Planning a Complex Problem Solving Service

PROSPRA provides a framework for complex problem solving. It is most used for one-off projects, but is also adaptable for repeating problems. PROSPRA has 4 pre-production planning steps, then 3 action steps. This article focuses on planning my complex problem solving service.

Repeating problems apply to many of my websites. Visitors need help, and solutions are often too complex for a simple to-do list. I need to provide visitors with a simple framework whereby they can create their own PROSPRA project(s) to solve their specific complex problem. So, what must I do to provide such a service? Here’s a short PROSPRA project to find a solution.

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Maintain PROSPRA in a Spreadsheet

This follows Starting PROSPRA in a Spreadsheet. Take a look at it to understand why I use spreadsheets for many PROSPRA projects. More importantly, see the important principles for starting a PROSPRA spreadsheet.

If you cannot see how PROSPRA will help, please let me know. I realize that it is too simple for complex projects with many inter-related tasks. For other projects, I’d love to help you manage your tasks more efficiently.

It’s best to learn by doing, so here is how to maintain PROSPRA projects in a spreadsheet.

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Starting PROSPRA in a Spreadsheet

Spreadsheets are a great tool for task management.

I use them on a daily basis to manage tasks for several projects. My job is creating websites, but the principles apply to any job. The purpose is clear – organize a list of tasks, ensuring they are completed when required, and maintain a history so completed tasks can be reviewed if necessary.

Spreadsheets are also a great tool for explaining the principles of PROSPRA.

Today, I am going to start a small series about PROSPRA principles in spreadsheets. I will explain how to get started here. In the next installment, I will explain the important steps involved in simple project management. I will conclude with some ideas for combining multiple projects in a single management spreadsheet.

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PROSPRA task manager is a simple 7 step task management tool.

It is best used for small projects, or recurring procedures, that do not warrant full-scale project management software. Gantt charts and PERT networks are great when you need them, but they can get in the way on smaller projects.

The 7 steps usually form cycles of continuous growth, though PROSPRA can also be used for one-off projects. The steps ensure that all important issues are included in your project. This comprehensive approach ensures that vital foundation steps do not get missed. Yet, PROSPRA is flexble enough to allow steps to be combined for faster project completion.

You gain best results from PROSPRA when you use it daily for a variety different tasks and projects. With daily use, the process becomes automatic and easy to adapt to any situation. As this is a practical tool, I explain it with lots of practical examples. From those examples, you can see fundamental processes that affect all projects. The 7 PROSPRA task manager processes are:

P: Purpose
Purpose is fundamental, but often forgotten. If you start projects without a clear idea of why you are doing them, they will fail.
R: Restrictions
Will available resources restrict our purpose. Do any specific Requirements apply? What are our expected results?
O: Objective
For each expected result, what methods will we adopt to achieve it? Objectives are a series of quantified goals
S: Strategy
A series of clearly defined tasks that need to be achieved. A blueprint.
P: Production
Do the blueprint.
R: Results
Measure actual results and compare to expected results from the second step.
A: Appreciation
Are there new opportunities to exploit? Does the difference between expected and actual mean we need to improve plans or production methods?

Note that many projects benefit from changing the names of each step slightly. Though that destroys the PROSPRA mnemonic, it ensures that people who are unfamiliar with PROSPRA techniques can immediately see how projects flow.

We must always start with Purpose. Restrictions, Objectives and Strategy form a planning cycle that must lead to an actionable plan. The steps represent extra levels of detail. People who hate planning can combine the three stages in one simple sentence – “We’ll see how it goes.” Production and Results stages usually work hand-in-glove. I usually manage these steps separately, though some projects demand they are combined. Appreciate should always be a separate final review to see where we can improve. Sometimes we just improve Results. Other times we go back to redefine Purpose for the next phase. Usually, it is somewhere between.

To learn more about the current state of this PROSPRA website project, see About PROSPRA.