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Assembly Sequence planning

Project Management methodology >

The concept of an 'assembly sequence' comes from 'manufacturing'. I applied the concept to planning in general. Thinking about how you would assemble the final result of the project. It applies to IT projects, products, boats, cars, planes and even conferences. The term assembly sequence also used in Microbiology for 'gene assembly sequence'.

Visualize how the project deliverables would be assembled in a manufacturing process where the  tasks are like workstations on the factory floor.

Construct your assembly sequence using Microsoft Project Network diagram. Enter a Start task and your final deliverables. Discover new assemblies and components by asking the question 'What inputs are required to produce each deliverable?' Drag dependency links from the input deliverables to their output. As you do this Microsoft Project sorts the deliverables from left to right creating the assembly sequence. 

As you enter tasks and dependencies, view the Gantt chart schedule in a second window. Once you decide the Method Strategy (Assemble, Build, Buy or subcontract) you can add a verb to the task name. When you add sub tasks below the deliverable based on the method of delivery and subtask checklists from your methodology you have a full blown plan. 

Another term used for assembly sequence is 'planning backwards' or 'backwards planning ' which sounds a little retarded and may be a difficult sell in the business world. Who wants to admit to their management they are using 'backwards planning'.

Project Assembly Sequence offers the following benefits.

  1. Assembly sequence visualizes the final outcome and plans backwards to identify essential deliverables to achieve that outcome.
  2. Your schedule is created as you build the assembly sequence.
  3. Ensure that your plan is more complete with validation guidelines.
  4. The assembly sequence focuses on deliverables and components instead of tasks. This reduces the level of detail encountered when entering tasks
  5. Allows you to tap into other peoples ideas when looking for better ways to deploy projects.

We teach Assembly Sequence planning with Microsoft Project in the fourth day of
UBC Project Management with Microsoft Project course
session 4. Specify and estimate deliverables.

Assembly Sequence Success Stories

PMI Career Day project Sept 2008

PMI Vancouver Career Fair 2008 planning included 6 months of planning with a team of 10 people. Our deliverables included speakers, sponsors, marketing, web site and an online registration system. The initial plan was 60 deliverables which grew to 240 steps.

Business Processes

Enter business objectives and then identify strategies to achieve these objectives.

Assembly Sequence planning steps
Identify final deliverables from project.
Identify Components for each deliverable that will be assembled or built.
Decompose deliverables into components required to assemble that deliverable.  
Select the delivery method for each component. Assemble, Build, Buy or Subcontract. .
Decompose each deliverable in turn to produce next level of inputs. Define the roles for everyone on the team.
Ask for each component "Are there other components required to produce this deliverable.
Continue until all the inputs can be bought off the shelf.

Copyright April 5, 2011 Brian Mullen, I.S.P. information systems planning corp. Last updated: April 5, 2011

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