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A PMBOK® Guide for the Trenches, Part 2: Schedule

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Last time in my post, PMBOK® Guide for the Trenches, I discussed scope. Now, I'd like to cover some basic truths about schedules that project managers need to know, but won't find in A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide).

One vital truth that the PMBOK© Guide is clear on is that scheduling is only one aspect of effective project management, along with scope, cost, risk, communication, procurement, human resources, quality and integration.

But you won't hear that from professional schedulers--no, no, no.

It's often believed that the central tenet of project management is the ability to resource-load a schedule baseline into one of the more robust software packages that perform critical path analysis.

This is part elitism and part what I refer to as "black box syndrome." Project team members are led to believe that if a certain software package is fed all the data it needs, then the push of a button will deliver all the management information needed to successfully complete a project.

This, of course, is hokum, but I've seen it in many a project management office.

On the other side of the coin, it's a fundamental truth that you cannot manage a schedule with a list of milestones or action items, no matter how elaborate that list may be.

What tends to happen with action item lists or databases is that they essentially turn into, , polls and polls are not legitimate management-information systems. With a poll, there's always someone who has more recent information or more complete information than what's in "the system," rendering the data there unactionable.

Note that I said the data in the system. There's a profound difference between data and information.

Legitimate management-information systems process data into information using some kind of methodology. For schedules, this method is critical path. And it's a safe conclusion that there is no legitimate schedule management without critical path.

For serious project work, a critical path network is absolutely essential. This no doubt contributes to the phenomenon of schedulers thinking critical path management is all that is essential in project management, with the other stuff kind of ancillary.

I'm looking forward to everyone's comments.


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After 22+ years in the construction industry, I believe CPM scheduling is at the heart of successful project management.I also believe that very few PM types really understand it. And even most scheduling consultants struggle building/updating and reviewing schedules correctly.

To me, project success boils down to 3 things:

1. A valid comprehensive schedule
2. Weekly updates that keep the schedule, the contract, and the project in-sync.
3. An individual that knows how to perform/facilitate the schedule.

Some thoughts....the project schedule is only as good as the risk management planning. The risk management planning is only as good as the WBS detail and accuracy. The loaded [cost, time, resources, risk] WBS (and network diagram)is only as good as the input via project team and stakeholders. And, the real project needs and requirements must be clearly understood by the project team and stakeholders. All of this, and more, is required to create a solid project schedule baseline for proper project monitoring, control, and reporting.

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