Project planning process

Let's look at the classic project planning sequence.

Project Definition 

Develop your build objectives. This could be a sketch or inspiration photos for your bike. You could spend six months sketching your dream bike. And if this rocks your boat, then do it! 

Develop work breakdown structure. List the steps for each task that make up your build. You might have a top-level idea of the tasks: “install custom seat”, “repaint fuel tank”, but you could easily break these down into a dozen sub-tasks each. 

Identify resource requirements. Determine parts or tools you’ll need, professional trades you may need to organize. Even determining what time (and when) you’ll contribute each week to the build. 

Project Planning 

Sequence deliverables. Put the tasks into a logical order. For example, finish frame welding and fabrication BEFORE you do the paint. You might not get the sequence perfect from the get-go, but you’ll be able to adjust over the build as you learn.

Schedule deliverables. With your tasks in a logical order, this is all about adding some timing to them. Durations of tasks, end dates, important milestones and working out if any tasks can be undertaken in parallel. At the end of this process, you will have all your tasks and their timing defined and clear idea of how long it will take.

Schedule resources. Alongside working the timing for tasks, effort needs to be put into planning when you’ll need resources, such as parts, professional help or hiring certain tools. Having an idea ahead of time when you’ll need these (and sometimes in the case of parts how long they will take to arrive) will minimize any delays with your project

Project Implementation

Monitor project. For project planning and project management to be most effective, it's not something just done as a one off at the start of the build. Instead, your plan should be review regularly, such as every week or month. Set a remind and make it a habit

Modify project. When changes in the plan are detected as part of the monitoring process, the project needs to be adjusted. This could be changes to the work breakdown structure, the sequence of tasks or the timing or duration of tasks or resources. 

If project planning is about balancing cost, time and quality, what or contributes to these elements? Here are some specific factors and inputs you should be considering in your planning:

  • What is the milestone you are working towards?
  • What time to do you genuinely have to put towards your build each day or each week?
  • What is your overall budget?
  • What are your skillsets you can utilize? What will you have to learn? What time must be allowed to learn that skill? (training, practice time)
  • What buy-in do you have from those who could be affected by the time you’ll spending on the bike, like partners, family. Are they onboard and supportive?
  • What resources do you have in terms of professional assistance or shops for some tasks, friends to lend a hand or have useful knowledge, what forums or other online resources are available?
  • What sort of workspace do you have? Is it one that allows you to work at most times of the day or night? Outside under a carport may not work at night if you don’t have lights, or its snowing or raining.
  • What tools and workshop equipment do you have? If you’re missing some gear, what you can do will be limited.
  • What is the final use for the bike? If it's your dream bike you’ll keep forever, you’ll want to do a better-quality job (equals more time and money) versus an old clunker you are playing around with to improve your skills

While the above inputs don’t detail the actual tasks on your bike build, they will impact how you go about doing the work. Factors such as your availability to do the work; estimated timeline; capability based on your toolset, skills and surroundings; and the quality or number of parts you can afford (and so what you might have to repair, clean, re-use) are all important considerations.

For the actual tasks inherent in the process of building a bike—the more you can chunk out the work into smaller and smaller actionable blocks, the better the outcome.

Once you have your task breakdown, logical durations can be assigned to each of the tasks. As you should have an idea of how long you’ll be able to put towards your build each week, you’ll now have an estimate of the length of your build.

The bulk of your project planning is now done. All that would be left is to use a tool or methodology of some sort to capture your plan, set yourself reminders for any critical milestones or parts orders and line up any other resources you’ll need, such as professionals or friends.