With excerpts from my Project Management Novel, I will illustrate the many processes of the PMBOK. Here is the tenth one: Sequence Activities. Use this map to see how this process fits into the scheme of processes.
When they had settled down, Gwilym said, “We know WHY and WHERE this tower is to be built. We know WHAT is to be built and HOW it will be built. We know WHO will do what to build it. All we are lacking is WHEN it will be done. When do each of these activities need to be done? What is the most efficient sequence? How can we keep people from getting into each other’s way?”
He directed the men to the Work Breakdown Structure and asked them. “Which is the first activity?”
There was some discussion until the men agreed that staking out the foundation needed to be done first. Fred, who had the duplicate Work Breakdown Structure on the chair in front of him, fished out this activity and placed it on the new hide. Gwilym moved it to the top left of the hide and asked the man who had taken responsibility for it.
“Hey! What about this activity under the deliverable of road that says ‘Clear the site?’ Shouldn’t that be the first activity?” asked one of the junior members of the team.
The rest looked embarrassed and agreed with him.
Gwilym looked at the man responsible for the staking out activity. “Does the site need to be cleared before you stake it out?”
Gwilym moved the first activity to the right and took the clearing activity Fred had fished out for him and placed it to that activity’s left.
“What’s the next activity?”
“Dig the foundation hole.”
“Buy the timber.”
“Measure for timber.”
“Bring up the stones.”
“All sound like early activities” said Gwilym. “Do any of them wait on any other activities?”
“Got to measure for timber and stone before we buy them and bring them up,” replied one.
“No sense bringing the stone up now. It will get in everyone’s way!”
“But if we wait too long we’ll be running short and delaying everything.”
Gwilym raised his hands. “Can we agree that measuring for timber and stone is the next activity?”
All nodded their heads and Gwilym moved this activity into place. “Buy timber?”
Again they agreed and Gwilym placed this next to the previous activity. “How about order stone?”
They nodded and Gwilym placed this activity below the ‘Buy timber’ activity.
This caused some discussion. “Why did you put the activity there?” asked one of the crew.
“This means it can be done at the same time as buying the timber but by a different person at a different place. Now, how long do these activities take?”
The men gave their durations and Gwilym wrote these numbers on the activities.
The team continued in this way, placing and rearranging activities on the bull hide and writing durations on the activities. The intricate structure of the work revealed itself to the team. Some activities were added during this session and other activities were determined to be unnecessary when looked at in the light of the overall project. When this happened, Fred made the appropriate adjustments to the Work Breakdown Structure.
By dinnertime, the men were satisfied that the project had been fully planned. Fred and Gwilym started organizing the activities while the men helped themselves to dinner. “What do tha call this, Gwilym?” Fred asked.
“Sequence Activities,” he replied.
“Nay, not th’whole thing. I mean th’way tha decides one activity comes afore another?”
“Oh,” Gwilym thought for a while. “One activity depends on another so we should call it something like Dependency Determination. Does that sound formal enough for your song?”
While they ate, standing around with their trenchers in their hands, looking at the network diagram, Gwilym asked them each to find their own first activity. Then he said, “After dinner, the only people who can work are those who are working on the ‘clear the site’ activity for three days. The rest of you can go home.”
On hearing the expected sounds of disappointment emanating from the team, he said, “Unless you’d rather get in each other’s way and slow down the whole project.”
There was some grumbling until Siorys said, “How about if we all help with the clearing activity?” Then it’ll be done quicker and we can start our activities earlier and still be paid for the day.”
The other men perked up at this suggestion and looked hopefully at Gwilym. He seemed to consider this idea and then agreed to it. The men were all excited now and gulped down their meal to begin working.
As the men rushed out to clear the site and Gwilym stayed behind with Fred to stitch the activities into the bull hide, Fred looked long at Gwilym. “That was thy idea weren’t it? Having them all volunteer to clear th’site together? You made it seem like their idea but tha led them to it.”
Gwilym smiled, winked and touched the side of his nose.