline for individual tasks but in Gantt chart I set the deadlines for smaller elements as well. It had already the tasks that I was required to do so it was easy for me to insert the tasks. I divided my project into seven sections; planning, reports, story boards, implementation, support material and evaluations. I then worked out the duration in weeks required to complete each section. I used red line to separate the sections. Gantt chart helped me to plan my time effectively as I set the deadlines for every small step. Gantt chart allowed me to see what I need to next and when it should be completed. This made my work easier as I was aware of what comes next and I was able to organise my folder. I also entered the all dates along of the current month, and filled in green if I had completed my task on time.
While creating Gantt chart I learnt new skills which will help me in future. I formatted cells to enter the deadlines and used auto fill to enter the dates along the spread sheet. I also learnt how to create a border around cells and merged them. I also learnt a new technique in Gantt chart lead and lag technique for the tasks that are dependent on other tasks. This technique helped me to complete my task on time so I can carry on working and don’t stuck behind because of the incomplete task which needs to done in order to complete next task. For example I must have created my story boards to implement the story on flash therefore I used this technique and left four days time between these tow tasks.
The Gantt chart aided me in presenting the important details of the information given and also to demonstrate the time limit in which tasks are to be performed. The Gantt chart helped me displaying my progress of project using colour which is a visual tool which I found particularly useful.
The problem with my Gantt chart was that I did not write down the dependency of the tasks and I could not visualise what are my priorities. So when I was starting a new task I had to use summary project plan to see what I should have done before starting this task. This made my Gantt chart less efficient and wasted my time.
The disadvantage of Gantt chart is that the dependencies are too hard to verify as the tasks are broken into very little steps. The changes on the schedule require redrawing of chart.
I would use Gantt chart in future because it helped me to set my schedule but it should be produce by experts because if you no experience about the task you cannot plan the time effectively. It also allowed me to review my progress because I was ticking the tasks which I completed. It enabled me to visualise the deadlines and duration in weeks.
Finally I used drew a critical path for my project. Critical path provides a graphical view of the project. First I decided to draw a pert chart but then I changed my mind and drew critical path as it was easier than pert chart. The critical path was completely new to me because I had never done it before. So I used internet and researched and helped by two people in the class. I found a good presentation and used it to find out the EST (earliest start time) and LFT (latest finish time). To create a critical path I drew a table and wrote down the tasks reference number, task name, duration in minutes and dependency of task. It was easy for me to draw a critical path because I had sequenced the activities.
The activities are depicted as nodes on the networks and beginning or ending of activities are depicted as lines between the nodes. Critical path identified and prioritised the activities. It gave me a clear idea on how to accelerate the project by identifying which activities must be done before others and shows the maximum time for a task to be completed. I also worked out the earliest starting time and latest finish time to estimate the completion time for each activity. This helped me to predict the time required to finish the project. Critical path also identified the task which required long time.
I felt the biggest advantage of the critical path is that it shows you what two tasks can be done at same time. It also enabled me to see a graphical view of my project. It is necessary to have clear and reliable information to draw a critical path and needs to update as the project progresses. Critical path is one new planning technique which I learnt; I can now use this technique in future because it was very useful as it showed the tasks that will delay the project the most if not done on time.
I would not use this technique in future because I am not a person who likes to visualise I understand listed things better and the critical path takes time to draw and work out the EST and LFT. Usually I get limited time to complete a project so I would like to spend more time on implementation rather than planning.
Evaluation of my performance in my planning as a whole:
When planning my project I broke down the tasks into simple steps which made my plan easier to understand and I was able to follow it. I divided my whole project in to seven sections which helped me to organise my work. I also wrote the approximate time each section is going to take that helped me to identify how many weeks I need to spend on one whole section. I was also to see how many weeks and how many sections I have to finish to complete the project. So sectioning the tasks enabled me to review my progress and breaking down the task me helped me to produce a realistic and efficient Gantt chart and action plan.
After creating the mind maps I estimated the time for whole project. I added up the time required by each task and then divided the total by the available time in weeks. This estimation showed me that I need to work 8 and hour approximately per week to finish the project. When estimating the time I excluded October half term but decided to work Christmas holidays and February half term. This helped me to set my schedule during holidays and showed me hours many hours I need to spend per week. My project has a fixed end date so I tried to compress the schedule to fit all the tasks into the time available.
I used some professional techniques to plan the project. Which were very helpful and presented the tasks required to complete on what deadline. These techniques also identify the tasks which tasks need to be completed before others. The only new techniques I learnt while planning this project were mind maps and critical path as I have used rest of the techniques Gantt chart, summary project plan and action plan. So I was able to produce them easily but to produce critical path I had to research about the EST and LFT.
After exams and Christmas holidays and exams I was very behind on my schedule so I updated my planning and set the deadlines again. This was strength because if I had not renewed and reset my deadlines I would not be able to complete the project on time. I updated my planning to catch up with my deadlines but I did not have any experience in Flash, Diary and support material. For that reason I could not complete my work on my deadlines. Therefore I stayed after school to finish my final product and got extra one week time to finish my project. The reasons I missed my deadlines were my unrealistic planning, unmotivated and inexperienced in flash.
The reference number of tasks and task name in mind maps, summary project plan and Gantt chart is consistent. This prevented confusion and would help other people if they use my plan implement the project.
The bad point about my planning was that when I was estimating the time; I did not consider other factors which had affected my planning. I did not take an account of training days, one to one days and enrichment days. I also did not leave much extra time so it was a problem for me to complete my tasks on time. I also did not consider my exams of other subjects which stopped me working on this project. I should have left some extra time for unexpected problems such as snow and illness and I should have planned more time for Flash because I was doing it first time and it required to be at good quality as it was a final product. This was a big weakness of my planning.
I found that my plan was not realistic, I estimated that the story boards would only take four weeks but they took more than that and the reports of multimedia products would take only two weeks but it actually took 4 weeks. My planning was based on my past experience but there were some tasks which I never did before and these tasks took more time than I expected and as result I had pressure at the end. This also affected the quality of my work and stressed me out.
I was motivated at the start and I had pressure to complete my work close to deadline but at the middle of my project I was not taking it too serious and was not completing my work on time. This was a weakness but now I have learnt how important is to work consistently on a project otherwise I will get pressure at the end.
I also found that I wasted a lot of time on organising my folders on my computer and I also wasted my time when writing stories because I had few ideas and I could not decide the best two ideas to create story board two and three. So I asked my friend to help me to finalise story for design 2 and 3.
If I were to do this project again I will ensure that I plan my project realistically and give myself appropriate and enough time to finish a particular task. Because it had massive impact on my time planning I was not able to complete my tasks. So I will make sure that if I am doing something I have no experience at I give myself enough time.
I will also make sure that if I stuck on task I ask for help rather than leaving it incomplete for some other time. Because I have learnt that incomplete tasks affects the planned deadlines and some tasks are also dependent on other. In addition to this I will have to be motivated to learn new things. I have learnt that motivation is important through out the project on the time so I will ensure that I mentally coach myself to have a positive frame of mind.
If I were to make a Gantt chart in future; I will ensure that it includes all important features which make my Gantt chart efficient by enabling me to visualize relevant information.
The main thing I have learnt during this planning project is importance of monitoring and controlling a project. This will help me in any project in future. I will divide my project into certain sections (depends on how long the project is) and then at the end of each section I will check my progress to see if I am on schedule and on right direction. By doing this I will have an opportunity to control the project.
I will ensure that I leave some extra time for unexpected problems and I also take an account of all the possible days that will not be available to work while planning and estimating my time for a project.
Planning is a key component to the success of any project and I think that this project has enabled me to learn very useful skills that will help me in future; particularly I have enhanced my decision making and lateral thinking. I have learnt my mistakes and will not repeat them in future to plan more effectively.