Managing Your Project’s Schedule

The Standish Group lists the primary causes of failure in projects as “incomplete requirements, lack of the beneficiary involvement, lack of resources, unrealistic expectations, lack of managers support, change of requirements and specifications, lack of planning, and lack of technical ability” (Toader, Brad, Adamov, & Marin, 2010, p. 451). Further, the top five primary factors of project success are: “involvement of the beneficiary, the support of the manager; clear understanding of the requirements, appropriate planning, and realistic expectations” (Toader et al., 2010, p. 451). In addition, when specialists studied 24 key areas of project management, it was determined that three of them directly correlated with higher probabilities of success. Specifically, the three variables with the highest impact on project performance were appropriate planning, clear responsibility of team members and planning control (Toader et al., 2010).

These variables also top the list of variables that impact a project’s schedule, if from an altered perspective. For instance, our text made it quite clear that scheduling is not nearly as simple as it sounds. Network diagrams, activities on the arrow, activities in the box, critical paths, noncritical paths, earliest start date, latest start date, slack time, forward pass, backward pass, predecessor activities, relationships (legal requirements, procedural requirements, discretionary, logical, managerial), etc. was a lot of information to consider (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, & Sutton, 2008). Practically speaking, however, it really boils down to the same equation or the project manager triangle: time (schedule) and resources are being manipulated to produce a successful outcome (Portny, et al., 2008).

Breaking the information ands/or constraints into categories we see that scheduling conflicts can result from numerous variables (some listed above) and more. Stolovich suggests weighing and prioritizing activities (Laureate, 2010). This is clearly a great idea. What happens when that becomes a little too difficult? For instance, I came across some research that suggests multi-tasking projects within organizations is fairly commonplace resulting in massive scheduling difficulties, in addition to impacted delays because attention is split between projects. “If a resource divides its attention between different tasks before handing off task deliverables, all the projects involved will take longer than necessary because all of that resource’s successors on each project will have to wait longer than necessary due to time spent on other projects’ work. And if many resources in the organization become accustomed to working in this manner, then most projects will take significantly longer than necessary, in both their promise and their execution. The projects will also be impacted by the variability of not only their own tasks, but also of those associated with the other projects that are interleaved within them” (Patrick, 1999, p. 1). Patrick suggests synchronization and critical chain schedules with buffers “positioned to protect the promise of the project” (Patrick, 1999, p. 2). Patrick’s theory allegedly addresses two major project issues: Parkinson’s Law (Patrick, 1999; Portny, et al., 2008) and Murphy’s Law. Most of us are pretty familiar with good old Murphy… anything that can go wrong… will. Typical of most projects and lfe. Parkinson’s Law is familiar as well, although I have heard it phrased differently. Basically, no matter how much extra time you are allowed for a project, the project will expand to fill up this time. Procrastination and distractions are likely culprits in this instance. Of course, I have also heard the sister theme, no matter how much money you make, you will find a way to spend it. I would imagine this applies to projects as well. It would be very important for the project manager to budget wisely so that does not happen (although I am aware that is probably the topic for a week or so from now).

The excerpt from “Project Management for Trainers” provides more concrete examples of how to handle issues such as task or activity dependency and people dependency. In fact, Russell highlights two major variables impacting a project’s schedule as expertise and project related work (Russell, 2000). Expertise relates to how much expertise the persons involved have with the activity and/or with the content, both attributing a variability factor into the time equation. Project related work relates to the amount of time required to communicate with those involved in the project in order for it to be successful. More people would equal more time spent communicating, which makes sense.

The best solutions and/or strategies to address the majority of these variables is planning, planning and more planning. In addition, clearly experience, research and expertise will go a long way to preparing the project manager for that drat Murphy’s Law, even supposing Parkinson’s Law has already been neutralized. Preparation in the form of schedules and Gantt charts seems to be a good start. There are a lot of resources out there, but they all point to preparation as key.

References

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (2010). Creating a project schedule [Video]. Available from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com.

Patrick, F. S. (1999). Program management: Turning many projects into few priorities with TOC. Proceedings: PMI International Symposium. Retrieved from http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&btnG=Search&q=intitle:Program+Management:+Turning+Many+Projects+into+Few+Priorities+with+TOC#0

Portney, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., & Sutton, M. M. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Russell, L. (2000). Project management for trainers (pp. 40-49). Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press. Retrieved from http://sylvan.live.ecollege.com/ec/courses/74759/CRS-CW-6051999/EDUC_6145_readings/6145_Wk4_Russell_40-49.pdf

Toader, C.-Simona, Brad, I., Adamov, T. C., & Marin, D. (2010). The main causes which lead to success or failure of a project. Animal Science and Biotechnologies, 43(2). Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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One thought on “Managing Your Project’s Schedule

  1. Pingback: Recommended Reading: Project Management for Dummies by Stanley E. Portny, PMP | Lugen Family Office

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