If you’ve ever had a project go off the rails after pouring countless hours into it, you know how daunting it can feel to try to regroup. Here’s a solution that helps you react immediately when a problem of any kind occurs: an event chain diagram. This useful diagram maps out the ways different parts of your project affect each other. By laying out all of the possibilities in advance, you can plan more efficiently and be ready to face any problems that pop up.
Making an Event Chain Diagram
An event chain diagram connects all of the tasks and actions in a project clearly. Take a simple action: a phone call comes directly to your desk phone. The event chain diagram starts with the phone call. From there, two branches show your two options: answer the call or don’t answer the call. If you choose to answer the call, that branch is finished. But take a look at the "don’t answer" branch of the diagram:
- You don’t answer the call.
- Your voicemail picks up.
- The caller leaves a message.
That looks simple enough, right? You haven’t finished the event chain diagram yet, though, because you haven’t accounted for all the possibilities. For example, what if your voicemail isn’t working? Now you have another branch on your diagram:
- Voicemail doesn’t pick up, and the phone keeps ringing.
- Call is rerouted to receptionist.
- Receptionist takes a message.
Now you have to consider what happens if the receptionist is on another call. Does the receptionist put the first caller on hold to answer? Is the caller sent to the main company voicemail? What if the main voicemail isn’t working? Keep adding branches to the event chain diagram until you have mapped out all of the things that might happen.
Using Event Chain Diagrams in Project Planning
As you can see from the phone call example, an event that seems simple can be surprisingly complex. Before making the diagram, you might not have considered all of the things that could happen if your personal voicemail is down. That’s the beauty of an event chain diagram—it forces you to think through all of the possibilities. For that reason, these tools can extremely useful in planning and project management.
An event chain diagram is a great way to anticipate possible roadblocks and delays, especially when you’re tackling a new kind of project. Imagine you own a construction company, and you’re building your first garage in a new city. One item on your diagram would be securing city permits. When you call the permit office to find out about the application process, you discover that the client’s homeowners association also needs to approve the project. Now you can add the HOA application to your event chain diagram — and once you learn that the HOA meets infrequently, you know to schedule it early, avoiding potential delays.
Making an event chain diagram takes time at the beginning of a project — but it saves time (which means it saves money) if you’re thrown off schedule during a project. Being able to regroup immediately in the event of any hiccup also helps your clients feel confident in your ability to complete the work they hired you for.