Planning your project – Part 1 : Goals

There are plenty of articles and videos floating about the interwebs, that may help you learn new skills or techniques. Many of them offer or include a set of “plans” to guide you in building the associated project.

But have you ever wanted to build something, for which no plan was readily available? Did you find yourself paralyzed at the thought of building something without the guiding hand of some “master woodworker” helping you along?

Well, rest easy, my friend! In this series of articles and videos, I am going to take you through the process of creating a “plan” for your project, from conception to execution.

The first step in creating a plan is to define the end result of the project and justify your efforts. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why should I do this project? 

The answer will help to shape your plan and schedule. If you are doing this to meet an immediate personal need, perhaps the schedule should be tighter, but the details of the design can be refined as you build. If you are building for a client, the design and schedule should be well-defined and agreed upon before beginning construction. If you are producing a plan for someone else to follow, schedule is not necessarily critical for you, but details of the construction are critical for the recipient.

  • What is the scope of this project?

You must decide exactly what you will produce for this project, and what you will not. It is not uncommon, even for hobbyists, to out-source portions of a project that someone else can provide more efficiently. Even if you are producing the entire product, defining that product in detail is critical to estimating costs and duration. “Scope Creep” happens far too often, when little details are added or changed, and will ruin your timeline and/or budget. If you are building for yourself, this may not be a problem, but when building for clients, “scope creep” should be kept firmly under control. If a change must be made, or is demanded by the client, be sure to define the changes well, and get agreement from all parties involved. 

  • What is the budget for this project?

Understanding how much you can spend will often dictate, or at least infuence, the scope of the project. This question needs to be revisited before materials are acquired, but after the design has been developed. If the design appears to outrun the budget, it can sometimes be accomodated by adjusting the materials. If changing the materials isn’t enough, then you must take a close look at the project with your ‘client’, even if that client is you or your spouse. Defining your budget before any money is spent will help you avoid a very unpleasant surprise later.

Now that the general design is established, and our schedule and budgetary goals are set, we are ready to move on to chapter 2, “Detailed Design”.
See you then!

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