Make Clear Assignments & Estimates With A Work Package

Dick Billows, PMP

Dick Billows, PMP

A key success factor for project managers is making crystal-clear assignments to their project team members. This ensures  the team members understand what’s expected before they start work. A related success factor is having team members make realistic estimates for their tasks. This ensures the overall project estimates are accurate. It’s important for team members to be committed to those estimates and have some “skin in the game” in terms of hitting their work and duration numbers. Main Project Estimating Page

Project managers also need a vehicle to capture and store historic data on each project. So when you, or other project managers, have similar tasks on future projects, you can look at the actual assignments on completed projects. You can use some of that data from the work packages for the current project’s tasks. You should be able to retrieve the estimated hours versus the hours actually used and apply that information to your analogous estimates. The use of the project work package addresses each of these success factors.

The project work package is a simple tool that improves the clarity of project assignments. At the same time, it increases the level of team member commitment to their estimates. In a very real sense, the work package is the contract between you, the project manager, and the project team member. In it, you make clear exactly what is expected of the team member on each task. The work package details the metric you will use to measure the assignment as well as the approach the team member should take to complete it. It also details the input deliverable(s) the team member needs to start work. Additionally, it specifies the output deliverable(s) which are the things other team members need from this assignment before they can start their work. The work package also allows you and the team member to discuss risks and how to handle them. It is a very important part of the estimating process.

Learn to Use the Project Work Package

You need to work with your team members to introduce the project work package. Be careful that it’s not viewed as “just another form to fill out.” You want to talk with them about it as a contract or agreement that the two of you will use on the project. You should point out that it offers them protection against changes to their assignments that don’t include adjustments to the work and duration estimates. You may also frankly explain that the work package is a device to reduce the padding of estimates because it offers the team member protection against unfair changes to the scope of their work assignment.

It will take one or two projects for the team members to become accustomed to using work packages to define an assignment, their availability to work on it and their estimate of work and duration. But the benefits are substantial. They are particularly helpful down the road when you can review completed work packages to use as the basis for estimates on future projects.

You can learn these basic techniques and actually practice them in our:

101 Project Basics Course

111 IT Project Basics

121 Construction Project Basics

131 Healthcare Project Basics

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