Dear PM Advisor. Nov 25, 2013

Dear PM Adisor, During last week's post you showed some rules of thumb for breaking down a deliverable into the activities that comprise it. Got any more? I often get told I'm breaking it down too far.

Anal in Austin, TX

Dear Anal,

I have some rules of thumb but remember they are here for the breaking. Use them when you are unsure of how far to break down your work but don't feel constrained by any of them so that you rely solely on the 'rule.'

  • 3 - 15 activities per deliverable - If you have less than 3, you either didn't break down the deliverable enough or these are activities that belong under a different deliverable. If you have more than 15, you are either breaking the deliverable down too far or you have more than one deliverable here.
  • The 'If it's easier to manage' rule - If a deliverable changes hands often, break it down so that different people will own different activities within it. For example, one person may be responsible for drafting a document or writing code but another person may be responsible for reviewing or testing it. Break that down into two separate activities.
  • The '8/80 hour' rule- If an activity takes more than 80 hours of effort, it's not broken down enough. If an activity takes less than 8 hours of effort, it's broken down too far. (Careful with this last one. Reviewing a doc the second time may take only an hour of time but it is a separate activity from the modification activity above it so the 'If it's easier to manage' rule takes precedence.)
Good luck,
PM Advisor
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