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Essentials of Successful Project Schedule Planning: Part I

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Technically speaking, the project schedule is a key project planning component. But practically speaking, simply creating a project schedule does not guarantee project success. Project success requires the project manager to plan out a reliable, comprehensive and realistic schedule.

The following three-pronged approach helps in creating such a schedule: set up a schedule planning framework, master schedule basics and run the project avoiding the classic schedule planning pitfalls.

In this post, I will shed some light on a simple schedule planning framework. Effective schedule planning boils down to five basic steps: 

  1. Plan. Identify which sources and resources will provide the project schedule information, such as the scope baseline, scheduling takeaways from similar previous projects and subject matter experts. Select the appropriate software tool to manage the schedule. This could be a standard project management tool used by your company, or it can be one you have selected considering your project's level of complexity, reporting automation needs and team collaboration requirements.
  2. Develop. Break down the work packages and deliverables into actionable tasks. Identify key milestones, such as completion of major deliverables or project phases. Sequence tasks logically, depending on their execution order and dependency on other tasks. Match team members to each task with their corresponding skills. Assess task efforts and all project time based on historical data from a similar project, or using techniques such as the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT).
  3. Validate. Work with subject matter experts to review and validate the developing schedule.
  4. Follow through. After creating a baseline project schedule, track the completed tasks and achieved milestones. Developing a project schedule is not a final destination -- it has to be maintained.
  5. Adjust. You will rarely finish the project by following the exact schedule plan you began with. Adjust the schedule as you go by exploiting the opportunities that arise (such as fast-tracking activities or finishing work earlier, if possible), or taking corrective actions when faced with delays or unexpected activities (such as enlarging the team or "crashing" activities).

What are your must-do steps when creating a project schedule? What scheduling framework has been successful for you?

 

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1 Comment

Sadly, these simple steps are often not followed... It's more likely to work if you engage the team more directly in the process of creating the schedule. If you just collect estimates from people and go away with them, the team will likely assume that scheduling is a black art and it's best left to you as the PM 'magician'.

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