It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      October, 2011 Full Moon Edition      

Eleven Words and Six Steps to Effective Project Scheduling

When it comes to project scheduling, regardless of the overall scheduling philosophy I believe in these eleven simple words.

Aggressively do, what you can do, when you can do it.

Of course there are fancy tools with all kinds of capabilities but in any and all situations it is best to get fundamentals before you get fancy.  These six steps are fundamental:

1.    Know what deliverables you require in the upcoming (week, month, quarter).  This means you can understand and communicate the deliverable to a level of detail and delineation that allows accurate estimating of the tasks that create the deliverable.   It also means you know or identify what are the perquisites and constraints for the deliverables/tasks.

2.    Identify what resources are capable of providing those deliverables.  This should be a comprehensive look at what is available internally, externally, offshore, etc.  Try not to limit yourself to organizational constraints in this step.

3.    Get the capable resources as assigned resources.  From the list in step 2 find out which of these resources can actually be assigned.  There are cost and schedule tradeoffs here based on resource availability and budget.  Provided a good job was done in step 2 there should be options.  If the options are limited and/or don’t support the due date, it then is appropriate to escalate the issue for approval of an exception or relief from a due date/cost constraint.

4.    Get commitments for deliverable due dates from assigned resources.  The commitment should be based on your projects priority relative to the other work they are assigned. Know where your deliverable fits into this scheme. The commitment should be based on their availability.  There should be absolute clarity from the task owner on when the deliverable is due and the ramifications to the project if it is not done.  It is always valuable to confirm this commitment face to face or by telephone.

5.    Follow Up.  Yes you have to check on people.  Please see my March 2011 newsletter article “Natural Accountability Generation” for a NAG/follow-up schedule.

6.    Adjust your schedule accordingly.  A schedule is dynamic and must be modified as the project moves along.  Grant relief of due dates when appropriate.  Sometimes team members make great sacrifices to meet a deadline only to find due to a schedule change they could have had more time and there was no need for the sacrifice.  Additionally, minimize adjustments to the schedule by having adequate reserve at key milestones.  Having reserve is just common sense and if your organization doesn’t allow it find a way to build it in.

Eleven words and six steps for an effective schedule and “critical path” wasn’t even mentioned.  “Aggressively do, what you can do, when you can do it” regardless of what your critical path is or is supposed to be.

Dr. James T. Brown, PMP PE, Author, The Handbook of Program Management - McGraw-Hill

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