Changing one’s house meets the PMBOK® Guide definition of being a temporary unique endeavor producing a product, service or result. And like any project, tailoring needs to be considered when deciding on the life cycle, the roles, governance and practices which will be used to deliver the project.

We are in the midst of moving to a different city and just winging it is not a viable option as the complexity and financial stakes involved means that applying “some” project management discipline is wise.

Choosing our new house was a prerequisite project and one for which an adaptive approach made sense. While we had a general vision of what we wanted, we were unwilling to lock down all requirements at the onset as we were constrained by what was available on the housing market. Cost was our primary constraint, then scope and finally time. Our understanding of what we wanted evolved over the life of the project and we received frequent feedback based on our visits to different properties.

Once our house was purchased, the move project has followed a predictive approach. Full planning up front does not make sense given the high likelihood of changes so a rolling wave approach was chosen.

I have been acting as the project manager, while my wife and I have shared the role of sponsor. Co-sponsorship is rarely a good idea with most projects, but exceptions are made for every rule, and in this case, key stakeholder satisfaction trumped single point of accountability!

Given the scale and scope of the project, most decision-making has been made by the two sponsors with the exception of those which require external review or approval such as securing a bridge loan.

While we did not produce a formal charter, my wife and I did take the time upfront to discuss the who, what, where and why of the project to a sufficient level that there wouldn’t be any misunderstandings later on. An integrated project management plan was unnecessary, but once our new house was purchased I created an MS Excel workbook which has been used for planning, tracking and communication purposes. Changes have been frequent and have been reviewed with appropriate stakeholders and approved by both sponsors. Work streams which have been performed by us are managed using a pull-based approach from a very simple work board.

For scope management, a simple work breakdown structure was created to identify the major work streams which were later decomposed down to individual work items. Given that a progressive elaboration approach has been utilized, certain work streams were fully defined early on whereas others have been decomposed over time.

Cost estimation and budgeting has followed a typical top-down/bottom-up approach. For example, an analogous estimate was determined for renovations and upgrades based on our past experience with our previous two houses. However, once scope decomposition of that work stream had progressed to a sufficient level, cost estimates were derived for work packages and those estimates rolled up to an overall amount. Budgeting and tracking has been done within the same MS Excel workbook as is used for scope planning.

Given the limited number of dependencies between work items, a network diagram and Gantt chart would be overkill so schedule planning has been done with a task list containing planned start/finish dates, staffing and progress information. In most cases, activities are short duration and so a 0/100 progress reporting approach has been utilized. With a fixed closing date, certain work streams have been time constrained and hence having activities start as soon as possible has been a good strategy to respond to schedule risk.

In my next article, I will cover the remaining six PMBOK knowledge areas for our home move project!

(If you liked this article, why not pick up my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on Amazon.com  and on Amazon.ca  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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