Monday, June 20, 2011

WM #9.5: Planning ahead (The Critical Path)

(I had promised to keep these Blogs short, which my spouse so purposefully pointed out to me after the last one; it was a tad overkill creating a glazed-over look on his face - so I cut it in half. This is probably "Blog suicide" but since I'm trying to keep this an active post for students taking my Fundamentals of Management courseI decided I'd better edit this particular post - my apologies to those who have been reading and are confused by this recent edit.)

WM #9.5: How to avoid a train wreck - Plan Ahead!

Through the identification of "critical path" (often with the use of a Gantt chart), a manager defines one sequence of events that take the longest and cannot easily be reduced in size, speed, or time. In other words, what ensures that the project is accomplished safely, correctly and with the least amount of risk if things go wrong. An easy example to illustrate this process is envision constructing a skyscraper; the main structure or foundation must be completed first before any of the plumbing, dry wall, or windows can be installed, hung, or inserted. Henry L. Gantt was the first to develop this very simplistic idea in the form of a bar chart that lists activities and dates enabling projects to be accomplished by visualizing the project activity duration.
Understanding what takes precedence in a project to ensure that other's activities can take place either concurrently or right after one is accomplished.

In a complex society where work is accomplished not just by one person but many, this type of planning is paramount to project delivery and meeting business objectives while ensuring safety to the humans performing and receiving the new service or project. Especially in contemporary society where everything seems to be done YESTERDAY! Time is literally money in every aspect of business life and often corners are cut for the sake of reducing the amount of time to save on costs. This is wrong but often done in many instances of human economic development and a topic for another blog.

Why did this train drive through a tornado (see previous post)? Probably because they didn't consider the consequences (assessed risk) and maybe had never done it before (Train Engineer says, "We're heavy with umpteen cars weighing 15 tons apiece - a tornado won't be a problem"). I bet they'll never do that again! Now I gotta go change my shirt - I spilled grape koolaide (again, refer to last post)!

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