Detailed Project Planning

“Plans are useless, planning is indispensible” – Dwight Eisenhower

“The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it is the same problem you had last year” – John Foster Dulles

In Discovery, even though pretty much the same set of tasks need to be accomplished for each project, because timelines can be difficult to predict, project planning in Powerpoint or Excel is likely to be the method of choice. As will be discussed in the section Resource Tracking, in Discovery resource is likely to reside in line departments who conduct the relevant work for the project. Specific resource (X FTEs per month) is not likely to be dedicated to a project in Discovery, but the line reps to project teams must commit to the timelines in each project plan. Project planning is nonetheless a critical component of project initiation in Drug Discovery. 1

In Development, because the timelines are more predictable, project cost can be high and the impact on future profit looms large, detailed project planning is more likely to occur. Much has been written about the project plan in Development, and a number of consulting groups focus on assisting pharma in developing fully integrated portfolios of project plans. The reader is encouraged to investigate these resources. 2, 3 , 4 , 5

Defining reasonably accurate process completion dates is the most challenging aspect of a project plan. A novice line rep will provide the most optimistic completion date and suffer the consequences when the promise is not kept. A savvy line rep will provide the completion date that has a 100% probability of being met and will go fishing on the days when the process was completed but has several days yet to deliver the goods. In other words the savvy line rep builds in a time buffer for process completion. Critical chain management 6: North River Press ] argues that the savvy project leader will a) get the line reps to provide both the optimistic and realistic completion dates for each process, b) get the line reps to commit to the optimistic completion dates, c) aggregates the individual process buffer into a project buffer and d) uses the project buffer to deal with the totally unforeseen delays. In this manner the project is much more likely to complete on its completion date. Critical chain management 7 works well for those projects where risk is low, potential value is high and corporate commitment is high. This approach is a better way to ‘fast track’ a project than to give it Carte Blanche, it can have anything it wants. Such projects become very big and cumbersome, not fast.

  1. Richard Lawson, AstraZeneca, “Portfolio Management for Discovery”, CHI, Strategic Resource Management & Portfolio Management, November 17-19, 2008, Philadelphia
  2. Howard and Chefetz, “Ultimate Learning Guide to Microsoft Office Project 2007”,
  3. Eric Uyttewaal, “Dynamic Scheduling with Microsoft Office Project 2003”,
  4. Microsoft Project Users Group (MPUG),
  5. Chris Beck, Maureen Martini, Shire Pharmaceuticals, “Implementing an Enterprise Wide Project and Resource Management Methodology”, CHI, Strategic Resource Management & Portfolio Management, November 17-19, 2008, Philadelphia
  6. Cox, Jeff; Goldratt, Eliyahu M. (1986). The goal: a process of ongoing improvement. [Croton-on-Hudson, NY
  7. See