To enhance project planning, Edwards established a process called the Big Monster Piece of Paper (BMPP). The BMPP method is a structured, top-down brainstorming approach to develop a detailed project work plan.
The BMPP inputs include all project scope documentation available, such as:
- Contractual data (SOW, notes, requirements)
- Proposal (all volumes – technical, management, cost)
- Proposal schedule, negotiation notes, reports, and requirements/design documentation. Other inputs include the technical knowledge of the project team, project manager, and SMEs
Tools, Ingredients, & Environment
Utilize a large work area, preferably a big massive piece of paper such as a 36” roll or smaller sheets taped together, or a large white board; sticky-notes in multiple colors and sizes, felt tip markers, tape, and large empty wall space … ideally in a location where the project team can meet and work without distractions (such as a war room).
The PM’s role in this process is a facilitator/coach who will get the ball rolling; keep the ball rolling by invoking discussion; look out for scope creep, and stop the session when all the juice is squeezed out. The PM should listen actively and refrain from judgements. PMs should also challenge the team by asking probing and leading questions.
BMPP is advantageous as it is easier to see the whole picture when viewing a large wall covered with sticky notes as opposed to hovering over a computer screen. This allows the team to easily change the task order as well as insert or remove activities.
The group builds the WBS together and builds out the resource requirements and identifies resource conflicts up front. Risks are identified and methods for avoiding, managing, or mitigating them evolve as the project is detailed.
The team will become a cohesive unit through integration and communication even before the project begins. Once complete, the PM will already have buy-in because stakeholders, team members, and SMEs have actively participated in project development.
BMPP process steps involve first marking your territory (e.g., securing the space to be used to build the project). Deliverables are identified, recurring tasks are listed out, and high-level summary tasks are recorded. Tasks are continually built down to the lowest level; identifying relationships between tasks by drawing lines on the paper to connect tasks. Next, milestones are identified by and marked by using the diamond shape. For detail tasks, all pertinent information is listed on the sticky note (e.g., start date, duration, amount of work, resource assignments, BOE, assumptions, dependencies).
Once you complete this process, review the outcome with the project team for input/feedback and review with management and other stakeholders. At this point, the BMPP process is complete and the PM is ready to use a scheduling tool (e.g., Microsoft Project).
Schedule planning often fails when the team is not involved. Teamwork and buy-in is paramount to planning a successful project schedule. Don’t get too wrapped up in technology … sometimes the manual method is the best method. Whether it’s with the customer/client, leadership, project team, or other stakeholders, communication is the most important function of the project manager.